- Blog, Featured, Letter from Executive Director

Day 36: Candy!

“I don’t want sacrifice! I want candy!”

– Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard or
Felipe, 7 yr old at Camp Promise? Find out below!

UPdate Summary

  • UP Schools returned yesterday to great attendance and great attitudes. Families and students continue to inspire. Could not be more proud of the excellence in education they are achieving for our students.
  • StreetLeaders®, our teen role models, returned to work, bringing much joy.
  • Our families are feeling the stress of lockdown; the substance, scope, and scale of programming our staff are delivering is vital to them.
  • One man’s sacrifice is another man’s candy. Furnaces of love: story below.

Dear Friend,

Close to twenty years ago we had just started our third summer camp called Promise on Wilmington’s West Side. Larissa Smith was the Director. Larissa started with me 22 years ago, and she was the first director at several of our sites. Camp Promise was small and we were short a couple staff so my wife, Monica, was the Bible teacher. She’s an awesome teacher, spending hours in prep, putting together great props and costumes for skits and well-armed with vital tools of pedagogy like donut holes and candy.

One day Monica narrated a skit about Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in the book of Acts. Philip was enthusiastically portrayed by the veteran skit performer Larissa. You don’t birth multiple UrbanPromise camps without serious thespian chops. Luckily, these were younger kids and no awkward questions were raised about ‘what is a eunuch?’! This also made it easier to enlist a performer from the audience of seven year olds, in this case, ironically, Felipe, now a newly minted courtier.

With much conviction Larissa worked the audience to a fever pitch as she introduced the climactic concept that God had provided Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. “And Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins so we can go to heaven!” Surely the great sincerity of presentation would bring all to a compelling understanding of sacrifice and an irresistible exit stage right to baptism. But Felipe, who to that point had been participating swimmingly, blurted out this confession, “I don’t want sacrifice! I want candy!

Felipe’s honesty resonates with me every time I remember it. “I don’t want sacrifice! I want candy!”

We’re all embarking on a long, inescapable, inexorable journey of sacrifice. And I don’t want it. I want candy. I don’t want to face the short term COVID reality. I don’t want to face the long term COVID reality. And I wish I’d paid more attention to all the candy I had in my life before the Pandemic.

It’s not helpful to deny the oppressive thoughts and feelings that waft into our hearts. But too much candy makes you sick. A change in diet could bring life.

Kevin Haskins is about as humble a person as I’ve met. He owns a successful HVAC company called Building and Systems Services. I met him at a random church service and invited him to come learn more about UrbanPromise. We had lots of HVAC problems and maybe he’d be willing to help. Subtle, right? He said yes! That’s kind of Kevin in a nutshell. He’s done so much to help us over these last several years. Now comes the Pandemic. Not exactly a booming business opportunity. Seems like a good time to lay off your people, hunker down, and save money. Not if you’re Kevin Haskins.

He knew we had two old furnaces at our renovated New Market building where we are locating our new high school. To save money, we had chosen to take our chances knowing they had about one or two years left. He knew that too. He contacted us, and offered to use the slow time to replace them for us. “How much?” we asked. “Nothing.” “What about the units?” “No, we’ll install them for free.” We’re talking $25,000 free. That’s some serious candy. And it tastes so much better in a Pandemic.

Kevin is kind, but his generosity is rooted in His love of Jesus and his experience of Grace through sacrifice.

In a skit-worthy Bible story, Jonah is in the belly of the whale which feels about like where we are. Living, but not excited about the accommodations. He remembers the LORD and he comes to a realization before he gets spit out. “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” And then he is freed. If Kevin had done those replacements before the Pandemic, I’d have been happy. But when he did them in the Pandemic, I was humbled and moved because he didn’t cling to worthless idols when he had every reason and the grace was greatly magnified.

Suffering was inflicted on Kevin and his business, but he had vision, gave the suffering purpose, and turned it into sacrifice. The exceptional sacrifice had more life and I’d take that over candy every time. No offense Felipe!

I don’t know how long we’re going to be in this smelly belly, and I don’t look forward to the sacrifice in front of us all. But riding out the storm we have a chance to remember the LORD and pursuing purpose, transform our suffering into sacrifice experiencing more life, not less.

Whether you read these letters, volunteer with us, donate to us, pray for us – whatever your sacrifice, I’m feeling the life in it. We all are.

Thank you, God bless you and stay healthy.

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