The Fruit of the Spirit
Of course, one of the best parts of summer camp is all the fun to be had. There are color war games and pedal karts and corcls and mud slides. But there is also space for worship, faith conversations, stories, and Scripture. At camp, we aren’t bound by the limitations of a building, which means that we can immerse kids in the Bible, in worship, and in learning in new and creative ways. Reading the Vine and the Branches story? Let’s go on a nature walk and study the ways plants grow, what they need to thrive, and what happens when a branch is separated from its vine. Studying the miracles of Jesus? Let’s do so in the pool and see how many of us can walk on water, turn the water into wine, or heal disease with a dunk below the surface.
This summer, we focused on the Fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5. Campers were immersed in the nine fruits Paul highlights: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We talked about how it can be easy to treat these things like a checklist. We just have to try harder, and we can demonstrate each fruit. But the whole point is that these are things God will grow and cultivate in our lives. Jesus is the vine; we are the branches. It is through our relationship with Jesus that we bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. Even when it doesn’t make sense, when it is beyond understanding, and when it is hard, the Spirit can help us. We can be loving to someone who hurts us. We can have peace in the midst of trial. We can be faithful when everyone else falls away.
Our kids face spiritual battles every day. Some struggle with poor self-image, constantly comparing themselves to the social media influencers on their screens. Some struggle with self-doubt, afraid to step up and try for fear of failing. Some struggle with loneliness, longing to be known and understood in a real way. Some struggle to understand how their faith fits into the world around them or whether God hears them when they pray.
The best part about our curriculum this summer was that the kids were reminded over and over again that it isn’t about them. It isn’t about being good enough or strong enough or smart enough. It’s about plugging in to Jesus and letting God work in your life. Struggling to find peace in the midst of chaos? Pray. Overwhelmed with joy? Worship. Looking for a flicker of kindness in a dark world? Serve. As we lift up our cares and worries and concerns to God, as we lay at the feet of Jesus, as we draw near to God, the workings of the Spirit will flow through us. It’s not about what we do. It’s about what God is doing through us.
Campers went home with tools in their pocket to help them grow in their relationship with Jesus. They went home with a picture of God’s love and care for them. And they went out longing for a world filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As these kids grow in faith and love, we pray that they will shine lights all over Eastern Iowa and beyond, that the lives changed at camp would ripple out until the whole world is different.