Take An Interest
by Danae Cromwell
2015 Writing Contest
My involvement with Rock-N-Water started in 2011, the year I first came as a camper on one of their backpacking camps, The Backpacker Paluza. That was a darn good week, if not potentially the hardest I’ve ever experienced. Growing up as a church kid, I’d done the youth group/church camp thing before. Coming into RNW I was expecting something similar on the heart/relationship level, mixed in with some neat, new activities. I left that week with my expectations sorely disappointed, and I’m so glad.
I expected to hear some cool, well-worded, “convicting” messages during evening campfire times. I expected my leaders and the RNW guides to tell me to try to really hear God through nature and to hold onto the knowledge of His presence even after I went home. Of course I heard and received all of these things, but I found that this camp is about so much more than preaching a good message or even challenging fears and taking risks; although those things are important.
That week, every single guide and staff member I interacted with took an interest in me.
They were interested in me.
It wasn’t a formal, scripted, “What’s your name what grade are you in I’m totally only having this conversation because it’s my job and I’ll be stuck with you for a week so I hope you like me” conversation that I suppose I expected from people older than me who were assigned as my group’s guides. They really wanted to know who I was. From the moment I arrived, with them having no previous knowledge of me, I was loved. Unconditionally, without reserve. And I was one out of the hundreds of kids that came through camp that summer! That’s Rock-N-Water, and that’s the staff. The adventures and adrenaline-inducing fun are obviously a big part of the ministry, but they keep the main thing the main thing: relationships, meeting campers where they’re at with the radical love of Christ.
Something was set off in me by the end of the week. I had to get in on this. I needed to love people explosively in the way the staff loved me! So, I started to. That’s the gospel – one person having an encounter with Jesus through the beauty of relationships (and in this case, the beauty of creation) and then passing that off to someone else by example. I have been changed, and not only challenged by the loving action of the RNW staff.
“But the people that work here are their own kind of crazy, I would go so far as to call us radical. We’re head over heels IN LOVE with the Creator of the wilderness in which we live, because we’ve encountered Him personally working in our lives. And we’re confident in who we are as His kids. This confidence allows us to be passionate, outgoing, energetic, persevering, playful, and loving.”
And now I’m one of them – how could I not be? This is the ministry that made me come alive in the love of Jesus. There’s just something about the people that work at RNW. This place definitely attracts a certain kind of person, not that I mean that all the staff are the same. Far from it. But the people that work here are their own kind of crazy, I would go so far as to call us radical. We’re head over heels IN LOVE with the Creator of the wilderness in which we live, because we’ve encountered Him personally working in our lives. And we’re confident in who we are as His kids. This confidence allows us to be passionate, outgoing, energetic, persevering, playful, and loving. It’s only because of how we have been loved that makes this job possible. The staff take the lengthy time necessary learning just how loved we are by our King, as we are (I know because I went through the Volunteer program), because we realize that without that knowledge and it’s application, our ministry is useless.
It’s what compels us to do this crazy job again and again. And it’s such a beautiful thing to delight in God daily through our adventures outside with His beautiful children that He entrusts us with.
We use this analogy over and over again, but He’s like the river that we play in. He is powerful, untamed, wild, and even scary. But He is so good. How good He is to give us this mighty playground, as well as the wisdom and know-how to enjoy it while staying safe. And then He called certain people for a certain time to this certain place, to show His crazy love, acceptance, and joy to an unexpecting sixteen-year-old kid like me back in 2011.
So, if you have experienced the love of Christ, take an interest in those around you. Really seek to know people, because people are important. And in knowing them, love them just for who they are. Your effort matters, I promise.
Through our love, we teach love.