Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Camp Names, Grave Stones, and Legacies

So this blog gets kinda personal in to my thoughts as a minister. This week is super important to me! This week is Ridge Uth's one year anniversary for our first ever youth meeting.

One year ago, on December 12, 2012 (12/12/12: rad, I know!), a couple of kids and a few excited adult leaders met in PJ's living room for Summit Ridge Church's first ever Ridge Uth youth group. It was scary! I had never spoken to a group of high schoolers before! My oldest audience before Ridge Uth was my junior highers at camp, and those kids thought I was awesome.

At Prescott Pines Camp, all summer staff adopt a camp name. The reasoning behind this is 30% some vague safety regulation, 70% awesome camp tradition. All the camp names are western in origin and carry some odd generational connotation.
For example, the name Davy Crockett: the name of a leader and strong personality.
The name Billy the Kid: a name of rough-and-tumble rebellion mixed with multiple levels of hardcore.

Along with your camp name, you're encouraged to make this back story for your new alter-ego and wear a costume to go with it.

Ya, I know, camp culture is weird, but that's the point! Camp is a whole different world! Camp really is an escape from reality. As a camper, for a week, you are living in a teepee in a forest with these story book characters and experience God in this extravagant way that changes your life forever.

When I first started working at Prescott Pines, I was a quiet and nervous fourteen year old boy who was self conscious about his physical changes and socially awkward tendencies.

Ya camp kinda stripped me of that...

Towards the end of my formal camp training, we had the naming ceremony where all of the old staff declared their names and all the new staff were given new names either thought up by the veteran staff or given an old name of a former staff.

I was given the name Johnny Ringo.

Before my time at camp, there was a staff member who bore the name Johnny Ringo who had given that name quite the reputation. My predecessor was famous for his witty pranks, satirical apathy towards his campers, and prolonged periods of not bathing.
Everyone loved the old Johnny Ringo! but nevertheless, the name carried a rather significant reputation that I could not compare with.

When my camp career began, nobody knew the new Johnny Ringo. I was a new guy with an old guy's name.

Seven years later...

Everyone knows Johnny Ringo. There are staff at the camp who still refer to me as Johnny Ringo because they don't know my real name. There are legendary camp stories starring Johnny Ringo, camp rules and traditions that were established and carried out by Johnny Ringo, kids who, years later, have stories about their counselor, Johnny Ringo.

I'm not bragging. I'm getting ready to make a point.

I refer to Johnny Ringo in the third person because, in a lot of ways, I left that behind. Johnny Ringo is the name of the legacy and impact that I wanted to create not only in the lives of the thousands of campers that I had the opportunity to minister to, but on the camp itself. My goal was to create a legacy.

When people think of Johnny Ringo, I want them to think "he was a dude after God's own heart who was never hesitant or ashamed to live out the gospel in every aspect of his character. He was outrageous and wild and unpredictable all for the sake of making a Christ-shaped impact on those campers' lives"  and I know for a fact, that is the goal of every single counselor at Prescott Pines Camp.

Every year, after summer camp had ended, I always ran in to this predicament: Camp is over. Put Johnny Ringo in a box, and get back in to the real world. The real world... Like somehow my living out the gospel and being radical for Christ all summer was a fantasy. But this was my mindset. In my opinion, Johnny Ringo
was way cooler than Nathan Barreras could ever be: Johnny Ringo was the Assistant Program Coordinator  and hero of Frontier Village at Prescott Pines Camp. Nathan Barreras was an employee at GameStop who had good numbers and sales. Johnny Ringo was charismatic story teller who always had something witty or wise to say. Nathan Barreras worked two jobs and lived at home. Why couldn't I see that I was wasting my time?

As I write this, I'm kicking myself. I look at the impact I had made at Prescott Pines, and I see the missed opportunities I passed up in the "real world" because Johnny Ringo was in a box in Prescott. I was passionate and crazy for three months out of the year, but the other nine just reminisced over the summer ministry. I could have been making an impact in my community in the "real world" too! But I missed a lot of opportunity...

Maybe you're reading this and it makes no sense to you, or maybe you know what I'm talking about. I guess this blog is more personal than some of the past ones.

What can I say? I'm feeling very reflective today. And why shouldn't I? This is a great time of year to look back over the past year and see what impact you've made. Every step you take is like a foot print in sand. If someone followed your footprints, would it lead them to Christ?

As followers of Christ, we have this calling to leave a Christ-shaped impact on everyone we meet, to leave a legacy that points to the gospel.

A few weeks ago, in the dead of night, I was in a cemetery with my boss, PJ.

Creepy, right?

We weren't there for a funeral, we didn't know anyone there; we were just visiting.

Even creepier...

We walked the rows and aisles of grave stones and read the names of people past and the short notes on their graves. These grave stones were a carved illustration of what their loved ones most identified them as.
These short sentence-long memoirs best summed up the impact they made in life.

Pastor John challenged me: "I like to read these and think 'what will my gravestone say one day?'"

And that got me thinking. I'm not a negative dude. I don't dwell on death or anything like that, but I began to think what will people think of you when you are gone? 

I've learned from Johnny Ringo. My time to minister and live radically for Christ is not just when I'm teaching in front my students or playing on stage on Sunday mornings. Ministry is not something you do. It's an attitude. My entire life  is my opportunity to show Christ. My everyday existence is a loud outward shout that joyfully and boldly declares "I AM FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE, REDEEMED AND JUSTIFIED BY JESUS CHRIST'S DEATH AND RESURRECTION, AND I WILL BE THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD, REFLECTING HIS GLORY AND LOVE IN EVERY ASPECT OF MY LIFE" and I guess that's an okay legacy to leave... 

Whether we want to or not, we influence the people around us. We make impressions on people and we don't even know it. Our kids at home, the baristas at Starbucks, our coworkers, our bosses, the person awkwardly waiting for the bus with us at the bus stop, the person standing behind you at Walmart, people are watching us all the time.

As a follower of Christ, am I showing people that I am a follower of Christ?

Goodness gracious, I'm getting emotional. Time to wrap it up.

Nate T B