Summer church camp was over. Lasting friendships, spiritual growth and commitments for Christ surpassed any other time of the year. Pastor Mario Flores, Camp Director, gave thanks to the Lord. Three hundred teens attended camp this year without a single injury or health problem. Tears were flowing as campers, counselors, and staff were saying goodbye to each other; many new friendships formed that will last a lifetime.
The Lord worked in marvelous ways, especially when considering what happened the second day of camp when one of the staff members told the pastor he had reason to believe one of the boys in cabin B-3 snuck out after curfew. Not wanting to send any teenager home, this being only the third day of camp, the pastor knew he had a decision to make. Feeling quite confident if a boy did sneak out as suspected, there was a good chance he went to meet a girl that also must have snuck out of her cabin. The first day of camp he made it quite clear that the reason for the strict rules and curfew was for the well being of the students, counselors, staff and camp itself.
Upon asking the Lord for wisdom, Pastor Mario decided his course of action and made the following announcement. “I have reason to believe a couple had snuck out after curfew last night. He dreaded sending anyone home knowing how much all the students treasured summer church camp. If the couple that snuck out came to his office in the next hour, and turned themselves in, they would be restricted from participating in the afternoon’s activities, which everyone loved. If they did not turn themselves in, they would be sent home”. The pastor was glad his counselors and staff were getting a well deserved good nights’ sleep but he did not realize how soundly they had been sleeping, when not just one, but ten couples turned themselves in! He loved surprises but not this kind, that was for sure!
Jim Greenwood was attending camp with his wife, son and two daughters as a volunteer, serving where needed, as he was not a trained counsellor or staff member. He just wanted to help in any way he could. Since none of the staff members and counselors had any free time that afternoon, Jim was the only person available the pastor could ask to monitor the teens for a few hours after lunch that had turned themselves in. Jim replied that he was willing to do anything requested of him but he felt totally unqualified for this assignment, being a truck driver and not a trained camp counselor, nor having a degree from a Christian College. He was nervous about doing this saying even though he could handle an eighteen wheeler, he was a little nervous in how he would handle twenty teenagers for three hours.
All the students were there at exactly 1 p.m. He introduced himself and then proceeded to tell the students he was a truck driver and unprepared for this assignment of spending the afternoon with them. He told them he felt uncomfortable but had made up his mind with the help of the Holy Spirit he was going to enjoy every second with them. He invited them to call him Jim instead of Mr. Greenwood. He then invited them to share anything that was on their minds.
One of the students named Jeff asked Jim if he believed in angels. Even though he was quite surprised by the question, Jim said yes, he did and proceeded to tell the students many Biblical stories in which God used angels. They listened intently. They smiled when he said he often imagined that when God had a special assignment for an angel, they all had their hands up saying pick me, pick me, inasmuch as angels were given credit for so many wonderful things. He told them of personal experiences as a truck driver when he felt certain an angel kept him from a serious accident. He said each believer in Christ has a personal angel which are to us physically what the Holy Spirit is to us spiritually. He emphasized that angels were created beings, and are not to be worshiped, but we should thank the Lord for them.
When asked if he knew of any stories in which he felt God used angels, not in the Bible, he told them about a story that happened on a September day in 1876 which he never forgot after he first heard it. The owner of an ideal lot on high ground that a church congregation wanted would not accept their offer. Wanting their own church building, they finally settled for a lot they could afford even though it was in a low lying area. A terrible storm struck that small town in North Carolina. That dreadful day in September, the storm and the torrential rains were so severe that it lifted their church right off its foundation. The towns people were astonished as they saw the church float right down the center of town. When it got to the street on which the lot they initially tried to buy, which was on higher ground that had never flooded before, the church building turned down that street. When it got to the lot they initially tried to buy, once again it turned and then settled down right in the middle of the lot. The land owner was so shaken by this event, feeling it had to be a divine sign, went to the pastor and said “here” giving him the title to the property. Ever since I first heard that story, I imagined there had to be angels guiding and pushing that church along in answer to prayer to the Lord. To me there is no other explanation, said Jim!
