Project Serve At YFC Camp

Posted on by Youth for Christ

“And He sat down and called the twelve. And He said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’ “ – Mark 9:35

Project Serve at YFC Camp is a team of people who are there to be behind the scenes making the “magic” happen.  They make the meals happen, they make the toilets clean, they make the dishes go away and come back filled, they make the water balloons show up and wheelbarrows full of mud for the late night obstacle course. They make the frisbees around camp mysteriously return to their rack on the porch. They make 200 beds the first night and wash thousands of dishes and spend countless hours at poolside guarding the lives of the campers. 

Project Serve is behind the scenes making the scenes and in that way Christ’s words are so appropriate.  This team is almost unseen, often unthanked, and usually unnoticed, but if it weren’t for them taking the view “The campers are the Kings and Queens” YFC Camp would be something much different, and much less than what it is for those camper teens and their leaders.

That’s one of the things that makes YFC Camp so different than any other trips we offer. The staff who bring teens have very little responsibilities beyond “Be with your kids” – which is a pregnant phrase because being with them can be a labor, but it can also be the most fruitful thing they can do.  These staff aren’t worried about picking up frisbees, they are focused on Joe and Donnie or Lacy and Megan, and they walk through the week with them, unpacking their stories as the gospel is presented piece by piece.  These staff get to wake up with their kids, eat meals with their kids, spend free time with their kids and help to summarize the day with their kids in cabin-time at the end of each day.  They get to be 100% present because Project Serve leaves them almost nothing else to do.

Our Project Serve team of 43 people came to Clearwater Cove Camp in Lampe, MO from California, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.  They comprised housekeeping, landscaping, dining hall serving, kitchen prepping, dishwashing, programming and life-guarding (certified) teams. The average Project Serve servant was late-teens or early twenties and usually they come to YFC Camp as people used to being served.  From the first moments of the first day “Hey, welcome to Project Serve! They can use you in the building at the top of the hill right now to make beds. We’ll unpack your stuff later, Thanks for coming!” they shift-gears into servant-mode.

Not every student was ready for the stiffness of the challenge they were stepping into. Some of our kids were not prepared to think of others first or to “work heartily as unto the Lord.”  One young man, “Charles” who had always just done what he wanted to do, slept through breakfast the first two days and would disappear from his work assignment leaving his team in the lurch.  I was proud of how our leaders responded to him and grace was applied liberally while the truth was not spared in correcting him gently at first and more firmly later on. “Charles” had to overcome him self, and with much grace from his co-workers and loving leadership from our adults he was able to transform – amazingly.  Our third serious talk was the game-changer for him and he finished day two well. Day three he was first up and doing devotions on the porch, ready to work. And “Charles” was our “Most Improved Player” who worked with a gigantic smile and hustle in his step.  He’d never done that before. It was a beautiful thing to behold.  He learned, as we all did, that Project Serve was as much about how God was going to change us workers as it was about how He was going to change the lives of campers.

We were blessed to have a great Shepherding team, a couple from California, whose primary responsibility for the week is to make sure that the 10-15 hours these young people are working isn’t only exhausting to their bodies, but enriching to their souls.  They held personal appointments to encourage, team meetings to exhort and provide a community of worship and spiritual challenge and group counseling times to address the expected stresses on the attitudes of the heart.  Our Project Serve teams were served well by these loving leaders who ensured that the experience was a precious time of developing spiritual maturity and becoming more like Christ.

Our team experienced many challenges. Among the baggage from back-home that made it difficult, if not impossible at times, to focus on the work at hand were things like news from home; a daughter who overdosed on drugs and was rushed to the hospital, a young family friend who was near-death from e-coli, a parental fight that became a stabbing where the father was rushed to the hospital… these were all things that happened back home, and our team had to feel these things together, bear one another’s burdens and find a God-honoring way to respond.  Each individual and team banded together, with few exceptions, and spurred each other on toward the finish line.  And most of us fell across the line at the end, spent but very blessed.

Project Serve at YFC Camp is a unique domestic missions opportunity - as powerful as any short-term mission trips that I’ve been involved with.  We are thankful for the many who prayed for us as we went and worked hard and got lost in the background as Jesus was made larger. 

The perspective you get when you’re on your knees serving the campers is a blessing; to see their smiles and hear their laughter, to see them enjoying their meals and going all-in during the games we set up, to witness from the sidelines when one of them breaks and their leader is free to come alongside them and minister to them… to know that God has used our energy and efforts and honored our prayers helped each of us to see the brilliance of His ways, of becoming greater by being smaller and serving.

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