Bringing the Kingdom of Heaven Down to Earth
Wayne and I have spent this week at Camp Barnabas, so we have been isolated from the “real world” of paid work and social expectations and media saturation. But we have been much closer to the “real world” as it will someday be. Camp Barnabas is a camp for disabled kids and kid-like adults with physical or mental disabilities. We went for autism/Down’s/intellectual challenges week. Wayne and I were cabin dad and mom. Cason is on staff for the summer at Barnabas on the Lake. Michael-Ellen is on staff at Teas Trail, the sister camp an hour from here.
The first 24 hours of camp is for the volunteers who are coming for that week. They go through boot-camp training on how to help their campers, with the constant reiteration that this camp is not for their enjoyment, but for the disabled. This has to be reinforced because these are teenagers coming to serve, and they are used to being served. But what unfolds is a beautiful thing to see. Jesus prayed to the Father in the Lord’s prayer that “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 We see a lot of the opposite in the media right now. But at Barnabas we saw this clearly and broadly acted out: the kingdom of heaven breaking through to this earth and life being lived like it is in heaven. So much joy, so much love, so much laughing, so much encouragement, so much acceptance, so much celebration. It’s a place, Cason explained, of no judgment. No one laughs at anyone’s jerky or corny dance moves. No one snickers at anyone’s singing. No one is criticized for being scared or too hyper or socially unacceptable. Everyone is celebrated and loved and treated with dignity. And that “no judgment” extends to the volunteers and staff, not just the campers. Disabled campers have a crew of friends and one person who stays by their side all day and night. No one is alone or friendless. The camp is equipped to accommodate the disabilities, so no one is excluded from activities. As you participate and watch everything that goes on, you just keep saying, “This is the way it’s supposed to be. This is the kingdom come.” I know this is the way it will one day be everywhere, when Jesus comes. Let’s do our part to make it happen now, wherever we are. As C.S.Lewis says in Mere Christianity: "A great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and . . . our God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again." One way I am doing this is by committing to praying for Camp Barnabas to multiply across the US. Right now Barnabas only has 2 permanent, fully-operational camps, both in Missouri, and there needs to be one within driving distance of every family in the nation. If you also see how the kingdom of God can be brought to earth by propagating Camp Barnabas, pray for God to show you what you can do to sow that seed.