Monday, April 24, 2017

Watching Love in Action

I don't usually find parenting models in my back yard. I suppose our cat could challenge me with her faithful motherhood, but her stint is over in six weeks.

But last week, I watched parenting modeled in a way that challenged me. Actually maybe it wasn't parenting as much as a model of God's love. The kind of sacrificial, putting-others-first love this mom needs. In triple doses.

The Pioneers are a group of ten boys from the Alleghany Boys Camp plus their two leaders who they call "chiefs." They were on a Civil War bus trip and we were privileged to have them spend a week camping in our pasture. Each day they visited local historical sites such as Gettysburg and Harper's Ferry. 

Their days started early. About 6:30 I could see the chiefs gently shaking tents and boys emerging from their sleeping bags and huddling near the campfire. Each boy is assigned camp chores. They set up tents, prepared meals, cleaned up the campsite, hauled water, wrote articles, and showered in the outdoor shower built with a tarp and garden hose. 

But of course nothing happens without the chief's involvement. I know how hard it is to keep children moving toward a goal. "Herding cats" and "pushing rope" have been used to describe the challenge. 

I've also been camping. Sure there is fun, but also lots of work. And I've never been gone two and a half weeks. With TEN boys.

After a day of touring, two boys helped a chief cook their meals on a campfire. We invited them to share one meal with us, then later in the week, they invited us out to their campsite for a meal.

They shared the fruit-roll-ups, beef jerky, and granola bars that they had made for their trip. They also cooked a Chinese rice dish over the fire. Everything was delicious.

And I watched the chiefs. They have to be flagging. It been a long day. But they don't get a break. There are still more boys to push through showers, the van to clean out, and articles to look over.

The swing-set and the yard are full of shrieks of children for a few hours each evening. Our children loved the extra players for active games of tag.  One chief pauses between chores to spend a few minutes playing British Bulldog. I applaud his effort to push down his weariness and have fun and laugh with the boys.

The goal is to be in tents by dark but, even when starting early, the boys don't always settle down quickly. The boys are learning life lessons on respecting authority, having good attitudes, and dealing with anger. Their chiefs are walking with them, but it isn't always pretty. 

Night falls and I hear the strumming of a guitar and a lone voice singing and hope that it is as relaxing for ten boys as it is to me. Some nights it is 10:30 until I hear the chiefs getting their own showers - the first time all day that they have had a moment to themselves. Just like moms who can't find time for their own shower until late at night.

But these are not his children. The chief has no obligation to them. A talented twenty-two-year-old has lots of options for adventure - and for income. These boys don't always appreciate chief's efforts. They might call chief names and throw a fit when chief asks him to pick up his towel. They certainly don't mind how much work they are causing chief.

But he is making a difference. Ten boys are seeing God's love in action. They are experiencing love when they are acting unlovable. They are finding a love that doesn't let them continue their bad habits. They are being given a model of true manhood that will influence them for life.

Next time I want to complain about how hard it is to be a mother, I'll try to remember the view out of my window this week. If those two young men can love and serve without complaining, why can't I.

We both have the same grace-giving God who gives His love in abundance.

On Easter Sunday we all had a little sunrise service. Singing praise songs with the guitar while watching the sun emerge over the horizon was a special celebration of Christ's resurrection. 

And the resurrection is what gives me the hope to face the challenge to keep loving.

For more info on Alleghany Boys Camp.


  1. Very wonderful of your family to host the camp! I can relate to the adult Shepherds (Chief's) of the boys group. IN my 30's I traveled from Colarado to Mexico on a mule-driven covered wagontrain, with teenagers doing their last year of jail time on the wagaontrain. In the end, the boys who were tracked up to 5 years later, (some had returned to crime, most returned to bad neighborhoods etc) the boys reported that the one year on the wagontrain was the best year of their life. They had to work, they had to be polite, they had to apologize and they had to be gentle with the animals. No music or TV. Best year of their life! Lessons for all of us, in that!

  2. This is beautiful. Chiefs are high on my list of heroes.

  3. How inspiring!! How selfless of these young men and I hope the 10 boys with them find their way in this harsh world. They will be in my prayers tonight.

  4. How nice you were able to host the group.

  5. What a blessing for you and them! And some good parallels on mothering...
    I admire these young men- they will not regret this time of learning to die to self.

  6. We've had the girls groups come through here to camp overnight. I'm always challenged by their dedication and hard work to "parent" these girls!

  7. This is wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  8. What a wonderful ministry! I pray that the boys will always remember how you opened your home (and hearts!) to them. Many times, it is the smallest things that have the most impact. Also, I feel that this a really powerful life lesson for your own children. Love in action speaks volumes..and loudly! Bless you, and the boys' counselor's. I think it is truly wonderful!!

  9. How sweet of you to open your home to this ministry, to these young boys. I pray that they will feel the love of God.

  10. We had a group of boys from Bald Eagle camp in our pasture for a week last spring. Chad and I came away with a very high respect for those chiefs! Their relationship with their boys is beautiful to watch!

  11. A mutual friend sent me the link to this article. I cried reading it because our son is the guitar playing chief. A mom's heart is always hungry for a word of her children and this was wonderful to read. Sometimes I pray for these boys as if they were my grandchildren. Thank you for writing this article. And thank you for hosting them.

    1. Verna-
      Blessings to you for raising a fine son and sharing him with these boys.

      My brother is a chief and I know that my mom can relate to you praying for the boys as if they were grandchildren.


  12. What a wonderful opportunity. Camp life has always intrigued me. Christine


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