Reunited (And It Feels So Good)

Teenagers Allendale_Greenville 14May

(OK, how many of saw the title of this post, and are now singing with Peaches & Herb in your head? Or out loud? You’re welcome.)

Last month I was having lunch in the local elementary school, and I was sitting with a school staff member and with a mom who helped lead this year’s spring break camp. The mom was telling the other person about when she volunteered at the camp in 2013.

She explained,

“I was touched by the spirit of love that was in that place. Those volunteers from Greenville, they showed so much love that it filled the air. I know that all Christians should love others, but I’ve never seen it like that.”

Did you catch what she said, or what she didn’t say? Not once did she mention how much better the campers got at soccer, or how great of a job I did leading the camp. (That’s OK. Really. Sniff.)

What encouraged and inspired her was the love shown by the families and teenagers from Grace Church (Greenville, SC).

Beyond the Camp  

We have loved being a part of the Spring Break Camps, but it’s not because we really care about teaching kids soccer, or doing arts and crafts, or playing games. Those were fun bonuses, but not the goal.

What we’ve loved seeing are the relationships that form. The relationships between two moms. The relationships between young boys. And the relationships between teenage guys.

As you may know, every year during this camp, teenage boys and girls from Greenville have helped lead activities. And the past couple years, a crew of young men from Allendale (mostly football players) have been forced recruited to volunteer. The teenagers (from Greenville and Allendale) did a great job leading the young campers all day, and they hung out all evening. They became friends.

Ever since camp this year, the guys from Allendale have been asking me, “Coach, when are you going to take us to Greenville?” They didn’t want to just go to Greenville. They wanted to hang out with their new friends.

Reunited

Finally, at the end of last month, we got to do that. (If you are connected with me on Facebook or Instagram, you were overwhelmed by pictures.) The guys spent a quick weekend together – sharing meals, playing basketball, playing video games, going to a Greenville Drive game, worshiping at Grace Church, etc.

Allendale Guys at Grace

When I saw them enjoying each other company, living out their unspoken brotherly love, I realized that that was the goal of what we wanted to see in Allendale. We want to see the gospel spread, and we know that happens best in the context of loving community.

When cross-cultural brotherhood is lived out, people notice. People notice, and they get curious, and they want to check it out.

And when it is all done for the sake of Christ’s kingdom, the world sees the gospel as relevant and active.

A Lesson for Me

I didn’t understand this 3.5 years ago, when leaders from Grace Church were trying to explain to my wife and I what we would do in Allendale. I wanted a list of goals, programs, and projects that we could accomplish. I figured that our success would be measured by the quantity and quality of programs we did.

I was wrong. So wonderfully wrong.

Our success in Allendale is not about soccer camps and after school tutoring. Our wins had nothing to do with Friday night football. It’s bigger than that, by being smaller than that. It’s smaller because it’s about life-on-life relationships.

What is the win? The win for me is seeing . . .

. . . teenage boys just hanging out over a weekend, picking on and mocking each other (in a spirit of love, of course);

. . . guys from Allendale begging me to let them stay in Greenville “just one more night.”

. . . a text from one of the Greenville guys to his Allendale buddy, when we had been on the road only 5 minutes, “Hey, bro. When are you coming back?”

. . . the “coincidence” of one of the Allendale guys being a Junior Counselor at Palmetto Boys State, and one of the Greenville guys being in his group. Reunited again! (Read about this on Allendale, Greenville, and a JC at Boys State.)

They want to be reunited, because they’ve already been united in love.

We’ve learned that the goal of missions is not using relationships in order to accomplish a task or a project. The goal of missions (and being missional in everyday life) is about using a project or program as the tool to help relationships form. Let’s not get that backwards.

Basketball 14May

Thanks for Your Support

So many people worked to make this reunion weekend happen:

  • Leaders from Grace Church lined up a place for the guys to stay.
  • The couple who eagerly hosted these 4 teen boys from Allendale were a couple that hosted some of them last summer for a football camp. (Referring to the wife / mom, one guy said, “She cooks breakfast for you, man!”)
  • Conley Blair (Honorary Citizen of Allendale) was the main leader for the weekend.
  • A friend obtained tickets to the baseball game for us. It was the first pro game that any of the Allendale guys ever attended.
  • Someone provided a pizza lunch after church on Sunday.

And I am grateful for everyone that has supported my own family. Your investment has empowered us to not just do programs, but to facilitate loving relationships.

Thank you for uniting with us in true kingdom work.

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”  (Philippians 2:1-2)

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