This week I had the privilege of spending time with our 6th graders at Forest Home Ojai Valley learning, playing, and worshipping. Some readers may consider this to be an obvious case of picking the short straw in the office lot casting, but it is amazing the insight one gains living for a week with 37 pre-teens.
Other than realizing that someone really needs to do a study on why sleep deprivation has an inverse effect on 11 and 12 year olds from that of 40 somethings, most of what I learned was very encouraging. First, I learned that our present 6th grade class is filled with young people with very big hearts. I witnessed numerous examples of genuine encouragement from students during moments of hurt, disappointment or discouragement. When living together for a week, away from the love of parents, young people fill in the gaps. We often notice selfishness, but when given the chance to be supportive, they rise to the occasion.
Second, I witnessed hearts that are bent towards Christ and heard testimonies of His work in young lives. Many of our students told of some of the hurts and struggles in their young lives and how Jesus has brought restoration and hope. I sometimes think that young people need to experience life to be broken enough to call on Christ from a point of need, but to hear our students’ testimonies I noticed that their trials are real and their need of a Savior great.
Lastly, I remembered that Christian community is hard, but rewarding, work. It is likely that students will come home telling of some injustice, hurt, argument, or failure; but if parents listen long enough, they will also hear of restoration, healing, reconciliation, and success brought on by others. Though still growing in the grace of Christ, young people are capable of living their beliefs.
Do you want to see God work? Volunteer to go camping with young people. 5th grade parents – we are taking applications for next year! While I loved this week, I think it is only fair that I share the love with others. You might even find, as I did, how addicting the challenge of bottle flipping can be. If you don’t understand, live for a week with 6th grade boys.
-Dr. Troy Wathen