25 years ago, I was a little boy in Sunday school, staring up at flannel-grams of a cartoon Apostle Paul. The Apostle in Chains, survivor of shipwrecks, and the escaped prisoner, Paul was everything a 7-year-old could want in a Biblical hero. Now, with more than a quarter of my life between me and those first encounters, I look at Paul differently. He’s every bit the hero to me that he was then, and his miraculous life stories still dominate the landscape of his legacy. What’s changed is that now I see him as a role model. At Moose River Outpost, we are building Godly young men and women. Paul did the same, and his success in doing so brought on the transition of Christianity from a sect of believers in Jerusalem to a widespread and growing religion. Paul didn’t take charge of the people he told about Jesus. He introduced them to God, encouraged them to think and work out their faith, and then mentored them and got out of their way. He was building thoughtful leaders, not just dogmatic followers. Our goals here at MRO are not so different. Last summer at camp our Bible study series focused on Paul. In my mind he is a study in hard-working relational inefficiency. Working with people and raising up leaders cannot be efficient. People’s minds aren’t engaged when we just herd them into a room and talk to them en masse. They engage when we slow down, share coffee with them; or better yet sit at a campfire with them and share a s’more under a canopy of stars. Paul couldn’t just preach. He had to visit, share in the work of a local community as a tentmaker, and develop close relationships. This is why our counselors at MRO are so important. Leaders are built not with lists, or instructions, but with examples, and learning at the speed of conversation.
So much of Paul’s methods are still relevant parts of what happens at MRO. As the writer of the Epistles, I know that Paul could appreciate the value of a good letter – scrawled instead of typed, composed no faster than a pen can move, so that the impulses of the heart have time to be distilled on the page. As a constant traveler, I know Paul appreciated the value of a very long walk: How hard things bind us, expose our need to grow, and help us learn. These things are part of the MRO experience now – 2000 years later. And the effect is the same.
Paul changed the world, and we’re setting out to do nothing less. All around the camp community, and increasingly all around the world, MRO alums are having an impact. Some as camp counselors, others as doctors, teachers, social workers, and accountants. The styles and methods are as diverse as the people themselves, but these are thinking, feeling, men and women who have learned to apply Jesus’ teaching to their own lives. As you look over the staff list in this newsletter, pray that they’ll build leaders who follow their hearts, and followers whose hearts belong to God.