Jim was astonished! He never would have imagined a group of students listening to him, a truck driver, as intently as they were. He knew it had to be the Lord as he had no idea what he was about to say until he said it. He then told the students as thankful as we are for angels, God can use us also if we let Him. Jim then told them about a waitress at a truck stop along his route. The truckers knew this single mom with three kids at home was struggling to pay her bills working ten hour shifts for a number of weeks just to keep the lights on at her house and feed and clothe her children. For the past two weeks, all the regular customers were secretly collecting monies for her. She cried like a baby when they handed her $2,000. She said she always wondered what angels looked like and now she knew and knew their names. William, Carlos, Ryan, Roddy, Daisy, DannyRay, Jose, Lacy, Jim and all her other regular customers!
It was at that point that one of the students said after hearing all the ways that God used angels in the Bible, and the additional stories Jim told them, he wished he was an angel, to which Jim replied. “If you had been one last night you wouldn’t be here right now!” The students’ laughter was so loud that Samuel stuck his head in the door. He said he heard the laughter and had to take a second to see what was so funny. Jim explained, before telling him his timing was perfect. Seeing he wore a staff t-shirt, Jim asked him If he had a few minutes that maybe he could help answer a question some of the students have regarding the Holy Spirit. Jim had tried to explain the best he could but could sure use some help. If Samuel cared to give some insights, his input would be welcomed. Samuel said he would be glad to take a little time if Jim and the students wouldn’t mind stepping outside.
It was a bright, warm sunny afternoon. Samuel asked them to look up and tell him what they saw. They said they saw the sun, of course. Really, he asked? The sun is a hundred times bigger than the earth and over 94 million miles away. There is no way you could see the sun. You see the light from the sun, and you feel its warmth, but you do not see the sun, neither can we see God in all His power and majesty, maker of heaven and earth and all therein. Just like we can’t see the sun, we can’t see God. Jesus said in John 14:9 that if you have seen me, you have seen the father in heaven. It is through Jesus love, ministry and dying for our sins we see God the Father and feel His presence. Jesus said after He left he would send the Holy Spirit to be with us until he comes back for His own; the believers in Christ. John 16:7
Now Samuel said, what do you see that is not man made? The students said trees, grass, flowers, shrubs. Then Samuel asked how did they get here. The students were reluctant to answer, not sure where he was going with this question, until one of the girls said, photosynthesis. Yes, Samuel said, exactly, thank you Gabriela. Now, someone tell me without going into too much detail, what makes these things you mentioned grow? Tandra, David and Kailyn all spoke up in unison, “energy from the sun”. Samuel said yes, God created all things but it is the energy from the sun and water upon which they are dependent for life. He now asked them to show him that energy from the sun. With blank looks on their faces, they said that was impossible. Matthew remarked, even though they could not see the energy from the sun, they knew it was vital in creating food for plants to grow as well as giving off oxygen for our benefit. All of a sudden smiles started to show on each student’s face as they started to relate to what Samuel was saying. Even though we can’t see Him, the Holy Spirit dwells in the life of the believers in Christ, enabling us to grow in our faith and the Lord through His word, the Holy Bible, and prayer. We can’t see the energy of the sun but we can see the benefits of it just like we can experience the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Without the sun, there would be no life on earth. Without God’s “Son” we would not know the fullness of life through the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit during our earthly life, nor would we have the assurance of eternal life as the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us when we accept Christ as Savior.
Later that evening when Pastor Mario asked Jim how the afternoon went, he was taken back by the moisture in Jim’s eyes. Jim said, Pastor, the Lord used me today in a way I never would have imagined. Pastor Mario said he had heard from some of the students how in three hours’ time they had developed the same type of love and appreciation for him as he had obviously developed for them. Jim said there truly was a working of the Holy Spirit this afternoon. And then Jim said, when you see your staff member Samuel, please tell him thanks again for me. He showed up at the perfect moment and explained the working of the Holy Spirit in a way that made sense to the students that I would never had thought of. Pastor Mario looked at Jim with a very strange look on his face. Jim was a little surprised by the look on the pastor’s face. What is it, he asked? Jim, the pastor said, we don’t have a staff member named Samuel!!
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The genesis for this story regarding all the couples that snuck out is a factual occurrence from a Christian Camp. In this case everything worked out well, however in other similar situations, the unintended consequences were not good like a student that almost lost his leg and life at a Christian camp after sneaking out. This is where the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is so vital, keeping us from harm. And, no matter what your position in life, God can use you as he used Jim Greenwood in a mighty way if you are willing to let the Holy Spirit guide you!