So, the Teen Missions thing put us into some shock for a couple of days. I’m actually quite surprised that the camp’s still open. I mean, I figured that Teen Missions would be filed under “one of those crazy things that people did before they knew how dangerous it was.” Like letting kids ride in the bed of a pick-up. Or running after the DDT truck. Or using asbestos in the air ducts. Stuff like that.
We reminisced about some really horrifying things. The boot camp from the clip was in preparation for going overseas. They gathered all the teenagers together in Merritt Island. In the heat of the central Florida sun, we had to wear jeans and construction boots. And we weren’t allowed to shower. Kids suffered pretty badly from blisters and jungle rot—on all parts of their body—but I won’t go into that.
We woke up every morning before the sun to run an obstacle course. We ate breakfast and had our morning devotions. Then our days were filled with classes: bricklaying, construction, Bible studies, music, and puppets.
We had an hour to read, but we couldn’t bring our own books. They were pre-determined for us. They were mostly missionary stories, Passion and Purity, and books like that. We had to memorize a Bible verse every day.
I guess the worst part of it, for me, was their form of discipline. Whenever we did anything wrong, we got a “Special Blessing.” Or, an hour of hard labor in the blistering 3:00 heat. Honestly, we had to do things like move a huge pile of sand from point A to point B. And the next day, we had to move it back.
At one point, I had 27 SBs, for doing things like falling asleep during devotions or whispering to a friend during a class. I sincerely felt that I deserved the punishment. In fact, Teen Missions gave me my first taste of feeling like a really wretched person. A terrible human being. And, I didn’t shake that for a very, very long time.
On one team, I met my husband and a person who still remains one of our closest friends. We were on the trip with John Piper’s son. A really nice guy (the son, that is!).
No one forced me to go. I always volunteered. I was from a family who only went one place for family vacations: we drove from Florida to South Carolina. And TMI allowed me to see the world before I turned 16. Before some members of my family had ever been on an airplane, I had spent significant time in Switzerland, France, Hong Kong, China, and the Philippines. And I had passed through so many other countries.
The experience instilled within me, at a very young age, the love for diverse cultures and (strangely) a sensitivity to difference. When I think about how I spent summers camping in Switzerland and France, or sleeping under the stars on a boat in the Kowloon Harbor of Hong Kong, I realize that all of this history makes me who I am today.
One of the most difficult things about being a Presbyterian pastor for me is how people handle my background. It comes up, every time I circulate my resume or someone asks me where I went to undergraduate school. When I explain how I went to Bible school, there is such shock and disdain. Presbyterians are people who take great pride in their educations, and Moody’s far from the Ivy League that they attended. And I shrug it off, and say that’s how I was raised, and I’ve become someone else.
But I haven’t become someone else. All of this is still a part of me. And after fifteen years in this denomination, I’m exhausted, and not a little hurt, by people who can’t accept that.
The photo’s by Blah Blah Blog. And the title I ripped off from David Foster Wallace.