This week Ronella and I had the opportunity to spend a few days at Camp Living Water, a Christian camp for Romanian orphans. For one week, they escape the sludge and the pressures of the city Bucharest and all the inherent pressures and noises of the orphanage, and they are free to be kids out in God’s beautiful creation. The camp is absolutely (and almost unbelievably) gorgeous and it was an incredible time to see God undoing the terrors of this world to slowly redeem these children—out there in the middle of nowhere. All week we had an absolute blast hanging out. I was so thankful for each day and I have plenty of stories, but I think one story in particular pretty much sums it all up.
Pretty much all the other folks working this camp were either missionaries or MK’s in Romania and had worked with these kids for years, but some of them hadn’t seen them in a long time. So on the first day as we waited for the kids to arrive, the anticipation of seeing one another was pretty high on both ends.
So, about two o’clock, all of us “Americans” stand outside to greet the incoming kids… all 12 of them pull up in two separate cars and before they can even come to a full, complete, and safe stop, car doors are flung open, and the monkeys come barreling out, shrieking the names of their long missed and beloved friends. They crash into them, their rail thin arms wrapping tightly around their waists as they laugh and squeal with ecstasy. They open their clenched eyes and see another of their beloved role models and shriek out another name and barrel into the next welcoming body. Kids are running around, squeezing the junk out of everyone. You can see every tooth in every single mouth present… not a soul could possibly do anything but laugh or smile. It’s a loud time and these kids ages 10-14, bare no shame. In stark contrast to the more common blasé attitudes of America’s middle-schoolers, there is only room for vulnerable, unrestrained love and joy in this place. Ronella and I are watching all this, laughing and smiling and fighting quite hard to hold back tears at the beauty of the moment. This is true love. This is God’s love in real life and there is a pervasive sense of Divinity present.
When theologians attempt to capitulate the “Three-in-One-ness” of the Holy Trinity, they often describe the person of the Father and the person of the Son, and the love between those two persons emanating that Third Person—the Holy Spirit. These Three Persons are in an endless dance of perfect love and relationship. In other words, the manifold Essence of God is begotten strictly as a manifestation of divine love, of divine relationship. God’s presence is made manifest only in the context of Divine Love.
Seeing young adult Americans and teeny bopper Romanian orphans drop all form of pride and defense and cool to come crashing into one another’s arms; to scream with joy cheek to cheek; forgetting the rest of the world in this loud embrace… the presence of God was made manifest. The moment was holy in the holiest sense of the word. Not because hugging is a holy thing to do, but because a Holy God was manifested amongst us in that moment—begotten from God’s love carried within each persons heart for the Other. God was there with us. I would humbly confess that I felt His presence. Perhaps it was for this reason the Johannine community wrote, “we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 jon 4.16)
And all this gets me to thinking, because literally the only thing past Camp Living Water on that dirt road is a Romanian-Orthodox monastery. This is a place where men pray and study all day everyday, away from the wiles of the world. They have a singular mission—to get closer to God. But it is incredible moments like these that God shouts with a loud and trumpeting voice, that you cannot ever draw closer to God than you can in the arms of an orphan, the bedside of the forgotten, the living room of the estranged, or the dinner table of the poor. For God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
May we all find our monasteries where we find our God—maybe not in stone towers but in the arms of the world’s orphans.