“Get with your kids.” That’s what you’d hear from a director if it was free time and you were caught chatting with your peers. “Love on those kids; don’t indoctrinate them.” That was the answer if a counselor had an issue with a controversial subject. “Put your arms around these kids, put their arms around the Word.” That was the goal. All of the above boiled down to time. Youth of any age watch how you spend your time. They learn quickly how important they are to you. They all have their issues but they all know when they’re being loved and they all respond to it… in time. So give them that. (Incidentally, this lesson has had huge implications upon my role as "Daddy").

4. Life and Christianity are so much more than Do's and Don’ts (Galatians 5:13).

I had come out of a fantastic youth group a few years earlier, but even I was bored with the tired, standard youth sermon that had also plagued the young people I counseled at camp: “Don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex.” Undoubtedly good advice, but why not? There were already plenty of them who weren’t practicing these “greater sins.” What, instead, could we show them about, say, rebellion, disobedience, covetousness, envy, and poor self-image? It seemed to me that when I did encounter those who were involved with alcohol, drugs, or sex, they were using the temporary gratification of those activities to fill holes caused by, well, rebellion, disobedience, covetousness, envy, and poor self-image.

Living out your faith without inhibitions in front of young people is about as bold, yet genuine, as you can be. Modeling the truth of the Word eliminates the need for do’s and don’ts, removes the need to ask, “Why live this way?” It’s obvious when your joy requires no illegal substances, and when your love is unattached from lust.

5. It’s good to be alive (Romans 8:6John 10:10)

I made a mere $1,000 for an entire 11 weeks of hard work, got only 24 hours off each week, lived round the clock in sweltering heat (well, okay, the cabins did have AC) with a dozen boys, had hundreds of responsibilities, lost track of movies and the baseball standings, went three months without a soda… and I never felt better, was never more fulfilled. Life isn’t about building to a place where we can do what we want all the time – that goal ends in becoming our own little gods. Life happens outdoors, with other people, by God's strength, in God’s presence, for God’s purposes. It’s a gift, even when difficult.

6. We ARE the body (1 Corinthians 7:171 Corinthians 12:12).

It wasn’t difficult to understand the frustrations that our non-counseling staff often had about whether or not they were being used by God. After all, you interview to work at a youth camp because you have a heart for youth, only to find out you’re a cook, a nurse, a work crew director. These are the thankless jobs, out of the limelight. Away from the kids and the fun. But none of the great things that happened at Pine Cove would have been possible without every part of the body working together for the greater mission.

The body also has its imperfections, and there was no better illustration than Jiggs Gaffney, a mentally-handicapped man from Tyler who spent the whole summer with us, not as a camper, not as paid staff, but just as himself. Jiggs loved Pine Cove, loved playing basketball and Commando, loved everyone. The place would not have been the same without him. He helped us all not to fear disability. It truly takes all kinds.