Friday, September 17, 2010

Angels and Demons

During the summer of 1999, I had the privilege of helping at a junior high week of church camp at Northeast Iowa Christian Service Camp. One evening we played a game called “Angels and Demons.” The campers were all blindfolded and their task was to find their way to heaven. Along the way there were angels and demons (roles portrayed by the staff). The campers were allowed to ask any question they wanted. They then had to choose whom they trusted and whom they wanted to follow. (The angels always told the truth and the demons could lie.)  The angels led the campers to "Heaven" and the demons led the campers to "Hell."

This game began as just another fun evening activity at camp. The camp faculty joked around when we decided the chapel would serve as our "Hell" and the cafeteria would be "Heaven." Even as this activity began we just saw it as another evening activity like the faculty hunt or the talent show. I know you are not suppose to have favorites in youth ministry, but I think most of us do. A little while into the game, I saw one of my favorites wandering around lost. I made my way over to him and started talking. I was beginning to earn his trust when one of the "demons" came over and began convincing this camper not to trust me. Within minutes, I found myself with my back 5 feet away from the “gates of hell” begging this young man to listen to what I had to say. In that instant, as I begged him to listen, it was no longer just a game I was playing. I had my back to the gates of hell and was pleading with him for his soul.

One of the rules for the activity was that when a student told you to leave, you had to leave. This young man told me to leave. I begged and pleaded with him to reconsider.  I promised him I was telling the truth and he was heading in the wrong direction. He told me to leave and I stepped back quietly. I will never forget as I stood and watched as he was escorted through the gates of hell.

Eleven years later, we are daily fighting with our backs 5 feet away from the gates of hell. Today our battle is not just a game. We are fighting a battle for the souls of children, teens and adults on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. We are fighting where there is a 76% unemployment rate, the poverty rate is 77% and the teen suicide rate is 7 times the national average. We are fighting where over 30% of the population is under the age of 18 - where teen moms are struggling to raise families. We are fighting where drugs, alcohol and gangs are rampant, where hopelessness is the norm. We are fighting and will continue to fight the battle that we know He will win.