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In Need of a Reset

Issue 4


This Camp Was About My Boys

That was Jay Kustes’ mindset when he signed up to go to SE!KIDS Camp—Southeast’s Summer camp for elementary-age kids—with the two oldest of his seven children. His wife, Gloria, had many positive experiences at church camp as a child and encouraged him to volunteer, sharing, “One of the most special things you can do is go to Summer camp.”

Jay and the boys packed all of the essentials and headed off for a great four days. When they arrived and unloaded their belongings, Jay surveyed their living arrangements and his anxiety began to climb. Open room? Bunk beds? What about privacy? Even though Jay felt a bit unsure, he didn’t let that squelch his excitement and anticipation for the week ahead.

For the next two days, Jay allowed himself to unplug from his normal routines and fully engage with the small group of boys he was leading. Their group ate together, played together, worshiped together, and unpacked God’s Word together.

Throughout the week, the camp walked through the story of Moses and the Israelites in the book of Exodus. God’s people had been living in bondage under the Egyptian Pharaoh for 400 years and had been surrounded by the practice of worshiping pagan gods. The children learned how God rescued the Israelites, parting the Red Sea so they could escape Pharaoh and his army. God took care of their physical needs, sending them manna and quail from the sky and water from a rock. God gave the Israelites a fresh start as they traveled to their new home, and reminded them that they were His special treasure, teaching them how to love Him and others when He gave them the Ten Commandments.

God is in the business of transforming lives. The truths He spoke over the Israelites through His Word are true for us today. Jay was no stranger to anxiety, fear, and anger, and as he sat in the worship room full of elementary-age kids, the same God who gave the Israelites a new identity gently spoke into the heart of His son, who desperately needed to know that this message was for him, too. Jay understood what it was like to live held down by the worries of life and knew he needed a reset.

Many years earlier, at age 27, Jay didn’t know who Jesus was.


The Power of Jesus Changed My Life 

“I had come from a life of drug and alcohol addiction, and the first time I picked up the Bible, it became alive and changed me,” he said. “I read it from cover to cover in less than two months. I remember when I got sober, I felt Jesus physically change me. I woke up in the middle of the night and felt Jesus speaking to me. He wanted my heart. The power of Jesus changed my life.”

Jay was baptized in August 2008 on his dad’s birthday. The Greek word for baptism in the New Testament is baptizo, which means “to immerse.” The New Testament says baptism represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Baptism serves as a symbol of the burial of the old self and the resurrection of the believer’s soul to walk in life with Christ.

Jay knew this was what Jesus was calling him to do, but the anxiety he felt to physically get up during the church service and walk to the front during the invitation was real.

“I was at the Blankenbaker Campus and I tried to be inconspicuous coming down from the balcony,” he recalled. “I really didn’t want to draw attention to myself. However, an usher directed me to walk straight down the middle aisle to the front. So much for being inconspicuous. After my baptism, I ran into several people I knew that I didn’t realize were members. God made a really big church small.”

My Old Thoughts and Feelings Resurfaced

At camp, Jay pulled Andy Potter, a friend and fellow leader, aside.

“God had changed me so much, but this was the first time I felt God speaking specifically to me about my struggle with anger,” he said. “Anger was a way to hide my insecurities, fears, doubts, and my own failures. The outbursts brought on more shame and self-condemnation, which led to more anger at myself. The cycle would just…end in an outburst at those closest to me, mostly my wife, Gloria, and the kids.”

Jay could sense some of those old thoughts and feelings resurfacing: Maybe Jesus didn’t really love him. Maybe Jesus wasn’t enough. He confided in Andy that he thought he might need to be rebaptized.

Andy took the night to pray for his friend and the next day reminded him, “You walk out in faith in everything you do.”

“You don’t need to go back into the water…you just need to continue the journey,” he encouraged Jay.

Andy prayed that Jay would be willing to make changes in the areas of his life where he was struggling and committed to walk alongside his friend. The two have remained accountability partners over the past year.


Discovering My True Identity

Gloria saw changes in her husband right away.

“After camp, Jay was incredibly intentional about spending time with the Lord every morning and speaking encouraging words to the kids,” she said.

Jay also agreed to attend A Men’s Weekend, a retreat designed for men to discover their true identity in Christ while receiving support and encouragement from other men.

“The blind spot that God revealed to me at camp became clear during the retreat,” Jay said. “The negative influences that impacted my own childhood, the things that I didn’t want to be, I had become through my words and actions towards my children. Many times, at home with my family, I was absent. I was able to identify that I don’t want my kids to feel from me what I had experienced during my childhood. During the retreat, God challenged me to be present with my family, to put my phone down, and to be intentional with my kids.

“I also learned to not forget where I came from,” Jay continued. “I need to put myself in my kids’ shoes, to see things from their perspective. James 1:19 says, ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.’ Through this process, I’ve learned to become a better listener instead of just reacting to what my kids are going through and trying to figure it out for them.”

The camp that Jay thought was for his boys was as much for him. Just as the Israelites left their life of bondage behind and walked out of Egypt with a new identity, so did Jay. That’s the power of God.

Then Moses went up to God. The Lord called out to him from the mountain. He said, “Here is what I want you to say to my people, who belong to Jacob’s family. Tell the Israelites, ‘You have seen for yourselves what I did to Egypt. You saw how I carried you on the wings of eagles and brought you to myself. Now obey me completely. Keep my covenant. If you do, then out of all the nations you will be my special treasure…’” Exodus 19:3-5 NIrV

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