By Jean Brindel

Summer is the high season for kids to go to church camp. Camp is not only about the campers, but it is about those who invest their time and money so that the kids can have an experience of a lifetime that changes their lives for all time.

She was a busy woman and didn't have a lot of time for things like camp counseling, but her pastor had told her she would be blessed by investing a week in the lives of kids. So she dug out her sleeping bag, bug spray and flashlight, and off she went for a week of bunk beds and camp food. She would bridge the week at camp with Bible study and a hope to grow in faith, just a little. After all, there must be some pay back for such an investment of time and energy.

There was this one young man, who was brash, distant and uninterested. But he was in her group, so she smiled and welcomed him. All week, he was happy to go swimming, play games and be at the front of the line for snacks, but when it came time to worship or talk about faith, he sat with his head down - brash, distant and uninterested.

On decision night, when the kids are given the opportunity to make a commitment to Christ, the kids came to the circle with the tall cross in the middle. As they listened to the pastor talk about the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ for all who call upon his name, they came forward to put their hands on the cross. It was a way of touching and being touched by faith in Jesus Christ.

The young man sat with his head in his hands, broken, alone and separated. The counselor came over to him and asked if she could pray with him. He told her that it wouldn't do any good. He was no good; he came from a family with lots of problems. God would not want him - Christ could never forgive him - grace did not include him. She invited him to simply come and put his hand on the cross, just to touch it and see that God's love and grace did include him. He simply shook his head; he didn't believe he could be forgiven - or loved. The boy's life could not be bridged by grace if he didn't believe he could be forgiven.

The counselor said these words to him: "Let me be your bridge. Hold my hand and I'll touch the cross, and you can see how it feels. Just come."

He got up, taking a few steps to grasp her hand as she touched the cross. Her arm span stretched to reach from the child to the cross. Then he moved closer to her; then he stepped past her and put a simple finger on the cross -then his whole hand - until soon his whole body was wrapped around the cross as he wept with joy. Jesus did love him. He was forgiven, and the salvation of Jesus Christ was for even him.

No longer was he brash, distant and indifferent - he now had hope, a relationship and a belonging to Christ.

Being at camp was for her more than she had ever hoped. She had become the bridge. And as the bridge to faith, she had not only touched the cross, but it had touched her. She had invested a week of her life in camp and gotten a lifetime of blessings in return.

Right here, right now, right future - as we do whatever it takes to reach the next generation for Jesus Christ.

Jean Brindel, CFRE, AFP, serves as Development Officer of the North Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church. She lives in Carmel, Ind.