I just got back from the sandy white beaches of Panama City Beach, Florida with the middle school kids. They were a lot of fun. I didn't know even 1/3 of them and so it was good to get acquainted with the next generation. The week was devoid of incidents until the day before we left. No child was lost, abducted or injured. It was Jason (student minister) who initiated the drama. There was a competitive game of beach soccer under way when Jason lunged toward the sandy and rapidly moving sphere. Missing the ball he did manage to connect with a teens lower leg. The young and resilient teenage girl suffered only a minor abrasion caused by the student minister's toe. The foot of the aforementioned student minister, however, was broken. Later, after a trip to the medical center and a good dose of pain medicine another incident occurred. While observing his students playing a game of "blind volleyball" another sandy sphere flew at near speed of sound and landed directly on Jason's broken toe. I am happy to report that our student minister is truly born again. No profanity was uttered. Although I am sure that God in all of His mercy would have quickly expunged any such four letter word from his record.
Because we really had more people than the facility would adequately accommodate yours truly was forced to reside in a nearby motel. It was truly an experience. I had never really appreciated the term "red neck Riviera" until this trip. I stayed in the nearest motel to the camp we could find. I also asked for an inexpensive room so as not to tax our youth budget. I didn't know what I was asking for. I would return each evening from the camp to find huddled groups of teens and adults around the parking lot drinking beer and inhaling various forms of smoking devices. Do these people ever sleep? Do these people ever wear clothes? I guess if you work that hard on a beer belly you want to proudly display your accomplishment to the world. The ladies, I'm using that term to distinguish from the men not as a description of their behavior, like to show their colorful tattoos as well. The age of many of the tattoos became evident by their positioning. One lady had her allegiance to a former boyfriend engraved just above the belt line. The scary thing was it originally was placed just above her ummmmmm.... bathing suit top. (Sorry, I just felt a little nauseous. I'm alright now.) The same people who were gathered around the parking lot were standing just outside of their rooms when I left for the camp the next morning. I began to wonder if they had gone to bed sometime during the night and rose before dawn or they were out all night and only made it back as far as the front door. My money is on the latter.
Well let me get spiritual for just a moment. While driving home I began to think about the events of the week. It suddenly occurred to me that the parking lot dwellers just outside my motel room had started out with just as much promise as the middle schoolers less than a mile down the road. The middle schoolers were learning about teamwork, kindness and encouragement. They were spending their days in worship and quiet time. Several came to know Christ over the week and many more rededicated their life to Him. While .7 miles up the beach the only time God's name was used was in vain. The kids are no better nor more loved by God than the untidy bunch at the cheap motel. Where would their lives be today if a church like Dallas Bay had spent the time and the considerable money to care for them and share the love of Christ when they were just children? Chances are not where they are today. My few attempts at a "good morning" or "how are you" fell on suspicious ears. Not one parking lot dweller ever returned my greeting. Instead, they would quickly turn away and not make eye contact . I looked at the two camps of people and became convinced that prevention and education is more effective than intervention. We have to reach this generation with the gospel and real faith. To do so will take commitment to creativity and integrity. We cannot look back. We have to keep moving forward.
Well, I'm through preaching for now. It's good to be back. I'll see you soon. --Pastor Ken