We live in a culture that glorifies busyness, and Christian families are no different. Most of us can’t possibly discuss plans with another family or couple without checking our family calendar, our spouse’s calendar, and our kids’ calendars. For many of us, if God called us to do something outside of the box, we’d have to look long and hard at our calendars to see if we could fit it into our family’s schedule.
Since 1998, camp directors Jeff and Tanya Luce have made Camp Fuego a family affair. Not only does Camp Fuego offer a “big-name” camp experience at a fraction of the “big-name” cost, this year Fuego will hold seven weeks of camps, from June 13-July 15 near Eunice, LA, and from July 18-July 29 near Bethany, LA. Every summer, the entire Luce family can be found at Camp Fuego.
We recently asked Jeff to share his thoughts on how Camp Fuego has impacted their marriage and family, and vice versa.
So you and Tanya have been doing Camp Fuego together since 1998. What do you remember about your initial conversations about camp? Was Tanya on board right away, or did it take some convincing to dive into this “family” ministry calling?
Jeff: When we first discussed Fuego, we really had only been married for a little over a year, so I am not sure my approach was nearly as thoughtful as Tanya’s. My first thoughts centered on, “This will keep us plugged into students…” without even considering that Tanya might object. We were still three full months away from having our first baby, so why would she NOT want to do this???
Craziest thing—she never objected in the least. I am not sure what all was going through her thought process, but I do know that she has always been an incredibly supportive wife in everything we have tackled. No matter how deep or cold the water, she has always been ready to not just dive, but swim. Two weeks before that first week of camp, we started swimming with little idea where it would take us.
Can you tell us a story of a time when one or both of you wanted to quit this ministry? How did you process that decision as a couple? What made you keep going?
Jeff: Year three was going to be our last year. We struggled through year one, saw camp double in attendance year two—but we saw the workload more than double that year too, so year three was going to be the swan song.
I remember talking to the local DOM (Director of Missions) on the Monday of camp. At that time, he would have been the person responsible for camp and the camp facility. I told him that I really enjoyed the opportunity, but we were going to step aside.
I think he was surprised. (Maybe it was relief, and I just misread him.) He asked me a few questions and asked that I call him a couple of weeks after camp to discuss the decision.
Of course, like we all did as students, Tanya and I left that week of Fuego encouraged and rejuvenated. We talked, we prayed, and we both realized that we were in this for the long haul. I called the DOM and asked if we could keep going. He said, “Yes”— and that became the last time we ever considered not doing camp.
I am truly thankful God led us both to avoiding what would have been a huge mistake.
Looking back, how do you think your marriage would be different if you never went down this ministry road together?
Jeff: I think the biggest impact would have been on our family as a whole. I’m really thankful that we have only known Fuego from within marriage and, other than that first summer, we’ve only known it with children.
There are three reasons that people usually quit volunteering for Fuego:
- “I’ve gotten a new job.” (They usually phrase it, “It’s time for me to start ‘real’ life.”)
- “I’ve gotten married.”
- “We’re having children.”
All three of these are the exact things that have made a difference in our lives.
- Job: When Tanya and I realized that this ministry is “Our Real Life” and that my employment is just an avenue that allows us to do the things that are REAL, our lives made sense.
- Marriage: I can think of no better way for us to chase after Jesus than a common pursuit that wears us out, challenges our resolve, test our limits, but allows us to see God do truly remarkable things in the lives of students, Youth Pastors, our staff and ourselves. It just welds Tanya and me together in a way that I am not sure we would have experienced outside of this chase.
- Children: Our children have been raised at camp. Here are the things they see:
- 350 college and young professionals (that are truly some of the best people I know) working like crazy just to tell others about Jesus.
- Giving a week of your time for a noble pursuit with eternal consequences has a much greater impact than the $20/hour you might make for producing/selling/distributing widgets for one extra week this year.
- There is hope, and they are surrounded by a lot of people within a few years of their age, who are carrying the mantle. Who else would we possibly want them to admire?
In what ways have you seen your wife change over the years by being involved in this ministry?
Jeff: I’m not trying to over-spiritualize the answer, but I truly believe my wife has not grown by being involved in this ministry.
My wife’s growth has happened while she sits on our breezeway, every morning, engulfed in God’s word. The reason we are able to continue seeing camp as valuable in our lives each and every year is because she is spending time on our breezeway.
For Tanya, camp is just the overflow of what God has given her on our breezeway.
What would you say to younger couples who are trying to discover their family ministry callings?
Jeff: Do not believe the lie that you only have so much time or that your job/schedule/life won’t allow you to do something that God has invited you to do.
For some reason, people love telling others their personal epiphany of “I just had to learn to say ‘No’ to things,” and then we are expected to nod sympathetically in agreement.
What a big load of trash. EVERYONE is busy. EVERYONE has a lot to do. When it comes down to it, you’re going to say “Yes” to WHATEVER you want to say “Yes” to and “No” to everything else.
If you’re going to say “No,” at least have the courage to say, “You know, I would help with the children’s ministry, but I really just don’t want to.” Don’t give them the lie about not having enough time.
When God is giving you, as a couple, an opportunity to do something truly extraordinary, why would you respond with, “Well, we only have so much time in our day/week/month/year?” Step up and let God build a passion in you for a ministry, as opposed to trying to fit your passion into something for Him. There is a huge difference. Let Him direct. I promise, God will not let you down if you are willing to say “Yes” when He gives you the chance.
Personally, I have heard hundreds of students tell me, “I am just not a ‘Camp person.’” If, by “Camp Person,” you picture someone in their 20s who enjoys messy games, late night talks, and jumps around all the time like their shoes are on fire, then I get it, but some of my very best staffers are people who have said “Yes” and then found God using them in extreme ways to reach kids who are also not “Camp People.”
It all came down to saying “Yes,” and then allowing God to magnify that in the midst of ministry.
You’ve got the time and your schedule will allow.
I like what Beth Moore said, “You will not get to Heaven and wish you had slept more.”
Nineteen years ago, Tanya and I said “Yes” to this ministry that we knew little about, and then later found that God had developed a passion that we can no longer reject. We are both humbled and incredibly thankful and cannot imagine life without this crazy opportunity.
Say “Yes” to a ministry, and then allow God the time to develop your passion.