More Than A Game

Who could have imagined that a recreational volleyball game in a gymnasium in Macon, GA in the middle of July would be the scene where one of the most beautiful and significant events in our life together as church would unfold?  Every Thursday afternoon during Passport Camp a volleyball tournament organized by camp staff pitting churches against each other occurs.  Squads of six nervous teenagers, comprised of boys and girls from the various groups, square off against one another.  The tournament, if it can really be called that, is all about fun.  That's why volleyball is the medium selected for the competition.  Volleyball levels the playing field for church youth groups.  Each group may bring one or two really good players with them.  Volleyball, however, requires communication and comradery to win more so than athletic ability.  Often, teams with the best single athlete fall to pieces because he or she tries to win it all while others defer to that dominant player.  To win this competition teams must possess a little athletic ability, a light-hearted attitude, and good communication that comes from trust in one another.  That's the secret formula. 
 
This was my fourth Passport Camp with the youth of CHBC.  The first couple of years, we failed to win a single game in the volleyball tournament.  There were various reasons why that was the case, but the primary reason was communication break-downs due to lack of trust.  In 2010, the CHBC squads had some success.  One CHBC team won a few games and advanced to the semi-finals.
 
Since I began to serve at CHBC as Minister to Students in January 2008, two primary goals that the Student Ministry Team has striven to accomplish are to bring youth into closer relationship with Christ and with one another.  These two goals go hand-in-hand.  How we treat others is a manifestation of how we understand God.  How we understand God dictates how we relate to one another.  We implemented numerous strategies to help our youth draw near to God and one another.  However, given the unique dynamics of our group, unconventional methods were necessary.  We reconfigured Sunday School and Bible Study.  We rely heavily on video and images to communicate biblical teachings because these mediums appeal to young people and overcome language barriers more effectively than words.  We use a large portion of our time together on Wednesday evenings engaged in "games" that enable all our youth to interact and grow more comfortable with one another.  We spend a lot of time working with one another to serve others.  Mission trips to Wayside Christian Mission and to Nada, KY are opportunities for our group to come together to help others that do not require that everyone in our group speak the same language.  These structured efforts served as a catalyst for countless informal, youth-led gatherings.  CHBC youth, Karen-born and American-born, now regularly get together with one another without adult prodding just to hang out.
 
All of that walked into that gym in Macon a few weeks ago.  Two of the teams in the tournament that day were CHBC teams.  Both squads easily won their first round games setting up a CHBC vs. CHBC semi-final match-up.  CHBC Team A was comprised of Sterling Baker, Hannah Woggon, Erin Woggon, Eh Thaw Thaw, Eh Nay Thaw, and Yeh Ba.  Jess Kettle, Brooke Tarpey, Adrianne Tarpey, La Lar Po, Thay Htoo, Yo Ba Moo, and Braden Deifel made up Team B.  It did not take long for the two CHBC teams to prove they were the two best teams in the tournament.  No errors were made.  Every point came off a winning shot.  Each team communicated flawlessly.  Where were the other 34 members of the CHBC contingent at camp that week?  The rest of our group voluntarily lined the sidelines, cheering each time either team scored a point (we cheered a lot that game) and chanting C-H-B-C, C-H-B-C.  Team A eventually overcame Team B and went on to handily beat the Passport staff who had only lost one game all summer for the championship.
 
I think I surprised the group that night when I told them how proud I was of them, and that it had absolutely nothing to do with winning the tournament.  I told them I was proud of them, all of them, for cheering for one another, having fun together, communicating (despite significant communication barriers) so well, trusting one another, and, ultimately, for loving one another.  That day our youth put God's kingdom on display for all to enjoy.  In a gym in Macon, GA on a scorching hot mid-July day, our youth, because of the efforts of this church over the past several years, because of our collective sweat and tears, showed the world that at CHBC God's kingdom is alive and well.