Grizzly Flats, CA
As many of you know, I spent a good five years of my childhood in Charlotte, NC, with folks as a part of Jim and Tammy Bakker’s evangelical empire, PTL Ministries. As I entered the teenage years, I have to admit, I did not look at this as a positive experience. But the older I get, the more I look back on my younger years and credit the special attention that Heritage USA paid in trying to provide an avenue for children to fall in love with Jesus as a positive in my life. It was a God-friendly environment where I got to run and play and learn, on a child’s level, leading to the spiritual curiosity and interest that I have carried with me for the rest of my life.
To be honest, one of the things I’ve missed, being part of a very different denomination in my life today, is the lack of genuine ministries for our kids. I have kids of my own now that are the age that I was back then. It seems to me that church (and I know I’m speaking from my limited perspective of my own location) seems to be more an act of learning how to sit still and color, or at the very least an exercise in learning discipline, for our children rather than an event where they truly meet Jesus on their level. I’ve heard the arguments, but I’m still convinced that if a child falls in love with Jesus on their level at their age now, they will carry Him as their friend for the rest of their lives. And sitting still in church will come natural later, as they get older. What they need at this time in their lives is a Jesus they can identify with and feel loved by.
I’ve said all of that in order to say this: The closest thing I have found to what I experienced as a small child in a church setting over the last twenty years is what I just experienced at our Adventist camp operated by the Northern California Conference. It was an annual, one-week event called Family Camp.
It was my privilege to be the camp pastor this year, which gave me the opportunity to speak three times a day, to people of all ages, for the entire week. And although the week is geared primarily toward children and providing them with educational and wholesomely entertaining activities, there is time set apart for the spiritual development of families as well. My family was not able to travel with me to this event, but I know that my kids would have loved it. I also had the pleasure of meeting many new folks that I had not met yet in Northern California, and quite a few were introduced to God and His love for them as seen through the lens of Adventist teachings in a refreshingly new way. “Family” took on a whole new meaning when we saw it in the context of God’s love for us and how He is seeking to restore that love in each one of us. We were able to connect many who had not yet heard of Renewed Heart Ministries to the resources provided by our ministry to assist them in experiencing an ongoing, ever-deepening encounter with the Divine Love they had tasted during the week.
To Leoni Meadows, thank you for the invitation to be a part of this year’s event. And to all those I had the privilege of meeting, may you, along with your families, be able to comprehend the “breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Him who did not count heaven itself a place to be desired while we were lost.