On the middle Sunday night of every session, I would walk out to the Long House for the Island question and answer time. The Long House is about 30’ long and 14’ wide, made by bending yellow birch saplings into 2/3 of an arch. The saplings come up from both sides…and are the wired together where they overlap. Inside it is uniquely beautiful.
The Long House would be lit with a few gas lights and a chair would be waiting, facing the 40 Island campers (ages 14-16), 8 counselors, the section chief and his assistant. The Long House would be full! After a few words of greeting, I would be handed a stack of unsigned questions, written by the campers and a few counselors. Everyone knew I would respond to every question, and they knew I would say, in very straight talk, just what I thought. I would open my mind and heart to the campers, and I think they greatly appreciated this. There were many laughs, and there were periods of heavy thinking – You can say things to young men, 14-16, that you will not say to boys 9 years old. The teenagers hear it all at school, often in very twisted ways.
I would sit down and sort the questions into stacks – theological, Christian living, friends, girl friend/ wife, sex, Deerfoot, fun stuff like “Chief, how do you grow such long eyebrows?” The questions gave me a wonderful opportunity, a spring board, to say most anything I felt it important to say. Typical questions were about creation/evolution, free will vs. predestination, the fairness and the faithfulness of God, God’s guidance, prayer, role of women in the church, use of alcohol, friend in trouble, forgiveness, my devotional pattern, choosing a wife, sex before marriage, masturbation, pornography…you get the idea. I would always start with theological questions and move to sex. Even after 1 ½ hours of sitting, they never fell asleep with the sex questions. After giving my perspective, I would often ask the Island staff if they had something to add.
When there were different views on a question, I would do my best to present both views, why there were different views, and then give my view – which was sometimes “I am not sure what I think on this because…” Every now and then I would be surprised by how a camper would respond to my answer. I remember the camper who was stunned when I said pre-marital sex was not pleasing to God – his face said “this is news to me”. Sometimes I could sense that what they were asking about a friend was really for them…to help guide their feelings, their actions.
I made the bad mistake one night of receiving the questions, and without reading them, telling the Islanders what the questions would be. I could tell the Islanders were really upset by what I did. Most of us like to think that we are unique, our questions are new – deep down we know they are not.
It was interesting to do Q & A with the staff. Even though most had been Island campers, and many have been Island staff, their questions were not very different than the camper’s questions. Staff members would ask more questions, very pointed questions, on my relationship with God, my devotional pattern, God’s guidance, male/female relationships, and in recent years, more about pornography.
The Bible addresses, directly or indirectly, almost every question – nothing is new!!!! I had memorized verses in the King James Version. I could not give the references for some, but they knew what I was saying was true to God’s word. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able ; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” I Corinthians 10:13 The 10 commandments make many things clear.
Living the Christian life is not rocket science. Our challenge is not in understanding, but doing what we know is right. Human nature has not changed since creation – and thus the teachings of the Bible have not had to change.
I often said to the campers; do not expect God to guide you in special ways if you do not do what you know God has already asked you to do! I have to remind myself of this, particularly if I want to live In Partnership With God.