The bags have been unpacked, the stinky laundry has been washed (who knew my kids could smell like a football locker room and dead fish?) and the sleeping bags have been put away. Kids Camp 2017 is over, living on now only in a few blackmail pictures posted on social media, crazy stories (my son has been bragging about not having had a shower that week) and in our memories. In a mere 3 weeks, summer will be over. Not the heat of course, as we live in central Texas and will continue to be blasted from the furnace of Hades until at least the end of September, but school will begin and a somewhat normal routine will commence for the Coconuts. However, it’s hard to imagine slipping back into the normalcy we call everyday life after experiencing what we did in the 5 days spent at camp.
As we have in the past four years, our family spent the week with about 400 other kids, countless volunteers, and a dedicated children’s ministry team at a summer camp that our organization puts together for kids to come, have fun and have an encounter with Jesus. This year I worked as a zookeeper chaperone in a dorm where I was assigned a group of lovely, albeit wacky girls to keep track of. It’s a good thing that the camp directors didn’t know that at home I regularly hide in my pantry and eat chocolate when I’m supposed to be keeping track of my own kids but I digress. From sun up to sun down we ran with the masses. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner (Dear Lord, I don’t want to eat one more thing on a stick), morning rally, power filled church services, and lake and waterslide adventures awaited us. Every. Single. Day. The camp itself is set in the beautiful hill country, and my 44-year-old body felt every one of those hills by the end of the night. Bedtime was another adventure of its own. Attempting to get 6 giggling girls to sleep when they are were amped up on sugar and the gleeful possibility of pranking their matron, namely me, was a futile task. Running on four hours of sleep a night was only made possible by Folgers and Jesus.
I’m still not quite sure what The Hubby’s position was there but it had something to do with playing basketball at all hours of the night with a bunch of other old dudes who had forgotten how old they were and coming to my dorm at 7 am to drink my coffee. Regardless of the craziness of it all, this particular week of the year is one we look forward to. We love absolutely every part of it. And this year was no exception.
However, it wasn’t the manic schedule that was so life changing, although the lice check at registration may change your decision to ever let your child use another kid’s hairbrush, pillow, or bed sheet. The real revelation came with noise. Kid’s camp is filled with craziness and noise. The cafeteria, the sanctuary, the dorms, it’s all loud. But somewhere in the midst of all that noise, when the services begin and worship is offered up, the sacred takes place. The presence of God permeates the atmosphere and touches hearts.
The kids who come to camp are from all different back grounds. Many are church kids from great families. Others are not so lucky. The situations and backgrounds these kids have to deal with are so tumultuous, so heartbreaking; you just want to weep with them. There are children there who have lost a parent (or both parents), those who deal with abuse or rejection daily, those who are bullied, neglected, and unwanted. As a matron (or a dean) in the dorms, you spend every moment with the kids you are responsible for. If done right, you form connections and bonds. In the safety of those connections and in the presence of the Lord these children will begin to open up to you.
In hushed voices, stories are offered up of living environments that no child should experience but for 5 days these kids are able to come out from under that pressure and experience the love of a good Father. This camp is their opportunity to feel Jesus, some for the first time. Never to be the same again, these kids may go home to terrible situations but this time with the Prince of Peace lodged in their hearts. I am thankful to the South Texas District Children’s committee and their dedication to these children. Most of all I am thankful for this experience for a certain little boy with deepening freckles and a certain girl poised on the brink of becoming a woman. My two oldest Coconuts do not know what it’s like to live in a constant state of fear or abuse. They’ve only ever known safety and comfort. This camp has been an education for them. And for me. Watching my girl hug her dorm mate and weep with her over a childhood ending too soon, watching them pray at the altar for others, convicted me with their compassion and unabashed love.
In a world full of selfies and selfishness, it’s easy to become distracted and apathetic. Serving others is the way to shake off that apathy and remind us that we are the only Jesus that this world is going to see. So find opportunities to serve. We are called to be His hands and feet. Never are we more like the Master than when we are serving these little ones. Listening, loving, and leading them to Him. Love those that God has put before you, whether they are big or little people. Give of your time and resources. It will change someone’s life as well as your own.
I thought of Josiah, the boy king of Israel who, after becoming king at only 8 years old, brought back righteousness and true worship to the land during his reign. His father and grandfather were wicked but he earned his place in history as a king who did right in the sight of the Lord. Somewhere, someone poured into him. Perhaps it was his mother or the prophet during that time that taught him about the Lord. Regardless, someone took the time to show him the goodness of God. Isn’t that our calling now? To give of what God has given us? Maybe it will be the next Josiah that we pour into, or it may simply be someone that goes on to love and serve God as a godly father or wife. It matters not. What will matter is that we gave of ourselves.
Although it took me several days to fully recover from the insanity of kids’ camp and I may still be suffering from Lice Paranoia, I can’t wait to go back next year and see what other lessons await us.