The Legacy of Leisure Ministries

Let me tell you about my week …

It was very late at night. We had no light. We had just run as fast as we could from Pharaoh, who had just lost his son to the Angel of Death in a thick cloud of smoke. We heard his wife wailing. We saw the livestock die. We saw the water turn to blood. But finally, he let us go. So we ran. We ran to the water’s edge as he chased us. Moses came and stood before us, me and 60 others. We were trapped. We were pinned against a wall of rushing water with the Egyptian army behind us. Moses stood in front of us, faced the wall of water, and raised his staff yelling “Don’t be afraid! Stand your ground, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you today. The Lord will fight for you and all you have to do is keep still.” As he lowered his staff, the water also simultaneously lowered and subsequently vanished. The campers, the team, and I walked across on dry ground; Pharaoh did not. Our fears were drowned.

 

When we got to the other side of the make-shift Red Sea/bridge to the base of the O. P. Smith Lodge and Dining Hall at Aldersgate Camp, we were so excited to be liberated that we all burst forth in song! We were singing so loud and so passionately that it sounded like we were screaming the lyrics: “You split the sea so I could walk right through it! Our fears were drowned in perfect love! You rescued me so I could stand and sing, ‘I am a Child of God!’ I’m no longer a slave to fear! I am a child of God!”

 

That’s right. That happened. Essentially every night of my past week at Aldersgate Camp was like this. In fact, every first week of July for me since 2004 has been like this at a special week of summer camp called “Leisure Ministries.”

 

The purpose of Leisure Ministries is to empower, encourage, train, teach, and grow young Christians to be able to share the good news of Christ through their every day and “leisure” activities. We want to equip youth to be able to be missionaries in their own community, to able to go back home and tell others about Christ and love on others through fun, invitational, and meaningful ways. At the beginning of the week of LM, campers get to choose which “major” they would like to be in for the week. Major time is a group that they get to choose to spend the week with and they always involve a certain topic, activity, or single unifying theme. Our majors this past year were “sports”, “drama”, “outdoor adventure”, and “global justice”. Each day, they also get to choose a “minor” time. These minor times are chances for campers to get a break from their major and try something new or learn a new skill. Some of the minors this year included “Understanding the Creation Story and Science”, dance, hiking, “Global Justice,” and puppets (led by me of course!).

 

During the week, the Leisure Ministries campers got to experience the Bible in a whole new way. The theme of Leisure Ministries is on a four-year cycle. The first year focuses on Genesis – Deuteronomy (the Pentateuch), the second year focuses on Joshua – Malachi (the history and story of Israel), the third year focuses on the Matthew-John (Gospels), and the fourth year focuses on Acts-Revelation (early church and end times).

 

This year was the first year in the four year rotation so we focused on the first five books of the Bible including creation, the fall, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, Moses, and Joshua. As part of making the Bible come alive every year, we always have a “drama and experience major” which focuses on creating dramas from the Bible stories and bringing the scripture to life throughout the day and throughout the various community and worship times. During this week, together as a camp we experienced and witnessed the the creation of the universe, the fall of humanity, the promise to and life of Abraham, Sarah, Issac, Rachel, Rebecca, and Jacob, the incredible story of Joseph, slavery in Egypt, the liberation of the slaves, the Exodus, and the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Ark of the Covenant. These stories were presented in a very powerful way through both the Leisure Ministries volunteer staff and the Aldersgate Camp staff and the campers themselves.

 

I have led this camp for the last eight years, since 2012, and for the last seven years with my friend and ministry partner, Jeremy Arnold. But the legacy of Leisure Ministries goes back further than that.

