Toy Guns and Cat Pee . . . Must be time for Work Camp

For eight years now, this has become one of our busiest weeks of the entire year.  We helped start Central Ohio Work Camp eight years ago and this year looks to be as successful of a year as we’ve had.  A few churches in Columbus help put this project together, and we continue enjoying participation from additional congregations every year.  This year we’re excited to have folks from Wooster, Cincinnati, and Kokomo, Indiana helping out.

Mostly suburban churches, we focus our attention each June on painting houses for our neighbors in Central Ohio.  We spend a lot of time in some pretty rough areas in Columbus, but have been in all kinds of different neighborhoods over the years.  This year we’ll be painting our fiftieth house.  This busy time of year makes updating the blog tough, but I thought I’d put out a couple reflections here since it’s on my mind.

The idea behind our work camp is to provide our teens a cross-cultural experience and exposure to neighborhoods and to people who live in the same city as many of our members, but, for the most part, whose paths never cross.  We don’t want to overstate what we are able to accomplish in a week, but we are proud of the opportunities that we are able to offer.  We strive to challenge our teenagers’ worldviews and help create an environment where they can wrestle with the impact their faith will make on their lives.

The greatest thing to me about work camp is that it takes me out of my element and helps me to make my life  a  more compelling story.  After having read Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years at the beginning of this year, I’ve been more committed than ever to living a life worth sharing.  Work Camp always helps promote a more compelling story within my life.  Central to that is getting to know interesting people and being able to help do something important to them.

Which brings me to toy guys and cat pee.  I always like to tell people that the first person to give my son a gun was a friend from the inner city – Clark was only 2 at the time he gave the gun, so it was pretty humorous, but it was a great display of affection from someone we were able to help.  His house now sits vacant and I think of him every time I pass it.

A few years later we helped paint the house of a woman whose husband was very ill.  She was a bit of a hoarder and I have a vivid memory of our teens trying to hold their lunches down as they helped clean out her back porch – items that were all covered in cat pee (a pretty unforgettable smell if you’ve never had the pleasure).

It seems like every year we live out new stories that are more compelling than the stories we live out the rest of the year.  That’s probably the best thing we could say about Work Camp – we offer a glimpse of what the world could be – if we lived out our calling as Christians in real ways.  Perhaps I can pontificate on that idea further some other time, but I am excited about the stories we’ll be living next week.



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