Friday, February 24, 2012

Flashback Friday: Pops

There are some moments that are frozen in time. You can close your eyes and picture a moment 30 years ago as clearly as if it happened yesterday. For me, one of those moments took place at Quaker Lake Camp after a closing campfire around 1980. Everyone was saying their goodbyes on the softball field, when I noticed a lone camper, standing out by the pitcher's mound, crying. I walked over to her and asked her what was wrong, only to discover she had just been dumped by her camp boyfriend of the week. I knew her name was Laura Wheeler, but I didn't really know her very well. That frozen moment, however, was the beginning of one of the great friendships of my life.

We talked a long time that night, and in the months that followed wrote on occasion. By the following summer I couldn't wait until she came to camp. She and her cabin mates- Kristen Haworth, Jane Terrell, Jane Tesh, Debbie Tully, Angie Swaim, Mollie (Zowie! It's Mowwie!) Edwards and later, Sharron Tutterow, became "my girls." Kristen and Laura started calling me Pops ( I was all of 21!) and it stuck. That whole group eventually called me Pops, and we not only hung out at camp, but got together for dinner in the off-season and even had a Christmas party together. For the first time (but not the last) I became too attached to youth I worked with. When Debbie had surgery, I was there. When Laura became very sick, her parents called me and and I spent time with her at the hospital. I watched her suffer, struggle and recover, and we became incredibly close. These were not students in my youth ministry, but they meant the world to me. We shared great times and great sorrows, and I learned what it means to really be in ministry with a group of kids. It takes everything, just like Jesus said it would. I was no hero and I made plenty of missteps along the way, but I gave them everything I had, and they did the same. They gave me a Pops sweatshirt that I loved dearly. When it looked like we would not have any more time at QLC together, I wrote a song for them. We actually had a another year together, but the song remained meaningful for them and lots of other campers. I called it Leaving...But Not Really:

We’ve all come so far so fast,
becoming such close friends
And now that our time together has passed
Is this where it all has to end
Friends we go on living
So friends let’s go on loving
We may all think our time’s at end
But this is where we begin
To be friends

We’ll soon be many miles apart
With other people we need
But just because we’ll be apart
Let’s don’t give up what we’ve received
You don’t love friends with your eyes
It’s really your heart that cries
Love is friendship caught on fire
And love is what we require
From our friends

Friends, I will remember you
Think of you, pray for you
And when another day is through
I’ll still be friends with you.

The Family
And while I haven't seen them in many years, they are often on my mind and in my prayers. I hope that they have beautiful families and people in their lives who can love them the way they loved me. I write a lot about relationships and student ministry on this blog, and so much of what is near and dear to my heart I learned from these girls who cared so much about me.  Quaker Lake was never about the camp. It was always about the people. And for this "Pops," those people were some of the best.

A side note...Debbie called me one day when she was a senior in high school and told me that she had used the lyrics to the above song for a creative writing project.  She apologized and hoped I wasn't angry about it.  I just wanted to know her grade.  We got an "A!"

Because of Jesus,

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