Last week, I had the unique opportunity to volunteer for Generation Joshua's iGovern Camp East. It was one on the most amazing weeks of my life. I have been involved in Gen J since 2004, and it is, without a doubt, the best organization I have ever interacted with when it comes to training high schoolers about applying Christianity to the civic arena.
Joel Grewe, the camp director, told me that when it comes to Christians in government, he didn't want political operators, he wanted Biblical leaders. So the entire camp was focused first and foremost around Christ, and the theme of politics was used as a tool to glorify God. I've heard stories about iGovern West in 2009, where Gen J chose to completely shut down the political side of the camp in order to deal with spiritual issues amongst campers. Throughout my experience with iGovern this week, I can understand why. Chapel was the highlight of the day, and the prayer meetings that went on at night were amazing.
I had the opportunity to represent the N.Y. Times as a lobbyist and publish a daily paper for the camp. Interacting with the kids was a blast, as they tried to figure out what to say and what not to say to the press. I was their one-week crash course in media relations- and I saw the students improve drastically in their ability to handle the press over a period of mere days. I'm sure that the students learned just as much when it came to their legislative abilities, lobbying and campaigning, even though I didn't get to work with them as much.
But the real important stuff happened outside the Congressional simulation. I walked over to chapel one day after getting off work. I got there just in time to see the kids leaving slowly and silently. The stories I heard later that night during the counselor meeting was amazing- I heard of kids opening up and sharing struggles they'd been having with each other, encouraging each other and cultivating relationships.
There's all sorts of kids involved in Gen J. There's the normal ones, who show up, participate and have a blast. There's the crazy ones. And there's the hurting ones, the ones who come to a fast-paced, high stress camp to "relax" because of their family situations back home. There's kids who are dealing with loneliness, depression and a host of other issues. There's kids who meet their best friends at camp, and keep in touch with them online through Gen J's forums.
I know. I've been there. I've dealt with a number of the issues these kids are talking about- the broken family situation, the loneliness, the over-the-top personality I used as a front. And I know that had it not been for Gen J, and the relationships and mentoring formed there, I would not be where I am today.
As a civic involvement program, Generation Joshua is superb. But from a kid that will probably never go into politics or government, let me say that as a ministry, Generation Joshua blows everyone else away.
By Nick Barden