This last weekend I had the privilege of doing ministry with one of my best friends, Danny Ray. Danny is a world-class magician who is living the Overboard Life and is striving to help others do the same. He’s been a huge encouragement to me over the past few years. While Danny was performing his mind-blowing magic at the Camp Berea men’s retreat, I was running camera. Danny does “up-close” magic he always projects his illusions onto a large screen so that everyone can see. (You can’t go wrong bringing Danny in for your church, youth group or business -- contact Kimberly today and get him scheduled for your next event! You will seriously thank me when you do this!)
This was the first time I had been to Camp Berea in New Hampshire, but Danny has been over dozen times the past few years. So in-between shows, he was regularly introducing me to different staff and volunteers related to this camp’s ministry.
That’s how I met Bill and his wife Ruth.
When Bill was entering his mid-fifties, he was thinking about retirement. He had worked hard throughout his life, and was looking forward to having a quiet little place in the country in Connecticut and enjoy being with his kids and grandkids.
Ruth wasn’t so sure.
Bill was quick to tell me that what happened next was truly Ruth’s idea. She told Bill she wanted to him consider a different option for his “retirement.” Instead of a quiet little place in the country, she wanted them to buy a “condo” in the projects in Waterbury, Connecticut. Instead of a quiet home in the country with a nice white fence in the front yard and lots of space between neighbors, Ruth was thinking of a smaller condo where they would be the only white people in a neighborhood where all the houses shared walls.
Waterbury, like a lot of industrial cities/regions in the U.S. has been hit hard by the recession. The loss of industry has closed up a bunch of shops and businesses, the crumbling economy has left a bunch of structures completely abandoned. All of this has created some pretty rough spots in town -- like the spot Bill and Ruth moved to.
Bill said, “there’s are some great people near us, but you can also go two doors down and buy crack!” A lot of the kids living in the projects have little-to-no family surrounding them. There are a couple of kids that Bill said have lived with their grandma since they were younger than three. They call her “mom” and he’s not even sure if they remember their birth mom (who is spending a lot of time in jail) and knows that they have no idea who their father is. And this story is repeated multiple times throughout the projects.
So what can a white couple in their mid-50s do in an area of town where they are the racial minorities and facing challenges that don’t have easy solutions?
They can jump Overboard.
Bill and Ruth set up shop and became grandparents to any kid that needed one. Their house became a hub of activity and Ruth’s cookies quickly rose in popularity. To help encourage these children to learn about God and connect with Him (the One who offers true hope!) they challenged the kids to learn verses. Each day after school they would come to Bill and Ruth’s home, share their newly learned verses and eat homemade cookies.
Over the past 16 summers the Campbell’s have donated their time at Camp Berea, helping in the bookstore, mowing lawns, teaching gun safety and helping out where ever they can. And each fall, when the summer ends, they return to Waterbury where love on kids, serve the Lord selflessly and open their home to hurting families.
There are so many reasons to not live Overboard. In fact, in Matthew 14 where the Overboard story comes from, 11 of 12 disciples stayed in the boat. But not the Apostle Peter, and like him, Bill and Ruth are walking on water. They overcame the reasons to stay in the boat and found the one reason needed to jump overboard: Jesus is not in the boat!
Bill and Ruth are an inspiration to me, and to anyone who wants to live the Overboard Life. They were willing to see this life as temporary, and as a result, they no they can sacrifice a few conveniences and comforts to reach out to some kids who desperately need to know the love of God; being shown to them through the love of the neighborhood grandparents.
How about you? Is there one family you could reach by jumping Overboard? Is their one person you can intentionally pursue in order to introduce them to Jesus? Do you have a neighbor that would open their door to warm batch of cookies? As you think about living Overboard, look long and hard at that couple already walking on water. I just met them and they would welcome the company.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!