Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Cops, Catholics and Camp: Police Lieutenant Reflects on His First Experience of Young Life
This guest post was written by Jason Smith, Lieutenant of the Tactical Operations Bureau, and one of my closest friends. A lifelong Catholic, Jason was an adult guest this summer at Timber Wolf Lake, a Young Life camp in Michigan.
Have you ever been moved in a way that changes how you look at or perceive something? Have you ever been in a place so amazing you can't actually describe it to others who ask? Have you ever been with a group of people, some you know, most you don't, that just ooze love and make you feel like you are the most important person in their life? Have you ever been in a place that was so infused with the Holy Spirit you could actually feel, hear, smell, taste, and see It? Have you ever been so moved you want to cry and smile at the same time? And have you ever seen 217 teenagers "stand up" and give their life to Christ before your very eyes?
I have. I experienced all of those things this summer as a thirty-nine year old "camper" at Timber Wolfe Lake. My family was lucky enough to have been invited by our friends to be a part of something way bigger than us. As Adult Guests we were invited to watch God work in ways that I never dreamed possible. I literally saw God reach out and touch young people's hearts through the hands of others during a week at Timber Wolf Lake. Weeks later it's still difficult to find the words to describe what I witnessed at camp this summer.
Young Life's mission is simple. Bring the message of Christ to teenagers. Nothing more. Nothing less. You see, the staff and volunteers don't have to tell you their mission. They live it and everyone in their path feels it. Everything they do is a means to accomplish this goal. Yeah the buildings are majestic, the blob is fun, and the grounds are meticulous, but the real secret to Young life's mission? It's about relationships. They reach kids where they’re at. They bring the universal message to kids who have never heard the message of Christ. They tell the story of a redemptive God to kids who are struggling with real life problems at too young an age. They don't pass judgment. They just love em like Christ called us to do. This is something I can get behind. This is something all Christians, no matter your denomination, should get behind.
I am a cradle Catholic that, like many others, left my faith during my late teenage years only to return when I had a family of my own. I went to church every Sunday growing up and went to a Catholic grade school, high school, and even earned my degree from a Catholic university. Despite the Catholic upbringing, I didn't develop a personal relationship with Christ until I was 36 years old. That’s a lot of lost time.
After my experience at camp I keep asking myself, "If I had this experience as a teenager would I have been away from the Church for 20 years? Would I have had developed a personal relationship with Christ as a teenager?" I don't know the answer to those questions and probably never will. I can say however, I very much would have liked to have had the opportunity.
I want nothing more than to raise my two sons in the finest tradition of the Catholic Church and all it has to offer. But above all I want my sons to know and love Christ in a most personal way. There are so many Catholic teenagers who will take similar paths to mine. I pray both my son's and those teenagers choose a different path.
I think we as Catholics can learn a lot about how Young Life lives their mission, reaches people where they’re at, and shares Christ them. I also think Young Life could learn a lot about how we as Catholics live our faith as a sacramental people. This isn't a competition. This is about Christ! This is about how we as witnesses bring His message to others and love one another as Christ has called us to do.
Jason and his beautiful family