President’s Letter, October 2011
What if God called you to a ministry that would not succeed? That question is a paraphrase of something Bill Hybels asked this summer during the Willow Creek Association Leadership summit. By success, I am speaking in earthly terms not heavenly. For Pastors that might mean have multiple worship services or satellite locations. A big congregation, likeness on roadside billboards or a book deal.
However, we as counselors, measure our success too. We compare things like camping equipment and trailers, excursions, outings and trophies, and, lastly, club size. But what if the current demographic trends indicate your church is going to struggle? The numbers of boys isn't what it used to be. Or maybe your Pastor and Council has a new vision that doesn't included cadetting. Does your ministry still matter?
People love to quote the Book of Jeremiah in situations like this. We know “plans to prosper;” but did you realize that the Prophet Jeremiah knew almost no success? Jeremiah was guided by God to proclaim that the nation of Israel would be faced with famine, be plundered and taken captive by foreigners who would exile them to a foreign land. The people didn't listen to him at all. Jeremiah was attacked by his own brothers, beaten and put into the stocks by a priest and false prophet, imprisoned by the king, threatened with death, thrown into a cistern by Judah’s officials. So when God said to him I have plans to prosper to Jeremiah, what do you think he was feeling?
Being a Cadet Counselor isn’t quite as demanding as being a Prophet of God, but it can be a tough job. Pulling together a meaning full Bible lesson for boys that have been in a Christian school all day is challenging. Keeping fourth graders from gluing their fingers together when doing models or rockets while you are trying to read to next step of directions written in four languages and not clear in English is a step removed from chaos.
There can be physical pain involved with being a Counselor. I remember a derby car work-night a long time ago. We had been working on drilling out the cars so that weight could be added. The meeting was over and every one had left but me. I was picking up my tools and heading out to my car. All I had to do yet was lock up and go home. My drill with the Fostner bit still in the chuck began to slip out of my hand. Reflexively I reached for it and caught the sharp bit with the palm of my hand. It ripped an inch gash in my hand. With one hand wrapped in a towel, using my good hand, I wiped the pool of blood off the floor on my away out of Church and headed to the Emergency room.
There can be spiritual pain too. Serving as a cadet counselor for years you may learn things about families that you would just not rather know. Watching a cadet grow and mature and then find that he has made some bad decisions that were contrary to the beliefs that you have spent years trying to help instill in him is a spiritually and emotionally painful journey. You may question your own ability to effectively communicate God’s love. You wonder whether you could have done more or what you should’ve done differently.
But you and I may never know the impact that cadetting had on a boy. If you are fortunate, a squirrelly cadet might just grow up to be a young man, come back home from college and say a word of appreciation to you. But most boys just grow up. On those nights, when nothing is going as planned, remember Jeremiah. Remember the fact that he kept on answering God's call even though he never enjoyed success. He answered the Call. Just answer God’s call and He will remain faithful.
Dirk Feikema – President, Illiana Council Cadets