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This ministry changed my life

Several months ago, CBS News did this special on 48 Hours called The Lord’s Bootcamp. It’s well done, relatively even-handed in it’s treatment of a Christian cultural backwater that is decidedly not PC. I had a special interest in watching it, since I’m a product of the ministry.   In 19…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Several months ago, CBS News did this special on 48 Hours called The Lord’s Bootcamp. It’s well done, relatively even-handed in it’s treatment of a Christian cultural backwater that is decidedly not PC. I had a special interest in watching it, since I’m a product of the ministry.
 
In 1975, I went on a Teen Missions (TMI) trip to Guatemala. It was a powerful experience, taking me out of the American bubble I’d grown up in. But to get there, I had to first attend a mosquito-infested camp a few miles from Cape Canaveral. All I remember about the place is that it was steamy hot, we got chigger bites around our ankles, and I seemed to be perpetually getting in trouble with the powers that be.
 
Bob Bland, founder of the ministry, realized that young people need training if they are to succeed in a foreign environment. He carved a rustic camp out of the swamp land in order to train them. We learned to lay blocks and we got to know our teams. Every morning our teams would run the obstacle course – generally the highlight of my day since I enjoy competition.
 
Less thrilling were the “special blessings” that leaders regularly doled out on the theory that adolescents are born rule-breakers and you need to deal with attitude issues aggressively. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I remember pondering the irony of being blessed by digging ditches with my fellow troublemakers. We always seemed to be running afoul of the law for some reason or another. There was one way to do things and if you tried a different way, well, God bless you.
 
The amazing thing is that, despite all the retrograde cultural idiosyncrasies that color the TMI ministry, God has used them to produce so much fruit. God doesn’t seem to be too concerned about our style. Bland has got to be about 80, and he is still front and center, leading the ministry. They’ve worked with 200 ministries in 110 counties. And I, for one, am now in ministry as a direct result of TMI, running my own camps to prepare the young people we send around the world.
 
Yes, there’s so much I would change if I were in Bland’s shoes. But he and his ministry threw me in the deep end of the pool and got me going when I was just 17. I experienced a TMI that wasn’t perfect, and it has it’s share of critics. But there’s something to be said for a lifetime spent taking a chance on young people.

Comments (6)

  • Your last statement, “…there’s something to be said for a lifetime spent taking a chance on young people.” All I can say is, “AMEN, and AMEN, and AMEN!”

  • Hi Seth,

    As you know I have spent my life working with ministries. When putting on the green visor of assessment there is fault with all of them. Some have severe cases of sickness. Others are ignorant. Some are devious. Those are the ones I like the least and want to “call out”.

    The point of commonality in them all is the same dilemma Jesus faced when you was assembling the team roster for the first big game of His new found Gospel.

    The players the Messiah had to scratch in as His “team” were all HUMANS.

    They still are.

  • I didn’t know you are an FTMer, I totally am. When I was 17 I went on a trip to Panama for the summer with TMI. I had so many special blessings racked up at the end of the summer that they had to forgive them because I ran out of time to serve them. I had a lot of bad authority through my TMI leaders but submitting to bad authority actually taught me to submit to the authorith God puts over me, and I feel like has made me a better leader today. Serving with TMI made me appreciate AIM’s approach so much more. I’m with you, at least TMI is doing something and bringing people into action. Boot Camp taught me that I could get through anything and I learned a lot about what I wouldn’t do as a leader. I’ll have to watch the story.

  • I married a “TMI”er. In fact, the reason she and her parents moved all the way out here to the Space Coast from Northern California was to become staffers there. So, in addition to understanding the impact that Bland has had on thousands of people, I guess I also should be thankful to him for my wife, too!! 🙂

    By the way, it’s still just as mosquito-infested and steamy hot. Maybe more so!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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