Friday, July 24, 2015

Chapter Eight: A final word

Years ago I remember a sermon Pastor Linda gave about the nature of heaven.  I can't remember what she said verbatim, but the gist was that heaven was a place where we could and did sing praises to God forever.  This always comes to mind at Passport, and has been mentioned to me by other chaperons over the years,  We spend that week at Passport in fellowship, service and worship, glorifying, and yes, singing praises to God.  A moment of heaven?

I finally ate at a place with "Biscuit" in the name.  We stopped at Biscuitville on the way home (I resisted the suggestion that the Hooters next door would be superior) and I had a barbecue sandwich and a half-dozen biscuits to go.  And it was AMAZING!

Chapter Seven: Grateful

Colleen Burroughs from Passport's home office spoke to the adult chaperons for about 10 minutes yesterday morning.  This is the 23rd year for Passport and this season saw the 100,000th Passport camper.  Twenty-three years ago, Colleen and her husband David put together a multi-church mission trip to Florida.  It was a success, and they decided to make the mission trips an annual event.  Interest increased in their multi-denominational model, and they thought perhaps they had stumbled upon a calling for at least the next few years.  Plus twenty!  Colleen was there to introduce a capital campaign so that Passport will endure beyond her and David's time at the helm.  It is wonderful to witness Colleen's love for Passport and hear her talk about the wide swath of people the organization has touched.  Even better.  Colleen speaks from a place of love because she figured out God's path for herself and has followed.  How could I not enjoy hearing about that?

Years ago Kristi asked Pastor Terrence why the Passport camps were chosen for our youth,  Answer: Because we trust them.  They will not contradict our teachings and traditions,

So I am grateful to Terrence, and also to Kristi.  For years she has handled Passport logistics.  Chaperons, drivers, cost-analysis, fund-raising, recruitment of campers, and in many other ways Big Mama has made Passport possible for our youth.  And she invites me back year after year.

A shout out to Zeke Stephenson, who was a mission site manager when I met him two years ago (we painted a house in Danville), Danville camp director last year, and Greensboro camp director this year.  Within minutes of our arrival here he welcomed me personally with, "It's great to see you again."  Meaning he remembered me.  Isn't that nice?

A shout out to the youth, who have been exceptionally polite to me and wonderfully Christian to each other and in their interactions at camp and in the community.  I am grateful to have spent this week with them.

Thanks to Tim, for spending most of the week.  His wry wit and observations are appreciated, and shared with others will tell the story of our time here well.

And finally, a word of thanks to Chuck.  His infectious enthusiasm drew me into this gig the first time, and my enjoyment continues to this day.

Last night we enjoyed a terrific Variety Show highlighted by a solo singing performance by Rachael B, and many Ed Sullivan worthy performances,  Bravo.

Volleyball team briefed by the tournament officials

Volleball team in action, Evan fields the ball.  COK advanced several rounds in the tournament, and were terrific.  They are terrific.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Chapter Six: What's up with Greensboro?

Good morning y'all.  Thursday already!

So what's up with Greensboro anyway?  Greensboro is a city of about 230,000 located in central North Carolina.  It's about 20 miles east of Winston Salem and 50 miles west of Durham.  Three-and-a-half hours driving will get you to the beach or the mountains, your choice.  Greensboro is the headquarters of Gilbarco, the gas station pump people, and Greensboro is also the source of Vicks products.  Greensboro College is located between the edge of a compact downtown business district, and a sort of Roland Park residential area,  There are a couple of other colleges in town, most notably UNC Greensboro which has 16,000 students.  Greensboro College has 1,200.

I have been caught off guard by the morning, midday and evening playing of the hymn Eternal Father Strong to Save on Alumni Plaza (The Quad), and have searched for an explanation without a lot of success.  A lady I assume to be a faculty member said she believes it to be the school song.

Last night there was a three hour block of free time for the church groups to use as they saw fit,  Our group selected Celebration Station, a go-kart, bumper boat, mini golf, arcade operation.  Decent go-karts and nicely maintained golf courses.  But the hysterical thing was the payouts on the arcade games.  You win!  2000 tickets!  Stand here for ten minutes while twenty feet of tickets are coughed out to you!  We had several big winners who carried wheelbarrows of tickets over the the prize area to claim a plastic pig or other valuable items.  It was a fun time.

Yesterday a number of the campers and adults were remembered by the clients of the mission site.  Our mission there is mainly to brighten days that could use a little brightening.  I wonder if that would be their days?  Or ours?

I struck up a conversation with Ann, one of the care providers, and of course she was lovely.  She had retired as a prison guard and said she has to be careful in this job to emphasize the loving side of human interaction.  I asked where she was from and of course she spent the first 40 years of her life in Baltimore.  Small world, isn't it?
It's Celebration Station!

Duncan G and a fellow Passport camper rock the Bumper Boats at Celebration Station

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Chapter Five: Stand

Good evening y'all.  Tonight was the Electric Avenue-themed dance, a celebration of the greatness of the decade of the 1980's.  WooHoo.  Our gang dressed as Waldo in the Where's Waldo series.  Somehow I missed out on that whole Waldo thing but our youth generously explained it to me.  A dance?  At a Christian camp?  Yes it was one hour of strobe lights, jumping around, and music too loud for fogeys.  Fun!

