“Chief, someone has been in my tackle box and stolen a couple lures! I am sure of it!!!” Questions were asked. Perhaps someone did steal a few of the camper’s lures. “Chief, someone stole my pocket knife…and it was really a nice one!”. The next day he found his pocket knife. “Chief, my hiking boots are gone!” Never did find the hiking boots. It seemed a couple things would disappear almost every day: a camera, candy from the store, even a fishing pole. How do you steal, hide, and take home a fishing pole? One camper was given a pocket knife by his grandfather the day he left for camp. It was the knife his grandfather had used since he was a boy….and it was gone!!! The camper was crushed! I think all of the staff struggled with that one.
Knowing the amount of lost and found, it was impossible to be sure what was stolen…and what was “misplaced”. Very quickly there was uneasiness, suspicion, tension…for some, fear. At DL, there is no way to lock everything up.
From the perspective of role models, it was no surprise that campers stole things. Some had friends that stole stuff… just little things. Some had brothers who stole T shirts from school. Undoubtedly some had parents who brought stuff home from work…or took stuff from a motel. The news told about policemen, business and government leaders who stole. No big deal. I see it, I want it, and so I take it.
The Ten Commandments are designed to keep us out of trouble with God – and with each other. Do we really think we would be better off if we disobeyed any of the Ten Commandments? “You shall not steal“ is the briefest. During the After Breakfast Bible Study I talked about these truths. Counselors talked about stealing in their cabin devotions – nothing stopped the stealing….a item or two a day. .
I realize some of you will not like this, but one day I asked the counselors to go through camper suitcases during rest period, while the campers watched. Stolen goods were found, including some things campers had not realized were stolen. Each item was given back to its owner. There was some embarrassment and punishment. The stealing continued – did those who had been caught continue to steal? Or were there others?
An idea came into my head that caused me a lot of physical pain! I think it was at the beginning of Session II that I showed the campers what would happen to them if they were caught stealing. I had the entire staff line up down the middle of the dining room – and I would go through the paddle wheel. Yes, I would get down on my knees and go through the legs of all of the staff members….each one doing his best to spank my “butt” as hard as he could! When I would get to the other end of the dining hall, my bottom stung. I promise, some of the staff was merciless! (By session IV it really was hard to discipline myself to do this!!!)
The staff went back to their seats and I reminded the campers that if they stole, they would be sent through the paddle wheel. If their parents complained, I would tell them I did it first – and that you had been were warned. The campers could see the punishment they would receive if caught, and they knew I meant it. The stealing almost completely stopped. The pattern was broken, and it never returned!
Continually I challenged the staff “do what is right, every time”, and “live your life so it can appear on the front page of the newspaper.” With that kind of challenge to staff and campers, comes the challenge to me –
Perhaps even more difficult than the Ten Commandments are for me to obey are some of God’s directives given to us through Jesus Christ. Frequently I do not exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” — Galatians 5:22. Often I do not love my neighbor as myself. Leviticus 19:18 And I judge – knowing “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”. — Matthew 7:1 Do I forgive as I have been forgiven? Matthew 6:12
We all deserve to go through God’s paddle wheel – and we would if we did not recognize the seriousness of how God views sin, and that when Jesus died, he was the perfect and permanent sacrifice for our sin. What a Savior!!!