Lean On Me
By Christof Xavier Powell
Camp counseling is one of the most fulfilling parts of my life. Camp allows kids and counselors to escape the pressures of everyday life. It has given me many different memories--some bad, but most of them good. I have memories of helping kids come to know Christ. I have memories of making friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. There are also memories of helping kids grow as Christians and kids helping me grow as a disciple of Christ. Mixed in with the lessons these kids taught me were how to love unconditionally and what it is to have a true friend.
It was the last week in July of 1999 - my third week of counseling - and I was excited because it was a group I had not worked with yet. During the week, we would have many adventures of getting lost in the woods, canoeing, rock climbing, swimming, and tent camping. The first night, I met a twelve year old named Mark. His charismatic personality, bright blond hair, and sparkling blue eyes drew me to him. I have to admit, he was a beautiful boy. I wanted to get to know him. I wanted to become his friend. I wanted to have him as part of my life.
So I started talking to him. We sat next to each other during chapel times and we would write notes back and forth about silly things, like how boring the message was, and what we could do when free time came. But through these notes I really got to know what type of person Mark really was.
Our note conversations consisted of phrases like "Gideon was the true mac daddy" and "Owie owie owie, Jesus makes it better. Owie owie owie, even when it hurts. Owie owie, Jesus makes it all better amen!" But on top of all our silly ramblings, I found out that he loves to tell his friends about Christ. He cares more for others than himself. He stands up for the people who are being made fun of.
On Wednesday of the week, we went tent camping and I spent the nights in a tent with Mark and four other boys. Two of those nights, we stayed up talking. I told the boys about things that went on in my life. I shared with them how I fell away from God and how He took me back with open arms. Mark also encouraged me when he said he wanted to witness to one of the other campers. And he did end up praying with one boy who accepted Christ!
Later that week, when we returned back to the camp, Mark and I decided to embark on a journey. He wanted to finish the extra memory verses. He was almost done until he got to a very hard set of verses (a bit too hard in my opinion) that did not go together very well. He had to say Eph. 4:14-16 and Col. 2:6-7 together, without any help.
I kept reminding him about my experiences with memory work and recited the verses I learned when I was his age: "Perseverance must finish its work to make you whole and complete, not lacking anything!"
With my encouragement and about eight hours of work, Mark finally finished it. By this time, everyone else was doing something else, leaving him and me in the cabin alone. This was the perfect opportunity to just talk and become closer as friends.
At one point in the evening Mark said, "I'm just stupid." His words hit me harder than anything I've ever heard. His tears started flowing because he tried so hard to get this memory work done and it just wasn't coming to him. So, I tried to encourage him by telling him that he was the most caring person I've ever met. I told him that he encourages me so much by searching for the goal God set out for him!
With that, I decided I would share with him how God sent me on a journey for the prize of Christ. After we broke from a long embrace, I shared with him the struggles I have gone through in life. The main focus was about how I was attracted to boys and how living life as a Christian has helped me deal with the temptations and struggles I have.
After baring my heart and making it so this boy could "out" me and get me fired, he looked at me straight in the eyes and said, "Thank you. Because when I'm at home and I think I can't do something, I will think of you."
We embraced again and I played a song for Mark - a song by Kirk Franklin called "Lean On Me." The chorus is as follows: "I am here, you don't have to worry. I can see your tears. I'll be there in a hurry when you call. Friends are there to catch you when you fall. Here's my shoulder, you can lean on me." We listened to that song and sat next to each other, my arm around him and his around me, and our other hands clasped together.
Later that week, Mark won the Ultimate "Rock-head" award. It was the biggest honor one could get. Since then, I've seen Mark twice. I've gone to visit him and his friends. Every time I see him, he encourages me. His letters to me are always filled with love and joy. I don't know if he ever thinks of what I told him. But I do know that he thinks of me as his friend. For him I'm grateful.
"Christof Xavier Powell" is a college student majoring in Music Education who enjoys spending his summers camp counseling.