On May 7-9 YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly hosted the Christian Leadership Conference for the twentieth consecutive year. The Christian Leadership Conference (CLC) is offered for seasonal and professional YMCA staff working with youth, especially day and resident camp leaders, child care workers, and frontline volunteers. With an emphasis on the “C” in YMCA, this training focuses on the application of putting Christian principles into practice. The purpose of the YMCA Christian Leadership Conferences is to prepare each participant to better develop:
– A strong doctrine
– A healthy manner of life
– A purpose of life
– Patience and humility
It was an exciting weekend of new ideas, shared wisdom, fellowship, inspiring workshops and, of course, fun! Weekend topics included leadership, discipline, team-building, character development, and activities like games, crafts, songs, and worship.
CLC happens in large part because of support from the C.J., Carrie D. and R. Howard Walker Foundation which provides materials and financial support to keep CLC affordable for programs and camps of all sizes. The first CLC was hosted at YMCA Camp Oakes in 1974 by Nancy and Ken Walker, a California family that has been actively involved with the YMCA programs and leadership for six generations. The foundation was created in memory of their son Howard who tragically lost his life in a construction accident at the age of 22 years.
More than thirty years later, still under the sponsorship of the Walker Foundation, this training program has grown immensely. Over 2,000 young adults throughout the nation attend CLC conferences from coast to coast each year.
In honor of this month’s CLC our Chaplain, Owen Lovejoy, wrote a wonderful weekly devotion for Blue Ridge staff:
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths; ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
I recently attended a Christian Leadership Conference at Camp Kanata, near Durham, NC. I represented the Walker Family Foundation, an entirely new experience for me. The above scripture from Jeremiah was the conference theme. On the night I arrived, I was informed that I would speak on behalf of the Foundation the next morning during the opening worship service. Pondering what I would say, my attention was drawn to the scripture/theme above, especially the words, “ask for the ancient paths.” It dawned on me that the passage from Jeremiah was an apt description of the Walker Family’s purpose and goal–seeking the ancient path by returning to the core beliefs, values and ideals of the YMCA.
The tendency, or seduction, to deviate from our roots is universal. Although changing times necessitate that we adapt and stay competitive and relevant, our core beliefs and values need not be compromised. If we cross that line, we are no longer the movement or organization we advertise ourselves to be. There is a long list of movements and organizations that have departed from their foundational set of beliefs and ideals or are in the midst of a struggle to determine their future identity. It is no secret that the YMCA is at a crossroads, some asking for the ancient paths and some wanting to forsake them.
Our founder, George Williams, left his family farm in England in the 1840’s. He described himself as a “careless, thoughtless, godless, swearing young fellow.” On his way to London, he stopped in the town of Bridgewater where his life was eternally changed. “I cannot describe to you the joy and peace that flowed into my soul when I saw that the Lord Jesus had died for my sins and they were all forgiven.” George Williams found the good way. He found rest for his soul. (Jer. 6:16) He wanted others to find the same joy and rest. He focused his God-given passion on the vast number of young men working in deplorable conditions and surrounded by human depravity on the streets of London. George Williams started the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) in 1844. He shared the joy of his salvation with the young men of London through prayer meetings and Bible studies. He fought for their spiritual well-being as well as to improve their working conditions.
I concluded my thoughts to the young adults at Camp Kanata with a prayer. I prayed that they would not just find the ancient path, but that they would find the One to whom the ancient path leads. The path is not the ultimate goal. The path leads to the heart of God who created us, loves us and sent His Son for us. I likewise pray for you. May you find the good path that leads to the heart of God, the place of joy and rest for your souls. Amen.
May 24, 2010