I have been going to church camp this summer. Last week I visited Camp Moneto in the South Conference, and next week I will be visiting Rivervale and Camp Indi-Co-S0. Last night I visited Senior High Institute at Epworth Forest in the North Conference where I was privileged to issue a call to ministry -- and 15 youth responded, along with dozens and dozens who came forward to make first-time or recommitments to Christ. I have agreed to go every Thursday evening to Epworth Forest for their Commitment Night to issue similar calls to ministry.

I am a product of camping ministry, and I believe it is essential for pastors, district superintendents, the bishop, youth directors, and lots of key lay leaders to be involved in the camping and outdoor ministries of our two conferences. If we really believe that "making disciples of Jesus" is a priority, then it is obvious that camping is one of the best ways we do that in Indiana.

Being back at Epworth Forest last night was special. That is the campground where I first responded to a call to ministry, so it is a special place for me (and for many other clergy in Indiana). One of my favorite spots on that campus is the chapel area which has a lovely statue of Jesus.

However, once again, I noticed that Jesus needs thumbs. That statue has always been difficult, in that the thumbs easily break off. I know that at one point the camp ministry ordered several extra sets of thumbs for the statue, but they seem to keep breaking off.

As I gazed at the statue of Jesus last night, I realized that there might be a deeper meaning here: Jesus needs thumbs, Jesus needs us to be his thumbs in the world today. Hands are less useful without thumbs -- they are unable to grasp, to hold, to embrace, to extend help, or simply to greet. Some scientists would even say that this "opposite thumb" is the most basic characteristic of being human. Jesus needs thumbs, he needs us to be his living presence -- extending a greeting of welcome, offering an embrace of consolation, sharing food and aid to those in need, holding onto those who are falling, and reaching out in love to all the world.

Jesus needs thumbs. That is one reason why I am going to our camps, supporting our disciple-making efforts, and calling youth to ministry. Because Jesus needs us to be his thumbs.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner