So It Begins…

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Traditional first day of school picture

Queue up the feels, the day has finally come.  Eli has started kindergarten.

It’s been a year of firsts for the little guy.  He turned 6, went to camp for the first time, and became a fervent Gaga ball player.  This is just another in the stack.  This is bigger than the other firsts, and marks the transition from “little kid” to “bigger kid.”  Its hard for me to believe it’s finally time, seems he was a baby a second ago but now he’s waiting for the bus with his brand-new Deadpool backpack (don’t worry, he hasn’t seen the movie), and his lunchbox.

Yesterday was Day 1; Mel swore in the lead up that she would cry (she didn’t).  Eli was positively vibrating with excitement the night before.  He came home last night and said he had a great time, and that he had made a friend “who has the same shoes!”  I only hope that he stays this enthusiastic about school for the rest of the year!  There was no sign of diminished excitement as he got on the bus today for Day 2.

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He looks so small!

We’re so lucky that the leadership and teachers at John C. Myers Elementary so clearly care for their small charges.  Being an elementary school teacher, administrator, or staff is clearly a calling, not a job.  As a side note, whomever came up with the mascot for the school is a genius.  The local high school is “The Gobblers,” named after turkeys (it’s a big poultry producing area), so it makes sense that the elementary school is “The Jakes” (jakes are baby turkeys).  The baby turkey mascot is named “Clarence,” after the school namesake.  I love it.

I’m sure there will be challenges and loss of enthusiasm as the reality of the next 13 years of formal education set in (ugh…that sentence was hard for ME to get my head around).  But I pray Eli will never stop seeing life and school as an adventure, and that he will maintain his curiosity and excitement.  I also pray for his teachers, principals, lunch ladies, bus drivers, and everyone else who plays a role in shaping him into an adult and a citizen; you’re doing incredibly important work, and I’m very grateful.

Also, Eli is crazy noisy and excitable, you folks are going to need all the prayer you can get!

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Dear Camp Counselor…

This Sunday, I’ll drop my oldest off at camp for the very first time.  He’s very excited.  He’s already told us that he can’t wait to “have a vacation all on his own.”

I’m not scared, or sad.  We believe in the power of Christian camp to transform lives, and to present the Gospel in powerful ways to kids.  In fact, I’ve been on your side of this exchange many times.  I was a camp counselor throughout college and even in the years after at various camps.

However, It’s new for me to be on the other side of this transaction.

I want you to know how thankful I am for you.  Being a camp counselor isn’t easy, and it doesn’t pay well.  I know how much you gave up to spend the summer at camp.  I imagine that spending time at the swimming pool, without having to care for kids, or that spending time with your friends seems like a pretty good deal right now.  I also know that you could have chosen any one of dozens of summer jobs which would pay much better.  So I’m so grateful that you decided that being an influence on young lives, and showing the love of Christ to children is more important than your own comfort or financial success.

I want you to know that I pray for you.  The first reason is the obvious; you have a difficult job, and I honestly believe you are doing the work of God.

The second is less obvious.  You see, this boy I’m dropping off and entrusting to your care on Sunday is precious to me.  I care deeply about him, both his physical self but also his emotional and spiritual wellbeing.  I wonder if you know the power and influence over young lives and minds that you have?

I remember when I was young, maybe 12 or 13, my dad told me that one of his biggest fears was that one night at camp after a long day when everyone was tired and emotionally vulnerable, a camp counselor would open his Bible and with the best of intentions, “really mess you up” with a poorly thought-out interpretation of scripture.  At the time, this statement was confusing; today, as a parent, his thought is terrifyingly clear to me.  I have seen camp counselors, young, earnest, and yet terrifyingly naïve, misuse scripture with the best of intentions.  Their young charges, unable to think critically enough to parse what they were told, lapped it up eagerly.

Additionally, something that was told to me as a young camp counselor remains burned in my brain.  My camp director told us that the average Sunday School teacher gets one hour per week, for a total of around 52 hours per year with most church-going children.  On the other hand, as a camp counselor you spend 24 hours per day, for a full week with each camper.  At this point, my camp director invited us to consider who had more influence.  And you know, he’s right.  I remember very little about my childhood Sunday school teachers.  I remember my camp counselors in vivid detail.  I remember their friendship, and how cool they seemed.  I remember how much I wanted to be like them.  I remember the lessons they taught.

So when I say I pray for you, I pray that you will not underestimate your influence.  I pray that you will be guided by older Christians and by the clear Word of God.  I pray that you will realize and remember that your influence and your responsibility is not in proportion to your weekly pay, and that you will take your duties and your influence seriously.  I pray that you will reflect the love that Christ first showed us to my child.

And I thank you in advance for loving my child so much, even though you did not know him, that you decided to give up your summer and what you may have earned working higher-paying jobs to spend your summer chasing crowds of children in the heat and the bugs.

Blessings, peace, prayers…and have a great summer.

Ethan