Mentoring takes root


For seven years, a Student Mentor Housing Program has allowed college students to pursue academic goals while living and working here at Camp Redwood Glen. To date some 40-50 young men and women have gone through the program, with nine students most recently participating.

Notwithstanding the need for dishwashers, the genesis of this program was mentoring.
Many years ago when I was a painfully cool teenager and my mother was ready to give up on me, she invited me to breakfast at a little restaurant in West Los Angeles. When I arrived, there at the table with my mom was Major Bob Tobin. He was a giant of a man, with a spine-tingling bass voice, and his gentle spirit spoke to me. I’m not sure what he said that morning, but I remember thinking it sounded like the voice of God.

I don’t think Major Tobin had a real grasp of how hip I was at the time. But that morning I knew he cared about me.

Later, in my 20s, I realized I didn’t know everything. My father had already passed away, but a man from my church named Bob Docter stepped in to mentor me. He was a leader in the church, an innovator, an educator—but he listened to me anyway. We talked about the Psalms, and I cried, and we prayed.

It seems to be a process like growing from seed. Water, sun, yes, and some fertilizer, a little bit of picking and pruning, and then you wait a lot. That’s mentoring. Bob picked and pruned a little, but then mostly waited patiently. It often lacks much in the way of tangible rewards, but for me, it made a difference.

There is a passage of Scripture in Hebrews (chapter 11) that talks about some of the great people of faith. For me, those were mentors. The whole idea of our mentor program was born out of the willingness of Ed Covert to allow me to live at Camp Mt. Crags and work the weekends while I was at UCLA. To this day Ed remains a mentor in my life. We have never really been hangout kind of friends, but when things go south, I can call and he will listen.

Beyond our little program, I think mentoring is a key component of the emergent movement. It reveals the story of life with Christ that is central to the paradigm. For many young people today, mentoring represents the postmodern church. Talking about faith in non-traditional settings is a big part of the church for the emergent generation. Non-traditional ministry settings: sounds like a billion dollar idea whose time has come for our denomination.

We all have a story to tell, and a desire to be heard. Have you been to I’m not recommending the site; in fact I usually feel like I need a shower after I log off, but it tells the story of real life. It seems to be people longing to tell their story to somebody who will walk alongside.

Recently as I was preparing to lead a small group with some young men in our program, I was surprised by an email from an old friend. Lorie is now an officer in the Eastern Territory, but when my wife and I knew her ten-plus years ago, she was young and struggling with her faith, a participant in a youth group that we led. Full circle, I thought, as I read her email: “Doing the pursuit of godliness and holiness in a group of younger ladies from the corps. It has been good.”

So Bob, Ed, Tim, Mark, Pastor Bruce, Doug, Blair, and Major Bob (who is now in heaven, but I suppose if this is accessible to the world, he might be able to see it): Thanks!

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