 

Leisure Ministries was started in 1984 by my dad, Mark D. Walz, Lee Padgett, Wayne Garvey, and Art Logue. Leisure Ministries is a totally different, dynamic, refreshing, transforming encounter with God that may change you forever. The idea for this camp called “Leisure Ministries” came from the United Methodist SEJ (Southeast Jurisdiction) Leisure Recreation Lab at Camp Sumatanga in Alabama. The ideas and activities that these “Leisure Labs” produced the introduction of the traditional Aldersgate folk dancing and songs, dramas, storytelling workshops, and puppets (a LM tradition). This week of camp is not only important to me because of the history connected my father, but because the nature of the kids and future leaders that come through it and with whom I get to experience Christ. Over the past eight years, I have been fortunate enough to be the dean (leader) of the week of camp for the kids whose parents had my father as their dean when they were LM campers themselves! I’ve been able to meet people who were campers when my dad led this very same camp in the late 1980s. This is a legacy. I can’t even name all the people I have come to know and love through LM. There are too many to count. I continue to do this camp because of not only the stories that come to life but because of the stories we hear. Stories of kids afraid to be themselves and be who they want to be that feel welcomed and loved, stories of kids ready to end their lives that find meaning and purpose, stories of kids with no friends or family that find community and a family, stories of kids that become youth pastors and pastors and missionaries, stories of kids that then become a part of Aldersgate Staff or the LM Team, stories of kids that hurt themselves just to stop feeling anything that are released from these bondages and pain. The list goes on.

 

This past week I got to meet and remeet and spend time with so many kids and future leaders from all around the state of Kentucky in all different stages of life, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Kids from all walk of life: pastor’s kids, refugees, under-resourced kids, future famous singers, future famous authors, kids who sometimes find themselves in situations they never thought they’d be in, kids from troubled homes, brothers and sisters, cousins and friends, cool kids and weirdos (like me) and kids who will surely one day lead this camp.

 

I am so grateful for everyone who makes this camp possible every year, from the permanent staff and the part-time and summer staff of Aldersgate Camp and Retreat Center, to the Kentucky Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church staff, to St. Luke United Methodist Church, to Michelle Arnold and Jeremy Arnold, and to every single one of the LM and Aldersgate Staff AND volunteers (even one day volunteers) past and present who have ever had a hand in Leisure Ministries all the way back to 1987. You all should have seen the “camper surveys” that we were reading! We’ve received letters and notes that make this so meaningful and worth all of this. Lives were dedicated and re-dedicated. Campers were called into ministry. Kids found community, family, welcoming friends, and churches. Kids found God, found themselves, found life, found purpose. What a legacy.

Posted by markwalzjr_1b62xk in General, 0 comments
Books of 2018

Books of 2018

My reading goal for 2018 was 30 books, I read 61 books in 2018.

Books read or reread in 2018:

1. Animorphs: The Invasion by K.A. Applegate
2. The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotic by David Arnold
3. Fire & Fury by Michael Wolff
4. Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by Willow Wilson
5. The Nightengale by Kristin Hannah
6. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
7. Thanks, Obama! by David Litt
8. Morning Star by Pierce Brown
9. The Bluegrass Conspiracy by Sally Denton
10. George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved and American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade
11. Armada by Ernest Cline
12. Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade
13. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
14. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
15. Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates
16. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
17. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
18. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
19. A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman
20. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
21. Beartown by Frederick Backman
22. All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
23. The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells
24. Tenth of December by George Saunders
25. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
26. The Dry by Jane Harper
27. The Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren
28. Encountering the Holy Spirit by Carolyn Moore
29. The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch
30. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
31. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
32. The Late Show by Michael Connelly
33. Night Moves by Jonathan Kellerman
34. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
35. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
36. Dear Martin by Nic Stone
37. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
38. Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York by Frank X. Walker
39. How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
40. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
41. Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders
42. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
43. Wool by Hugh Howey
44. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
45. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
46. Leadership and Self Deception by The Arbinger Institute
47. One Second After by William R. Forstchen
48. Receiving the Day by Dorothy C. Bass
49. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
50. 1632 by Eric Flint
51. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
52. You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith
53. Building a Storybrand by Donald Miler
54. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
55. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
56. Dead Wake by Erik Larson
57. The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
58. Fox 8 by George Saunders
59. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
60. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
61. Larger Than Life by Jodie Picoult

Top Five Favorites:

  1. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
  2. The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotic by David Arnold
  3. Storybrand by Donald Miller
  4. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  5. The Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren

Favorite New-to-me Authors

• George Saunders
• Angie Thomas
• Blake Crouch
• Rupi Kaur
• Frederick Backman
• Brian Kilmeade
• Nicola noon
• Dorothy Bass
• Donald Miller
• Tish Warren

Posted by markwalzjr_1b62xk in General, 0 comments
They

They

They are so

Much higher than I

Wonder about how

They got there

Is no way they

Are heavy

Is there?

