Any one here in Simsbury, CT knows about “Day Camp”, but for those of you far away, let us share with you a little slice of heaven here at our church we call “Marketplace Day Camp”.
Months of preparation, prayer and persistence culminates in one week every August. This is no VBS people—this is colossal! The property here at The Barn undergoes a metamorphosis of sorts. Tents are pitched, costumes, adorned, Drama teams practice, Jesus acquired (yes- we have Jesus visit on site!!!)Artisan tents set up, Tribes assembled, songs rehearsed, and so much more. It is a week set back in Biblical times where the kids experience what it would be like to live with Jesus, walk the streets with those He knew, make things with “local artisans” just as they did when Jesus was there.
Now of course there are a few “modern” amenities added in. Like, chocolate covered pretzels and popsicles for snack, a giant water slip and slide, microphones for the worship team, inflatable bouncers at a picnic, to name a few.
This beautiful week was here long before the Martins arrived. It is the vision of the church to reach the community. We are just blessed to join in the celebration! Every year it grows, more kids come, more adults serve, hundreds (yes hundreds) of Jr. & Sr. High kids volunteer a week of their lives, and kids leave transformed. In the past couple years it has grown to bring in ANY kid, with ANY disability or challenge- so, many more volunteers come (sometimes giving up a week of work) just to work one on one with a child who needs something extra. We have sooooo many pictures, but here are the ones that I know I am able to share with permission from their families—or because I know them personally.
At the beginning of August our family went to Virginia for a few days. Our purpose for going was to attend the Family Encouragement Weekend. I will say more about that later. While we were there we had the opportunity to also see some of God’s most amazing handiwork. We visited Luray Caverns and were stunned by the majestic beauty of simple rock. For those who have known me, you know I love caving and have been on and led dozens of caving trips over the years. I enjoy the physical challenge of caves, the other worldliness of caves, and the chance to explore a part of God’s creation few ever get to see. I had never been in a commercial cave until this visit. I was amazed!
We were blessed to see pillars of dripstone 60 feet high. We saw walls that looked like they were melting because they are covered with flowstone. There was also an organ connected to mechanical hammers that would tap a stalagmite to produce the sound. All of the sound from the organ came from the cave itself. It was amazing, and the cave is plays host to many weddings each year.
But maybe the most amazing thing that struck Jill and me was a shallow lake. This lake was only 18 inches at it’s deepest point. The water is so still that the reflection of the ceiling above it is nearly perfect. Jill and I had the same thought as we stood, gazing into this pool; “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1Cor. 13:12) As perfect as the image was, it was not the original. As well as we might be able to know God now, we will never know Him fully this side of glory. I look forward to the day when I will see Him face to face and know Him fully, even as I am fully known.
The actual purpose of our trip to Virginia was the Family Encouragement Weekend. This is an event we attended last year for the first time and are committed to making it a part of our August as long as it is offered. Three families work together to make this weekend all that it is. They are the Wilkes family, the Neely family and the Staddon family. If you would like to see pictures from the weekend or read other testimonies of God’s work, click on the underlined names to go to their websites. We are incredibly grateful to all of these families for making this weekend encouraging, challenging and edifying for us as well as all of the other families that attended.
The weekend is structured rather simply. There were speakers who shared truths from the Scriptures with practical applications, as well as real life confirming testimonies from their own families. There were times for families to gather with other families for prayer. There were games for the kids while the dads got together to ask questions and pray. This is a weekend focused on encouraging families to carry on in the struggle to raise up godly children in this world. We were incredibly encouraged and challenged to do just that.
The most remarkable thing to me again this year is who the speakers are. These men would not be given a stage or a hearing in any leadership conference. They do not come with worldly credentials that would make anyone say, “Wow, I need to listen to this guy.” What they bring is a testimony of a family living for God, children who love God, and generations following after them who are giving their lives to build the kingdom of God. When I think of these men I think of Paul, writing to the Corinthians, and challenging their views of credentials:
“Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men: clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” –2Corinthians 3:1-3
What I am saying is that these men have the greatest credentials any man can have. The Spirit of the living God has written epistles on the hearts of their children, and their children are writing their own epistles on the hearts of others, all to the glory of God. I do not say this to embarrass them, though I am sure they will be. I say this to encourage all of us to look beyond the surface, look beyond the degrees, look beyond the job. Look at the heart and look at the fruit of a man’s life. I am honored to sit under the teaching of men like these. Thank you.
If you would like to listen to the mp3’s from the Virginia FEW weekend, as well as the FEW weekend held in North Carolina in March, just click here.
I have expressed many times the challenge to fathers to lead their family in daily family devotions. I know this is a challenge and I also know that most men in the church are not doing this. There are many reasons men are intimidated when it comes to taking on the spiritual leadership of their homes, but I do not want to get into that at this time. What I want to do is to share with you, men, how I lead our family devotional time each evening in hopes that it will encourage you to lead your family as well.
When we began doing family devotions it was awkward and challenging. I was uncomfortable, not communicating well with the kids, and they were not enjoying sitting for long. I decided we would read through a book of the Bible. We would gather together after dinner was cleaned up and read a passage. I would ask questions, trying to be practical and help them understand how the passage related to their lives. It was challenging, but we were struggling through it together. We would follow that time with prayer, and then we would work on a passage we were memorizing together.
This process often took an hour, which we learned was way too much. I wanted this to be a priority, but I needed to be more realistic. I needed to find ways to allow the kids to be more engaged, have more fun, and shorten our time without sacrificing what I wanted to accomplish. I needed to be creative, which is not my strong suite.
Jill helped a lot with all of this, giving me ideas, helping me communicate with the kids and encouraging their participation. We began to act out passages, being silly at times, trying to make the time together more interesting. Over the winter, when it got dark early, we were reading through Mark and came to the transfiguration. To try to capture the light shining from Jesus we turned off the lights and put on silly glasses that were painted with glow-in-the-dark paint. Is this what Jesus looked like? They knew it wasn’t, but they remember that night, and they remember that story. We are currently reading through Genesis and are in the middle of the Joseph story. Different children are reading the different characters in the story. When Pharaoh chooses Joseph to lead the nation he places his ring, a robe, and a gold chain on Joseph. So the person reading Pharaoh’s lines did the same to the person reading Joseph’s lines. She put a ring, a multi-colored towel, and a…oops, I forgot to get a necklace…oh well, on her brother. They remember the story.
When we pray, each child has a journal. The ones who cannot read have a picture journal. Each one has a day and they lead us in prayer. We are also able to give them updates on how God is answering prayer, which encourages them in their prayers all the more. It is a powerful lesson for all of us, and a constant reminder of God’s faithfulness.
We also do Scripture memory. We have changed the way we do this recently, and it is working great. I found a simple Scripture memory system that I introduced to the family that takes just a few minutes each day and allows passages to stick quickly and be repeated often. To learn more about that you can go to http://simplycharlottemason.com/timesavers/memorysys/.
You may read this article and still be intimidated. I want to encourage you to simply try something. You don’t have to do all of this. Just start with something. We now take about 40 minutes for all of this. It is an investment that pays dividends every day. Our children are hiding God’s Word in their hearts, they are experiencing God answering prayer, and they are learning how the Scriptures apply to their lives. These are critical life-long lessons for all of us. Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6). Start training, men.