The Chum Bucket (by Len Winneroski)

thI just got back from spending the weekend with 23 middle school students and some amazing adult leaders in beautiful Brown County Indiana. The leaves were all changing color for fall, so the views around the Walnut Hills Retreat were stunning. We had perfect weather for outdoor devotions, campfires, s’mores, hiking, paddle boating, canoeing, and glow-stick capture the flag. The kids and adults all had a blast growing closer to Christ and each other.

The camp food was great too. Mr. Ted, the camp owner, cooked us nachos, hamburgers, hot dogs, cheese-covered chicken, and even a few vegetables. Mr. Ted is an amazing man and I hope to share some of his stories in the future. At the end of every meal Mr. Ted had the kids pick up their trash, put their used silverware in a bin and dump the leftover liquids into a “chum bucket”. Mr. Ted is a big dude with an even bigger heart. When Mr. Ted spoke, the kids listened intently. After the first two meals, Mr. Ted made a big deal about the chum bucket and said that if he caught any kids dumping liquids into the trash instead of the chum bucket, he would make them drink some chum water. The kids listened and we didn’t have any offenders until Saturday night…. Mr. Ted secretly asked me to break the rules and dump water in the trash so that I would have to drink some of the chum sauce at our last breakfast.

When I purposely dumped some water into the trash Mr. Ted went off on me and made sure that all the kids knew what was going to happen to Mr. Len. Mr. Len broke the rules and all the kids were delighted. I sat there and watched some of the kids walk over to the chum bucket, and turn and smile at me, and then dump their leftover drinks into the chum pail. Kids CAN be cruel!

Well later that night at our last small group session my boys all genuinely felt bad for me. They asked me if I was going to be able to sleep knowing that I was going to have to drink from the chum bucket in the morning. As they talked and tried to console me, they suddenly looked at each other and almost as one shouted, “we are a team and if Mr. Len has to drink from the chum bucket we are all going to drink it too!” I know that this sounds silly, but my eyes are tearing up a little while I’m typing this. These squirrely middle school boys were willing to drink chum water to support me even though I broke the rules! One of the boys didn’t even know what chum water was until I explained that it was the public backwash. He almost backed out, but the others encouraged him to remain strong.

So the next morning, after breakfast, Mr. Ted ceremoniously brought out the chum bucket sludge from the night before and the kids were all delighted. Mr. Ted called me up to the front of the room and my boys followed me up to the front of the room proudly. I was OK with drinking the chum because I knew that it was fake… but when I smelled the mixture of coffee, orange juice, Cheerio’s and Raisin Bran I started gagging. To my surprise another sweet young girl jumped up to drink the chum with us too. Now the boys knew that the chum was fake because I wanted them to be able to sleep and I had let them into the secret, but Abby didn’t know that this was all staged and she was willing to support me too. Wow…

At Mr. Ted’s command we all took a swig of the awful mixture and poor Miss Abby choked and threw up which caused a puke chain reaction. Abby threw up on the floor and the young man near her threw up onto his younger brother and Mr. Ted, who were standing a little bit to close to the action. The funny thing was that the young man who puked was the first kid to remind Mr. Ted to make sure that he carried out the chum bucket justice. Justice was definitely served!!

I think that we can all learn a lot from Mr. Ted’s chum bucket. I learned that middle school kids can be pretty amazing. I mean who else would be willing to drink chum water for you? Would your kids? Your wife? Your husband? Middle school kids can be goofy for sure, but they also can be brave, honest, faithful, funny and a little crazy! I went into the weekend expecting to help these kids grow closer to Christ, but THEY are the ones who ended up teaching me about Christ’s love. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

So who would you drink chum bucket backwash for? I’m pretty sure that Jesus would drink chum bucket water to support a friend who broke the rules but would we? Who is in your life right now that is drinking chum bucket water instead of wine from Heaven? Something to think about the next time you pour your chum into the sink isn’t it.

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