“Michael, can you check out the 2nd ladies shower in the camping area? We’ve been told it’s not working.”
As lead fix-it guy for the summer camp, it was my duty to check out problems such as this and either fix it or suggest who to call (plumber, electrician, etc). When I was given the task to look into the 2nd ladies shower in the camping area, I was not prepared for what would greet me behind that locked door.
Poop. Everywhere. On the walls. On the floor. On top of and under the mat. When I saw the two large logs of fecal matter laying next to the drain, I wanted to run out and strangle a few teenagers. Then I thought back to all of my training from watching US crime shows and I investigated the ‘spray pattern’. Cupping a handkerchief over my mouth and nose to hold back the gag and vomit reflex, I inspected the walls and floors. I recognized a directionality to the poop spray. It had clearly come not from an external above-ground source, but up from the drain hole itself. Ewww.
I gave it an effort, I really did. I wiped up some of the floor and cleaned out the drain with a bent up coat hanger, some sticks, a bucket, and large rubber gloves. I tried plunging the hole. I even grabbed a pressure washer and cleaned out the pipes underneath. But after a few hours, when I returned to see how everything was working, I discovered both the 2nd and 3rd showers actively backing up, poop and other stuff actually coming up out of the drain holes and decorating the shower stalls. At this point, the feces were over my head (figuratively... well literally too) and I locked tightly the stalls and rushed to call the plumbers.
Allow me to leave the poopy stalls behind for a moment and discuss something else. The camp was a “French Christian Vacation Camp.” That second word makes the whole thing kinda weird. In France, unlike our home country, Christians are not plentiful, and the culture of Christianity is abnormal. It was easy on first arrival to be cynical and think “what are these people doing hanging out together by the pool when there’s a whole country of neighbors who need to know Christ?” But on further inspection, it was vital that these people come together. Fellowship is nearly foreign to a lot of them, and this is their only chance to live in community and worship their Creator with one another.
Each week of camp there would be a different camp pastor, who would teach, preach, and encourage throughout the week. Some of the weeks, the pastors naturally slid into their ‘elite’ status. They would bring the Word and then hit the pool, or leave on the little excursions I led and taste fine wines and fancy foods. They would sit for long hours at the dinner table doling out advice and huddling with other camp all-stars. But one week was different.
Our last week at camp, the pastor’s two teenage daughters showed up the first night in our volunteers meeting. They would spend the week working with children and washing dishes. They didn’t have to, they had a free ride available to them like all the other pastors’ kids to come through camp. Day two we met the pastor’s wife as she was sweeping the hallway and staircase in front of our room. Day three I met the pastor when he was hanging out by the camp director asking what he could do to help. She told him that I would probably like a break for the afternoon and he graciously agreed to lead that day’s excursion in my place. At the same time, I was at my wits’ end with a lock that I couldn’t seem to repair. He said, “I’m kind of handy with those things, if you’d like I can take a look.” An hour later I had a working lock that I screwed back into its door.
Ok, let’s return to the poop. A day and a half after I fought with the vile showers, the camp director told me that the plumbers had come and done their work with the pipes. All should now be in working order. At that point I knew it was my job to go clean up the wretched mess and open up the showers for everyone to use. I dressed myself in the worst clothes I could find, grabbed a few essential tools, took my final deep breaths of fresh air, and then plunged into infamous ladies shower #2. What greeted me was not the smell and sight of aztec two-step drenched walls and floors, but rather a sparkling clean shower. How could this be?! I popped open shower #3 and found the same condition of cleanliness. What?!
I went back to the camp director to report all in working order and my strange discovery of clean showers. “Oh I know,” she said, “the pastor cleaned them when the plumbers left.”
He cleaned the poop.
Remind you of anyone else?
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
The pastor we had at camp the last week was not the most well-spoken preacher of the summer. Nor was he very dynamic on stage. Maybe not all that educated (I don’t know). From my point of view, he was probably least of all of the summer pastors in each of those areas. But if I were to be a part of any congregation, of any flock of believers... I would want to follow that man and his family. I would happily follow them wherever they went.
That’s what I pray my family will one day look like. That’s what I believe Jesus calls all of us to be in following his example.
Servants. Not All-Stars.