Unlikely Encounters With God

Photo by  Michael Niessl  on  Unsplash

Extra Effort Provides Dynamic Encounters With God

by Eric Elkin

A gift is appreciated because of what a person can afford, not because of what that person can’t afford, if it’s apparent that it’s done willingly.
— 2 Corinthians 8:12

When I first arrived at Camp Shalom, campers would ride a van down to the river to go canoeing. When I questioned the practice, staff members provided a well-versed list of reasons. It was necessary for the safety of the campers; the walk was too physically challenging; it offered staff much needed support. The list went on and on.


There was a time when the camp had no access to the river on the property. Staff drove campers to a site several miles away from the camp to go canoeing. Eventually, the camp secured a river access point. The new launch spot was within walking distance, a 300-yard walk, but the tradition of driving remained. 


There was pushback from staff when I ended the van rides to canoeing. Several staff members confronted me about the change. After listening to their grievances, I told them, “You think you are doing the children a favor, but all you are doing is robbing them of a dynamic encounter with God’s creation.”


It wasn’t long before campers returned from canoeing with reports of seeing giant spider webs, colorful butterflies and baby snapping turtles. Their joy left little weight to counselor objections about walking.


We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
— Winston Churchill

Years later, the camp started a program to recruit lower-income campers. We offered ten low-income families a free week of camp. When the time for their session arrived, only two children showed up. The others registered and completed the forms, but did not attend, nor did they call to cancel.


The next summer we offered the same program, but this time asked families to pay something. The amount was determined by what they could afford. We only wanted some financial commitment. The outcome was completely different. With a payment required, all ten campers showed up. 


As these families returned to camp the following year, they proudly told me what they could afford to pay. I was surprised by how important this was to them. Parents would come into the office and announce, “This year, we can afford $50!”


What we didn’t realize, by offering something completely free, we were denying participants a sense of dignity and a chance to own the camp experience. Even a family who pays $5 gets the chance to be “normal.” They pay for the experience. Plus, they are able to show their children their commitment to providing them with something of meaning. In the end, we were denying people a dynamic encounter with a God. It was no different than driving children to the river.


I’ve listened to several people tell me they don’t want faith to be about the money. But, I’m not sure you can have faith without it. How else do people truly express gratitude? And, how can we tend to the needs of the world without it?


Click to read: 2 Corinthians 8: 7-15

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you view the relationship between money and faith?
  • What do you consider a good use of financial gifts in the church?
  • How is gratitude formed by giving?
  • Where does your giving bring you joy?

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