Yesterday's keyword was FLIP, today's was STAND.  The STAND message that stood out most to me is that I may not be an active oppressor or persecutor.  But if I am a passive participant in systems that oppress or persecute, then I am equally to blame.  Ouch.  This is a long stretch at a paraphrase of some of the ruminations of early 20th century theologian Walter Rauschenbusch, which inspired some of the philosophy of civil rights advocates like Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bad news on the biscuit front.  Biscuitville looks like my best shot at eating at a restaurant with "Biscuit" in the name, but they close at 2pm.  Bummer.  This would mean a breakfast run before camp breakfast at 7:30am, not really feasible.  "Au contraire," say several of the youth, who have generously offered to accompany me to this illicit pre-breakfast.  All we have to do is wake up a couple of hours earlier.  Sure.  Tell me again, why is it that I wanted to eat in a restaurant with "Biscuit" in the name?

After breakfast we all gather here in The Quad before Morning Devotions.  Then we all go off and sit on a bench or against a tree and contemplate the questions du jour.  A moment of peace to start the day.

After the morning Bible study time, all gather with their Bible study group for lunch on the lawn.  Breakfast and dinner are prepared and served at Greensboro College dining, but lunch is cold cuts and PBJs slapped together by chaperons,  With love, certainly, but Beef Wellington it is not.

Chapter Four: It's a Revolution

Good morning from Greensboro.  Passport's theme this year is Revolution.  We started with the this verse: "Now is the time!  Here comes God's kingdom!  Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!" Mark 1:15  We have also discussed Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, and his flipping over the tables of the moneychangers in the temple.  Now we are asked to join Jesus' revolution by FLIPPING our perspective, FLIPPING the way we see things, FLIPPING how we think about and treat others, and ultimately FLIP our lives.

In my own life one FLIP has been pretty obvious.  What a pleasure it is to travel.  In my usual routine I get home from work exhausted.  There are weeds in my lawn, unfinished room painting projects and so much clutter.  Here I am aware of these things but there is nothing I can do about them, so it is almost like having no worries.  I can focus on the task at hand.  Faith, hope, love, the living God.  What a blessing.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Chapter Three: Relay Revolution

Good evening from Greensboro.  Correction on some earlier information I provided.  The most distant Passport attendees are not from New York.  We have some folks here from Baton Rouge.  And they are not even the furthest.  The youth group from Korea would have to be the most distant.

Today we had our first meeting of our Choice group.  Mine was with 39 youth and half-a-dozen chaperons providing service to an activities center for developmentally disabled adults.  We spent two hours signing disclaimer forms and waiting for the next thing to happen.  Then in a stepping-out-of-the-comfort-zone moment we spent 15 minutes meeting and sitting with the clients.  They were lovely, and they were thrilled.  I hope we have more opportunities like that at this site.  And more time.

Inquiring what our youth most enjoy so far about Passport pretty much all say being part of their Bible Study group, all of which are represented by a cross section of youth from all the attendee churches.  I guess it should not be such a surprise.  These youth know they are here to build relationships with the Lord and with each other, so they already have that in common.

My dinner strategy is improving.  Rather than eating three dinners as I did last night, I was down to about 1.5 tonight.  By tomorrow I hope to be down to just one.  But the Asian beef tip stir fry over rice with spring roll was terrific, and the pecan pie was flaky and gooey and delicious.  
The adults have Bible Study too, and discuss the same scripture and hear the same stories and use the same props as the campers.  Camp Director Zeke Stephenson makes it compelling, keeps it real.
Tim Doolittle and I cruised downtown before dinner and found this Civil Rights Museum.  No longer a Woolworth, but the facade is preserved because the lunch counter within was the site of one of the first sit-ins that led to African Americans to be allowed service in public accommodations.  This is worth a look at a Google search of February 1, 1960

Tonight was the Recreation Party, which is in fact a bunch of field games in which the various Bible Study groups compete with each other.  The station I volunteered to facilitate was Relay Revolution.  The procedure for completing the relay seemed to contain a built-in mental block, so my main role here was to repeatedly shout, "Grab the hockey stick!  Grab the hockey stick!"

David D looks more like Joe F here.

Grayson H deftly maneuvers toward the ball.

Taylor B sizes up the target.

Nick S wallops the ball downfield.

At the conclusion of the Rec Party, the teams gather and see who has the best cheer

Chapter Two: Monday Monday, so good to me

Good morning from Greensboro.  Yesterday in the church parking lot I was thanked by several parents for chaperoning this trip.  It got me thinking about the reasons I have been going to Passport the last four years.  I go because I want to serve, and this is something that I can do.

My children go, and this is an opportunity to be away with them (or in this case, her).

I am a single dad.  Although this is not something I have generally seen in a positive light, it affords this opportunity that I otherwise might not have.

I have a job that allows me flexibility.  Barely.

So this has been a call that I can answer, and I am grateful.

This is our first morning in Greensboro!  This is our first time in the Choices camp format.  In previous years everyone was assigned to a work group out in the community.  This years's format is a little different.  Our students had to select from ten or so opportunities for spending their afternoon time, sort of like picking a college course.  The selections involved things like service, leadership training, vocations, creative expression.  The adults are assigned to help supervise and facilitate these opportunities, and our assignments are yet to be made.  The suspense!

In addition to the camp program I have some modest personal goals for my time here.  I would like to try some local barbeque, and I would like to eat in a restaurant that has the word "Biscuit" in its name.  We shall see.