As I sat on a paint-chipped wood table purposed to hold the delectable and delightful food for the meal lines (thanks, Flint fam) while my legs dangled over the edge and my hands served as a seat cushion, I watched ahead about 20 yards in front of me with hopeful eyes and couldn’t help but grin with a changed smile. This would be the last night I worshiped at Camp Rutledge with approximately 84 high school students, almost 30 college students, and a large handful of adults. The stage was small and barely off the ground, holding snugly yet comfortably two worship leaders with guitars in hands while the drummer sat to our left of the stage. The back of the dining hall, which was the front of the worship space, was full of these emotional and devoted high school students, college students, and adults who were soaking in moments that would be unforgettable.
Rewind to seven days earlier when I had arrived at camp (six hours later, long story, don’t ask) and I had tons of things racing across my mind like, “I need to go into this with an open heart and mind, putting the wonderful things and notions about Montreat aside.” And, “I hope my message for college weekend is received well.” And, “I hope I have time to go running.” And, “Man, I’m really looking forward to getting to know my college kids better.” And, “I hope I am not completely lost when it comes to the Rutledge traditions. What’s vespers again?” And, “I’m not so sure why people are making a huge deal out of 80s Night being changed to 70s Night. Must be a (using air quotes) ‘Rut thing.'” And, “I wonder what the speaker (later self-titled as ‘Tour Guide’) will talk about? I hope he’s funny.” And, “I really want to see God move in these people’s lives this week.” And, “I don’t know what an announcer really does but I sure hope we pull it off.” Those were the kinds of thoughts and questions I had going into the week. Not surprisingly as I reflect, every single concern and thought I had entering that week was laid to rest.
Although there was slight drama in the beginning of the week like the rental van company losing our reservation to transport some of the high schoolers to Rutledge and some people unsure of and questioning the slight changes taking place – by the end of the week, God most definitely did work in that place and in people’s hearts. I’m confident of that because of the doubtful and disconcerted minds that transformed into hopeful and assured hearts. By the end of the week, the overall tone was not of “Ugh, I don’t like change” but rather, “Wow. These servants of God are amazing. God is amazing.”
I’m confident of God’s work because of the leadership I witnessed. It’s fair to say that 99% of the college counselors have a slight obsession with Rutledge. And that slight obsession stems mainly from what Rutledge was for them as campers. But you know what? They became slightly obsessed with their campers. They were more concerned with the experiences and the growth of their campers than what they personally got out of Rutledge. I witnessed an admirable and exemplary level of enthusiasm and passion for leading. And for that, my heart melts.
Yes, God most definitely did work in that week. I’m confident of that because of the relationships that formed that wouldn’t have necessarily formed in Roswell, Georgia. You might be thinking, “Well, that’s pretty much true of most church camps.” And to that I nod my head in partial agreement and say it’s mostly true that any camp experience will probably foster those kinds of relationships. But when young people are sacrificing their personal time of fellowship and fun to lay hands on uncomfortable and “unwanted” souls, that is what’s different. That is selfless service not for show or personal merit but for displaying the truest message of radical love, of loving hard – for the glorification God and God’s kingdom. That is what it’s all about.
I was pretty certain as the days kept passing that my heart was being changed, nurtured, and filled. But, it wasn’t until I left Rutledge that I realized how much of an impact that week had on me. Now as I sit outside on my back terrace, listening to the house construction across the street and the birds chirping like it’s National Chirp Day, I am full of gratitude and astonishment, almost perplexity, that God’s work is so dynamic, almost aggressive. I am back in Roswell, Georgia confident of the work God did in just a week and thankful for the ways God changed some +/- 120 hearts.
Rutledge, I get you. God, I love you.
Thanks to the talented Will Stewart, here is a short trailer of Rutledge 2013. Enjoy!