This was Big Stuf week for the Bensons. If you’ve been following this blog long enough, you have probably read about it before. One week out of the year, my family gets to serve together at a youth camp in Daytona Beach, Florida called Big Stuf. That’s one “f”. Big Stuf Camps is celebrating twenty-five years this summer. It was, and is, the brain child of Lanny Donoho, or as Big Stuf campers know him: Mr. Big Stuf.
Over the years the camp focus has shifted. Oh, there’s still great worship, great speakers and, of course, great fun in the sun, but there’s more at Big Stuf. The leaders at Big Stuf believe that students are capable of doing big stuff, two f’s. Because of this belief, they have partnered with a ministry called 410 Bridge. This is a mission organization that serves in places like Haiti, Uganda, and Kenya. They are changing lives, and they are making areas in each of those countries better for this generation and generations to come. Students who attend Big Stuf get to be a part of what goes on through 410 Bridge and because of that, people in those places now have clean water, education, and better lives.
I love getting to spend a week at the beach with Big Stuf because for one week out of the year, my family stops running in six different directions, and comes together to serve together. Our family is good together. And we get to spend the week serving alongside some truly amazing people who also leave their normal lives to serve a week in Daytona.
People like the Pitts family, who recently adopted a little boy named Wil from Haiti. People like the Campbells who hope to extend their home to one or more children from Uganda, and are learning to wait upon the Lord for the process to proceed. I met Alyson, a young woman who spent two months in Kenya serving the poor and who decided to leave her home in Mississippi to follow her calling to serve the Lord in Atlanta. She waits tables in a restaurant because the ministry she loves to do doesn’t pay her enough money to live on yet.
And then there’s Jeff, the pastor from Tennessee, who believes in the ministry of Big Stuf so much, that he uses up a week’s vacation to come serve in Daytona every year. All year long, Jeff serves in the trenches, ministering in a small church and leading people into deeper relationships with the Lord, but for this one week, he’s all about serving the staff and students of Big Stuf.
We love the worship leaders at camp like David Crowder, Phil Wickham, and Rend Collective that lead us, and speakers like John Acuff and Bob Goff who speak to us. But it’s the kids that we really go to serve.
It’s amazing what a teenager will tell a complete stranger like me.
Jennifer is 17 and feels like no one ever notices her. Both of her parents are disabled and her younger brother has Down’s Syndrome. This young girl has not had a carefree teenaged life. She’s had to step up to the plate in her family and be a caregiver. I told Jennifer God will use what she has experienced in her life to take her places other kids can’t go.
Maria has never met her grandparents. Her mother married a black man and so her family disowned her. So they’ve never had the joy of meeting this amazing teenager. She’s not bitter, she feels sorry for them. Sorry that they have missed out on her. I do, too.
Andrew feels called to be a pastor. He has no idea what that means for him yet, but he is excited to follow God’s call on his life.
And then there were the sweet girls from Amite, Louisiana who sought me out each session just to give and receive a hug and tell me all about the ministry opportunities they had been having each day as their youth group went to serve in a homeless shelter each day during free time.
I’ll tell you, there’s just nothing like serving in ministry. The people you meet, serve, lead, encourage, and pray for will change you, stretch you, and encourage you. I have been blessed once again to be a part of something big God is doing, and like I said, there’s just nothing else like it.