by Katharine Olinger, Calvary OPC, Glenside, PA (September 2015)
Our youth group had finished a morning shift at the boardwalk and it was time for us to head down to the sand. While we waited in front of the pavilion, dressed in our beach-wear, sunglasses, and flip-flops like any other Wildwoodian, my sister and I were invited by one of the boardwalk staff members to try out the “Heaven and Hell Machine.” We joked, quickly flicked the switches, and received our eternal reward (heaven, in case you were wondering). Not recognizing us as new chapel workers, he asked us what we thought these questions meant and began to witness to us about his faith in Christ.
So what did my youth group’s week at the Boardwalk Chapel teach me? At first glance, I look just like another heathen.
The Boardwalk Chapel challenged me to put Christian apologetics to practical use. And it was terrifying. Following the nightly Chapel services, teams of Chapel workers stroll the boardwalk, striking up conversations with strangers about Christianity. The first few times you do this, every doubt you’ve ever had about the Christian faith is drawn to the forefront of your mind. The insurmountable number of ways your listeners could reject you, all the ways they could object to your arguments, or what if they beat you in argument? Seriously, I would think to myself, should we even be out here if we might “lose?” And eventually, if it’s really so easy to understand an unbeliever’s doubts, aren’t they my doubts, too?
1 John 3:1a reads, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” My time at the Boardwalk Chapel gave me a better understanding of this highest privilege that I have been given: election and adoption into Christ’s body. That God would love me and redeem me, that he would have placed me in a Christian family and a Reformed church, when I deserved no such gift, is something I don’t think I really appreciated before my week serving at the Boardwalk Chapel. Romans 3:9-11 reads, “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.’”
Having personal conversations with people who seemed so similar to me, and yet lacked faith and salvation in Christ, served to remind me of the words of the hymn How Sweet and Awful is the Place:
While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?
Why was I made to hear thy voice,
and enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”
‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.
I’m thankful for my time at the Boardwalk Chapel. I was not only encouraged to share my faith with others but also to rejoice in the gift of faith I have been given in Christ.