Light, are they light

Them up with the lightning

Bolts come from there

Is no louder sound than

The sound they make

When they gather

And darken

The sky

And cause

The rain to fall

Posted by markwalzjr_1b62xk in Poem, 0 comments
Petrichor

Petrichor

I never saw the rain,

But I felt it.

I never heard the rain,

But I smelled it.

 

For weeks and week

The empty creeks

Were as dry as a mouth

Full of old cake.

The emerald grass

No longer shined

The trees

Their leaves

Turned their back

Upon the breeze.

Until the day

A dark cloud loomed

Over a Mountain

In the mood

“For a drink,

A kitchen sink

Would be just fine!”

She cooed.

 

The temperature plummeted.

The fierce cloud summited.

The daises stood up tall.

The leaves, they turned inverted.

The thirsty ground applauded

As the rain began to fall.

The crushed and broken

Sighed with sweet relief.

The dust began to soar.

The brown and blackened

Turned yellow and green,

And I could smell the Petrichor.

 

“Petrichor!”

I come awake.

The smell of earth;

The smell of rain;

Of spring and summers past;

Of Red River holidays

and of rain that never lasts.

Posted by Mark Walz, Jr. in Poem, 0 comments
1sts

1sts

On August 1, 2009, at 20 years old, I was married in a wedding at Aldersgate Camp to one whom I thought was my “soul mate” and that I would be married to forever.

Things were tough sometimes after the “honeymoon” wore off. We yelled at each other sometimes. I called her crazy and threatened to put her in a mental institution. I also thought she was mean to me and degrading. She hated that I dressed preppy and she hated that I didn’t like cars or sports and was a lover of arts, books, and hated working out. Sometimes I would complain about visiting her family so much, she spent a lot of time with them and it was more difficult to visit my family in Pikeville or Winchester. She was sometimes under the impression that I didn’t like her family. I know that she had the opinion of me as a very angry person. I had no patience for her. I belittled her. She told me I made her feel stupid just being herself. But I’ve never thought that would be the reason for the day that happened on June 1, 2012.

 

June 1, 2012 til this day ranks as one of the worst days of my life. It ranks up there with March 25, 2005, when my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer, or August 27, 2009 when he died of that cancer. It ranks up there with November 15, 2012 when we were officially divorced and April 17, 2012 when I found out my mom had colon cancer as well. June 1, 2012 scarred me. Still to this day, there is a scar. That date is seared into my whole being as a date that all I believed, knew, loved, thought about God, myself, and others was shattered.

 

I thought I was a great husband. I thought I had a perfect life. I used to believe in soul mates, I never said the curse word “divorce” and I never thought it was an option. I thought I could do whatever I want and act however I wanted and say whatever came to my mind and that would be ok because we would work on it, as “soul mates” because we were married. Turns out the concept of “soul mates” is a fairy tale pipe dream. Turns out God was bigger than I thought he was. Turns out that divorce is easy and marriage is hard.

 

On June 1, 2012 my wife came home after a walk in the park with her mom and there was something wrong with her. She was extremely upset. I tried to pry it out of her and eventually she screamed at me “I don’t love you!” I thought she was just in a sour mood, I didn’t think this was serious. I decided to be silly and said “you don’t love this?” And gestured to my fat body. She screamed “no! And I’m serious. I’m leaving you. I’m divorcing you for another man.” I was shocked! Literally in shock. I couldn’t breathe. She failed to give me any reasons that day. She did tell me “if I was pregnant you would hate me and get angry.” And “you hate my family” and “you hate dogs” and “we aren’t soul mates” and “I just don’t love you anymore” and “I just want to be happy. I want to have fun. I want to be able to do whatever I want!” It was then that she ran downstairs and walked out the door. I screamed “I love you!” And she ignored me. I said “how could you do this to me?!” She said “I have to. It is what makes me happy. I feel bad that I am doing this to you after your dad died but it’s for the best. Bye” and she walked out the door, leaving me alone.

