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Lessons From the Farm: The Famous Cousin's Camp

by Bob Yarbrough

The Famous Cousin’s CampThe camp is famous because my grandchildren think it is, and that’s enough for me.  Cousin’s Camp is probably not important to anyone else except perhaps their parents because it gives them a deserved break for a few days. 
 
Anyone with young kids can understand their exhausted prayer, “Thanks, Lord, for this break!”  At the onset of this lesson, I want to pay homage to my dear wife for her diligence in the Cousin’s Camp project, for without her dogged persistence, it would not have existed at all, nor would it have been perpetuated.  In fact, in her mind, it is probably one of the most important things she has done – this year in particular, for it has occurred in spite of her total knee replacement, three months of rehab, and four visits to the hospital within nine months.  While I help and do my part in this endeavor, she loves doing this with a passion and views it as her mission; so, Well Done Mama Jan!  We are now four summers into this project which we conduct at the farm. 

Since we both grew up going to church camp, we structured our organization in similar fashion.  The term “Cousin’s Camp” seemed appropriate since only those campers invited were our grandchildren, and thus cousins.  We send out registration forms two weeks previous to the camp and the parents help us by making a “big deal” of the process.  On the beginning day of camp we post signs along the road to the farm welcoming the campers.  Shouts of excitement can be heard coming down the road; the parents are shouting the loudest!  The kids bring their bedrolls, toiletries, clothing, etc. just like real camp.  We have the rules and itinerary posted around the house so that the kids know what to expect.  We try to do the usual things that a camp would do – games, crafts, swimming, calisthenics, quiet time, Bible studies, meals, and KP duties.  One of the highlights of the week is a hayride – complete with a wiener/marshmallow roast.  Each morning I blow a startling, loud, whistle to awaken the campers – much to their moans and groans from the previous day; then I lead the morning calisthenics – much to my own moans and groans.  We know that our days and their days are numbered to do this, but we seize this moment for now.  Cousin’s Camp is a great time with many benefits for everyone, and that is the point of this lesson from the farm.  I will mention three such benefits.

 First, we have the opportunity to spend quality time with our grandchildren.  Quality time is defined in many ways.  From a purely platonic point of view, we get to be with our family.  We see their personalities, their interests, and their physical, mental, social, and emotional development.  This is a rewarding satisfaction in itself.  But more importantly however, is the blessing we have in sharing (with our children) the spiritual development of our grandchildren.  I shall never forget the point made in the text I used in the Educational Psychology class I taught in college after I retired from the public school system.  The subject under consideration was that of Maturity.  One writer explained that maturity was measured in part when that individual saw his children’s children walking the way he desired of his children.  For me, that means that I want not only my own children to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37-39), I want their children to do the same.  My desire is for my children and their children to follow this admonition from the Lord, “He has shown you O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you – to act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).  Sadly, I have known some truly godly men whose children and grandchildren have made a total mess of their lives.  While I understand that each man stands alone before his Maker, I believe that the older generation has a responsibility to perpetuate the faith to as many generations of the family as can be done.  God told Israel that His “commandments are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on you children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up…”(Deut. 6:6-7).  Again talking about the word of the Lord, the psalmist said, “He commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.  Then, they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds, but would keep his commands” (Psa. 78:5-7).  Through our Cousin’s Camp, we have the privilege of helping our kids as they teach their kids; and thus perpetuate the Word of God into a third generation.  This is a great benefit for us. 

Second, I believe that it is of great benefit for grandchildren to have the impact and influence of grandparents in their lives where possible.  Of course, this cannot always be the case due to a myriad of circumstances – distance, interpersonal difficulties, and death, just to name a few.  Wisdom does not always come with age, but sometimes it does, and grandchildren are the beneficiaries of such situations.  Timothy was the product of a loving mother, Eunice, and a loving grandmother, Lois (2 Tim.1:5).  The family unit has always been important to God.  Many cultures revere the aged ones in the family as the source of wisdom, character, and practices within the family structure.  Biblically, God wants His children to understand Him in terms of a family Father figure.  In other words, it’s good when grandparents and grandchildren get together.  Our Cousin’s Camp provides one more vehicle to accomplish this purpose. 

Third, as any family with young children can testify, raising a family is very difficult.  There are times when total frustration permeates the moment.  Bill Cosby wrote in his book, Fatherhood, that he once experienced such frustration.  In a very trying moment he said to his teenage son, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out!”  Again, when circumstances permit, grandparents can be a source of strength and support for their own children with children.  I mentioned earlier that the parents were shouting the loudest as they drove their children to Cousin’s Camp.  That may have been an exaggeration, but there was some truth in the observation.  My wife and I are privileged to help our children when possible.  Giving them advice from time to time, and a brief reprieve can be very helpful; but we realize that our location, in proximity to theirs, permits this kind of help.  It may not be the case with your family, but there are still ways that grandparents can be of help.  First, and foremost, is to be a prayer warrior on behalf of your children and your grandchildren.  Pray for them daily.  Pray for their salvation (if unsaved), and then pray for their growth in the Lord.  Pray that they will be strong Christians in their daily walk.  Next, look for ways to be helpful to them; you might be pleasantly surprised.  Give them unconditional love always.  This will benefit you, your children, and your grandchildren in ways beyond measure.

 Cousin’s Camp is a great activity, but it is not without problems.  For us, it is hard to act like parents again.  After all, we did this once long ago, and now we’re doing it again for a few days.  We have learned that a few things have changed from the way we did it years ago.  We have also learned that we are very, very tired when it is over.  But when the final census is taken, Cousin Camp wins approval from everyone – grandchildren, children, and yes, even the Cousin Camp Directors!

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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33