Saturday, January 29, 2011

25 cents times 25,000

For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we'll never have to relocate our "tents" again.  2 Cor. 5:1

Yesterday, I received a glossy full-color brochure/advertisement letting the Texas-community about the up-coming church camp season at the nearby "rustic cedar and native stone" retreat center. What hit me  first and foremost was the amount of money given to this center as "donations" in the past year.  Try nearly $300,000.00!

Let me give you a bit of run-down on this place, not that it's any fancier or nicer than any other church camp in Texas, but, never-the-less, let me jog your memory.  If you haven't been to this camp, you've surely been to one much like it.

The retreat center  includes facilities for 783 persons. Sleeping facilities include nine dorm-style cabins, two semi-private cabins; an Outpost Camp with a log barracks, log meeting rooms, and 4 covered wagons & 1 teepee with 12 bunks each. Riverbend also has three motel-type facilities. Other facilities include a chapel, dining hall, a recreation building, swimming pool, 3-acre pond, amphitheatre, and various other recreational facilities. An on-site staff is here to serve you 24 hours a day.

Now, let me tell you about another camp.  This camp doesn't have a swimming pool, dormitories, bathrooms, a kitchen or any other facility that the most basic of American church camp has.  What it does have, however, is a team of servants who sacrifice themselves in order that children have a chance to go to camp, despite their life circumstances, and hear about Jesus, many for the very first time. The camp sits on a bare piece of property on the edge of town.  They used to own a trampoline and 12 tents (and yes, that's all) but now, they don't even have that.  Here's what Alyona has to say about their camp last summer:

The camp began on July 5th. It was on our sister church territory close to the Black Sea...nice location as the kids had the opportunity to spend three hours at the beach where there was nobody but our children and team. There were 107 children and 45 staff including the cooks. It required 14 tents where we were able to place children, staff, and medical room. Also there was a Coliseum where the shows were held and the evening devotionals. There was a built market where the kids could "sell" the items they have made with hands. As you look at the photos you will notice that the staff was wearing the costumes that were made by our good friend and volunteer. The kids had to amke their own costumes as well when they arrived to the camp. The camp had an idea of First Christians and the action was taken from the book of Acts. The kids had different things to do such as fishing, carpetning, working with clay and etc.
Everything was on a schedule untill the 5th day came when we faced a huge hurricane....that destroyed EVERYTHING....we had to evacuate the kids withing 4 hours out to 16 different villages. The children were in panic as they saw almost all the tents being on the ground, trampoline flying away, all the wood parts that Coliseum and a market were built out of. We tried to save as much as possible while 107 kids kept crying out of scare in a small church room. It all finished in 15 minutes and when we looked around it was obvious that it is the end of our camp that we have been working for the whole year....But we were happy and thankful to the Lord that NONE of the children or adults got hurt. More than, a day before two teenagers wanted to confess their sins and follow Jesus in their lives. It was very meaningful to us as we all understand that we can face the Lord anytime and the most important thing would be "what choice we ahve made in our life?"

Sadly, I have to share with you just how hard it was for them to ever get the tents in the first place.  Alyona and Slavik asked every American church and Christian that they knew for help.  They got none. They were finally able to find one Odessa business man who reluctantly donated the money.  He does not know the Lord.

Recently, when I was in Odessa and went to church with Alyona and Slavik, I once more sat in a church service and felt nothing but shame.  Once again, I watched a rag-tag choir of 18 members open their mouths and sing, perfectly and beautifully, complicated choir specials---4 of them in one service.  I thought of the large churches in America who have music budgets the size of an Ukrainian city's budget  yet cannot compete with the sacrificial beauty of an Ukrainian choir.  We've placed our trust in church 'bells and whistles,' and  in retreat centers with motels and swimming pools, yet our own children are turning their backs on God and the rest of the world is going hungry.  Our kids get sent to camps every year where they get an emotional high while enjoying the finest luxuries life has to offer. Odessa kids, who get to go to camp, make Bible costumes, act out Bible stories, swim in the Black Sea, and sleep in tents.

It's time for a change.  We can start with the tents. Oh, whoever you are out there, would you please take this word to heart?  Would you go to your churches and families and friends and tell them about the desperate needs of the world?  Would you tell them about the camp in Odessa, would you tell them about the desperate orphanage in Ananiev, would you tell them about the boys in jail?  Would you?  

In this one retreat center alone, they have over 25,000 people come there every year (75% of them REPEATS!)  What if each person who attended that ONE retreat center for ONE year gave ONE quarter each for the camp in Odessa?  That would be more than enough to replace the tents.

That's all that they ask for----new tents.

I want to challenge you Christians out there.  We seem to think that we can get closer to God by going to camp; but, camp has nothing to do with it.  If anything, it's nothing but an emotional, peer-driven false-sense-of-the-Holy Spirit.  Here's what this camp says of itself and spirituality:

Blending great facilities, good food, a beautiful outdoor setting, and excellent service, we want to make your next camp or retreat the best ever.  Whether it be senior adults, women, couples, singles, college, youth,school, children or any group you are a part of...come have fun, find a place of solitude, fellowship with one another and most of all ...Experience God!

But, I have another idea for experiencing God.  Let's forget about ourselves and our comfort and serve the way Jesus did, to the lost, broken, downtrodden, widowed, orphaned, sin-laden and poor.  Let's start with the tents.

Got a quarter, anyone?