 

My brain could not comprehend the situation. I didn’t eat the rest of the day. I couldn’t function. I ran to my bible and tried to find answers but they weren’t there. I prayed but I didn’t hear anything. I couldn’t sleep. I put on the movie The Love Dare. I looked through my books trying to find answers. I couldn’t sleep. I finally found an answer in the Bible: wait. I would wait. I would be still and listen, persevere, love, be patient, kind, generous, I would have self-control. God told me he would use this time to grow me and strengthen me for the future. I was audibly through a voice, told by God to wait, that this would be hard, but that he would make me into a better husband (he didn’t say who for), a better man of God, and that he would use my story for His glory and for my good and the good of and for the healing of others. He called me to be a minister of healing and reconciliation to the broken and hurting hearts. I just have to be still, wait, and listen. And I did. God was bigger than the box I put him in. He jumped out of that box and showed me that there was much more to His kingdom then just “my marriage” and living in Ashland, KY. So I decided to just say “yes” without abandon to whatever he called me to. He called me to leave youth ministry. Called me to Uganda and Ghana, where he spoke to me “nothing is wasted”. He called me to Lexington, where my concept of God would triple even more than it already had.

 

I met someone I thought was incredibly cool on April 1, 2015. It was definitely no April Fools. I thought she was stunningly gorgeous, had the coolest hair, and was maybe a model or something. Our first date was on May 11, 2015, our next date was the gallery hop and was May 15, 2015 and we started officially dating exactly a month later on June 15, 2015. I was incredibly scared, to be honest. I was scared to commit to or date anyone because I was afraid of disappointment, I was afraid to date anyone because I was afraid of loss, heartbreak, breaking, up, afraid of divorce. Divorce taught me that nothing lasts for ever. NOTHING. But it also taught me that nothing is wasted. I thought Ciara was worth it, but I had to learn a lot of things again just to be able to commit to her without fear of losing her.

 

We got engaged on January 1, 2018. Over those last two and a half years I have come to love her. And this love is different than I have ever known, it’s bigger. It’s bigger because my concept of God is bigger, it’s bigger because my concept of love is bigger, who I am is entirely different, and because I no longer believe in “soul mates”, I now longer see divorce as “not ever possible” (although I still believe it should not be an option), and I realize that a relationship is not based on emotions but on work, compromise, changing yourself, working together, forgiving the hurts, learning from mistakes, pushing past disappointments, frustrations, and anger to realize that love is bigger than anything I’ve ever realized.

 

Today is June 1, 2018. And tomorrow is June 2, 2018. Today and tomorrow I remember that scar from June 1, 2012 and I push past it to create something new. June 1 will no longer be remembered as that horrible day, the worst day ever, June 1 will take on new meaning when it dies and when the sun sets and it rises again as June 2. June 2 is the day the sun rose and the world kept turning, it is the day that the vision came to fruition, it is the day that God says to me “I told you so.” and it will be remembered as the day that new life sprang forth from the decay and burnt forrest, the day a little flower sprang forth from the crack in the pavement, the day that “nothing is wasted” is realized, that joy has replaced it. On June 2, I will marry the love of my life, as a different man. June 2 will be a day of celebration and of remembering and looking forward. Of knowing that God is bigger, love is work, and that I am not perfect and that I have problems to work on. June 2 is the day spring came after winter, the resurrection of a heart, of second-chances. It’s humbling to have the love of Ciara. She humbles me, forgives me, works with me, sharpens me, pushes me to grow and to become a better husband. God told me he would do though, He told me he would make me a better husband. I just didn’t realize it would be this way. God is bigger. Nothing is wasted. Love is work. June 1st’s death is forgotten in the resurrection of June 2. June 2, I will never forget. Thank you, God. Thank you, Ciara.

Posted by Mark Walz, Jr. in General, 1 comment