Sweden – Linda Johnson

Van Kelly, the director of Camp Joy, visited our church as he did many other churches. The depth of his care and concern for young people can be heard in his talks when he makes his annual rounds.  

While he was with us he talked about scars. Not just physical ones, but ones that the naked eye cannot see. The invisible hurts that have a lot to do with the way that we view life. 

Following are excerpts from his talk with us which includes a letter from a former camper. It is both thought provoking and encourages us to take an inventory of how we treat others.

Some years ago down in Florida, on a hot summer day, a little boy decided to go out for a swim. They have an old swimming hole behind their house. As soon as he removed his shirt and shoes he flew into that water not realizing that he was swimming toward the middle of the lake and there was an alligator swimming toward him. The mother was there at the window washing dishes and she saw what was getting ready to happen. She dropped the dishes and ran outside.  

With every fiber of her body she screamed at the top of her lungs to her son to get him to turn.  Fortunately that son heard her voice and he began to make that U-turn and swim back to shore. During the process that mother waded out into the water to grab hold of him and help him get to shore.  But about that time, the gator and the mother met at each end of that boy. He grabbed the feet and legs and she grabbed the arms. The struggle for survival began with the mother screaming at the top of her lungs trying to get the gator to let go of her son.  

A farmer happened to be driving by and heard the commotion. He jumped out of his truck and got his rifle and shot the gator and killed it.  Weeks and months passed as that boy was recovering in the hospital.  The story got out about what had happened. A reporter came to the hospital and asked the boy, “Would you mind showing me your scars?”  The boy began to show where the gator had tore and ripped into him.  The boy said, “But these are not the scars I’m most proud of. I want to show you the scars on my arms where my momma wouldn’t let go.  She dug so deep into my arms that I’ll always have them because she wouldn’t let go.”

Scars. This boy certainly had them. They would be with him the rest of his life. And they’ll have everything to do with his life. He will never forget that day. That’s the way it is with us. We have scars that’ll always be with us. That’s why, as Christians, it’s so important to love others just like God has loved us and does not let go of us.  Just think of all the people out there with scars and don’t know how to find the joy and peace of God’s love.  Don’t judge others because of their scars. Pray that God will give you the burden to help these folks.

I want to read you a letter from a young lady about three years ago.  I’m going to close with this today to encourage you to pray for our youth.  It’s the word of God that offers hope for our young people today.  “Dear Brother Van,  When I was eight years old at Camp Joy, I asked the Lord to come into my heart and to save me. Thinking back at it now it seems I was just scared to go to hell.  It was not something I talked about with my friends often. But when I was saved and a Christian I found out I was ashamed and scared. I more just kept it to myself and didn’t think much more about it.  

On my Wednesday night youth group we went to a different church and there in the lesson, God opened my eyes about not being ashamed of what He did for me. I want to live for Christ. I want to serve him.  I invited everyone one I could at school to come to church and did everything that was going on in churches. I wanted people to get involved. I wanted everyone else to feel the love, the comfort, the strength, the forgiveness, and everything else that God gives.  I still want to share that feeling with others.  What God does.  

A couple months ago my dad died of a drug overdose and my mom started drugs. And my mom and step-dad constantly fought over everything. My mom went to jail in August and she got out a month later. One day she took the car and left leaving me and my three younger siblings. It made things very difficult and very hard.  She went back to jail and missed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and all my birthdays and my siblings’ birthdays.

Although so much was going on and I was hurt so bad God was there and lifted me. I didn’t have to get out of bed and put a fake smile on my face and pretend to be nice. God gave me the happiness when I have been so down. When I have been so alone, He comforted me. Through all the lies my mom’s told me and all the hurt, God gave me the peace and strength to forgive my mom and move on. I want to serve Him and share with others on how He has helped me.”

This is the gist of the letter:  that through all the hurts and scars, God healed her soul. That’s what needs to happen in America today. We need more healing on the soul more than we do the outward body.          

Visit us at our website swedenchurch.com.  Pastor Strong can also be heard on our radio program, or come and hear Pastor Josh live on Sunday mornings.  Service begins at 11 a.m. (Sunday school is at 10 a.m.) and evening service begins at 6 p.m.  Bible study is Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. except for our business meeting the second Wednesday of each month.  Sweden Church is east of Ava about 10 miles on Highway 14 and then left onto 14-219 a quarter-mile.