Tasting Kingdom

On Tuesday morning, as I prepared to depart for a run with my daughter Sadie, I waited patiently for her to climb into her Bob stroller. In that moment my eyes began to wonder across our yard, towards the entrance to Camp Alta. A smile came to my face as I proudly looked over at a newly painted sign (with a helpful new directional arrow). Delbert Grey, our facility manager, had finally gotten a moment as summer concluded to give the sign a much needed face lift a couple of days earlier. I was proud to see an improvement to something that has become such a simple connection point for so many of our guests.

At this point Sadie was prepared for takeoff. Her little voice repeated over and over again… “Dadda, Dadda, DADDA?” Almost annoyed by my lack of ability to recognize that she had been ready to go for a few long seconds now, I asked if she was ready? After a quick, “yes dadda,” off we went for a run we both have become quite familiar with through the town of Alta.

We start out by simply running down to the end of Alta Power House Road, which is about 7 tenths of a mile from the entrance to camp, past PG&E, Sierra First Baptist Church, the new Sugar Pine Deli, the fire station and over the train tracks. We did not get too far before Sadie was saying hello to Ron, a neighbor friend of ours often seen watering his plants on our road. As I laughed at Sadie’s engagement with our neighbor I was struck by the first of two distinct thoughts that would would fill my head throughout the duration of our run. Thanks to her first full summer at camp, my little girl has become a friendly, loving, welcoming, extrovert! I began to reflect the growth I have seen God develop in this little child of His. I wondered how her desire to know people reflected Christ’s desires? Don’t we all long to be loved and known? Sadie had come to know and love so many of you over the summer and I felt blessed to watch and to be a part of that. What a gift!

My next thought, of bursting into song, seemed only fitting. By the way singing is one of the few ways to help pass time with a 2 ½ yr old on a long run in a stroller. I started singing the children’s tune “Jesus Loves The Little Children,” not a regular, but a song my wife Lana and I sing with Sadie from time to time. It was not the best time to start the tune though as we were just cresting the hill right by PG&E. At 3,600 feet, running uphill, pushing a stroller, and singing a song does not mix well. As I struggled for breath and clarity of thought Sadie asked, actually told me to keep singing.

“Jesus loves the little children… All the children of the world. Red and yellow black and white they’re all precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

I don’t know if it was the thin air or a another captivating thought that caused me to forget all the other words, but it didn’t matter as I just kept singing along with only the words from the chorus that I could remember. Probably not the best performance for Sadie, but I don’t think she cared all that much. What struck me in this moment though was the image this song brought to mind of our last few weeks at camp. God had brought many of His children, to Camp Alta to experience His presence in both creation and people. He had brought different generations, ethnicity, and denominations; people from varying geographic locations, economic standing, and cultural background. And throughout this time, He kept showing up to meet them all. The Spirit moved; and our staff, along with a variety of guests were able to get a good taste of the Kingdom.

According to Jesus, the Kingdom of God is in (or among) people. Luke 17:20-21. I think I speak on behalf of our staff when I say, “we experienced His Kingdom this summer.” Furthermore, if we were not cognitive of it throughout the summer, we sure were reminded of it loud and clear over Labor Day weekend. Our guests were from Berkley Chinese Baptist Church. One community comprised of two different speaking services that used camp in some unique ways. As our time concluded on Monday afternoon, I was informed that this church we had grown very fond of, over just a couple of days, wanted to thank me and our staff. As I wondered what that would look like… I had no idea what God was about to allow us all to experience. We desired to thank them for embodying Jesus collectively and loving us well. They wanted to thank us for sharing Christ’s love and boundless hospitality. This culminated with our staff being showered with a bilingual singing of, “God is so Good.” Our staff joined in, tears fell on both sides, and the Spirit was present. It tasted so good!

Why don’t we search for moments like this more? I know that we aren’t the creators of times like these, but there is a way of living, a posture, and an understanding, that allows us to experience it with others. And we can do so through relationships.

I know for Sadie and I as we sang and ran together along Ridge Road, in God’s beautiful country of the Sierra’s we felt blessed, reflecting on God’s Kingdom present at Camp Alta this summer.

Thank you all for your continued partnership in the ministry God is doing in and through Camp Alta.