Stephen had been to seminary, read all the right books, interned under a veteran youth minister, and added a decade of his own experience to the mix. He could handle any situation that teens or their parents could dream up. What he wasn’t prepared for was nationwide cell coverage.
Far from being a technophobe, Stephen embraced the latest technology and worked it into his ministry. His phone was loaded with all his kids’ and parents’ cell numbers and e-mail addresses, and he was well known for sending out text blasts to inform everyone of last minute activities or changes.
Despite his love for technology, he also loved the simple things in life, and that is why he had been looking forward to the fall youth retreat at Trickling Springs Bible Camp. He knew from experience there was no mobile phone coverage at the camp, and he hoped the minds of his teens would be focused on spiritual, rather than cellular, matters.
All that changed as they arrived in camp. Cheers rang out among the students as one by one they discovered they had four bars on their phones. Scattered comments burned in Stephen’s ears.
“Check it out! 3G coverage at camp!”
“I don’t get this many bars at my house!”
“Let me show you the YouTube video I was telling you about.”
Darkness had taken hold on the woods, and the glow of smart phones danced among the trees like fairies. His idyllic weekend in the wilderness seemed all but lost.
Then things got much worse as his own cell phone erupted with texts.
“spidr in grls cabn”
“no lights in mess hall”
“raccoon in trash can”
However, the final straw was the text he got from a parent at home relaying her son’s request:
“bobby forgot toothpaste. needs ur help.”
Stephen decided to handle it head on. He walked around the camp hollering, “Everybody into the mess hall for an emergency meeting! Right Away! Let’s Go!”
More than one person was overheard to say, “Why doesn’t he just text everybody instead of running around screaming?”
After the group had assembled and the lights were fixed, he made the speech that he hoped would save the weekend.
“Guys, this retreat was planned to help us get closer to God. We came here to get away from the luxuries of life and focus on our spiritual lives. But ever since we’ve gotten here, you’ve been texting, e-mailing, and surfing the web just like you were back home. You’ve come to rely on your phones more than you do one another. Don’t you think we can make it through a single weekend without them?”
After some discussion and the likely intervention of the Holy Spirit, the kids acknowledged that their phones had become a crutch. They all agreed to turn them off for the weekend and rely on God and one another instead of technology.
Later that evening, everyone assembled for the first lesson of the weekend. Stephen instructed John, one of the seniors, to lead the others in singing while he went to the bunkhouse to get his notes.
On the way back to the meeting, he realized he needed to go to the bathroom. It was the one thing he disliked about the rustic camp experience. The latrine smelled terrible and the seat was always ice cold, but he decided he had better be safe than sorry before he stood teaching for an hour.
The experience was about as bad as he had anticipated, until it turned much worse. As he finished up, he realized he had failed to put toilet paper in the latrines.
His first reaction was to reach for his cell phone, but he quickly realized that was no longer an option. The distant sound of hymns meant that no one in the mess hall would hear him if he tried to shout. Then he remembered he had his carefully prepared notes for the weekend with him, and he began to pray for another way to solve his problem.
A few minutes later, he entered the meeting as John was leading the last verse of Amazing Grace.
“What took you so long? I thought you were just going to get your notes.”
“I did. See. They’re right here,” Stephen said, rustling them in his hand.
“Okay, but why aren’t you wearing your socks?”
“That’s a story for another time,” he replied as the song came to a close and he started his lesson.
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