I think that I have the best job in the world! Each week that goes by completely drains me physically, emotionally, and spiritually, wondering how in the world I am going to be able to do this for the rest of the summer. We say here that each day at camp seems like the longest day in the world, but each week seems to fly by faster than we could ever expect. This week was spent with a group of about 28 kids from Phoenix, Arizona who came with a group called Mentor Kids, which is an organization that provides mentors for kids who have one or both parents in prison. I had been told that this was the most difficult camp all summer, but it was also the most heart-wrenching, the one that would make us all cry when they left. I definitely understand that now.
My cabin was comprised of four girls, each 9 or 10 years old. As I got the opportunity to spend time with each of them, I learned of their heartbreaking stories of severe abuse, mistreatment, and neglect. While some of their parents were trying everything they could to continue to raise their kids for the glory of the Lord, the circumstances they were coming from just broke my heart. After hearing the monologue of the father in the story of the Prodigal Son in which he described his intense love for both of his sons, it was incredible to hear the girls open up about the ways in which their fathers had let them down and simply not been there for them. It was so hard for them to really understand what a father should be like, because even the relationships that some had with their fathers were broken, centered around giving gifts to try and make up for a history of bad decisions. These girls knew that what they were being given was not love, and they desired it so much. Our cabin times were both encouraging and saddening as I could see some of them decide to pursue the love of their Father in heaven while others paid little attention, not used to being told that they were loved and still unable to understand what it would look like to be loved and not hurt because of it.
At one point during the week, I was completely down-trodden. I felt completely inadequate both in my job as a counselor and in my role as the crafts teacher for the week. In a matter of about two hours, I had dealt with a fight between two of my campers that left both of them crying and me helpless to find something to say to resolve the issue. I had also face-planted into a plot of gravel while trying to rush and grab my crafting supplies, cutting up my hand. The girls then had a hard time tying the knots needed to make their pillows, and I, with my bleeding fingers, was unable to help them. The last straw happened after our rest time in our cabins when I let my girls head downstairs to the bathroom only to find about a minute later that one of them was nowhere to be found. Not sure what had happened or what I would do, I brought my girls to another staff member and proceeded to search around camp. When I finally found her, she was near the horses and frightened because she had realized that she was all alone. I was less-than-gracious in leading her back up the hill, and needless to say, it was not one of my finer moments as a counselor.
The biggest growing experience for me this week happened the next morning when we were discussing during devotions the way in which, unlike the older brother in the parable, Jesus was an older brother who went out and lovingly sought us when we ran away. After a short pause, the girl who had gotten lost the day before said to me “So Jesus would have come and found me just like you did yesterday when I got lost.” I was taken aback. I realized once again just how incapable I am of doing this on my own. My own sinful nature allows me to get frustrated at the littlest things, and it keeps me from doing the job I have been sent to do: love. I am reminded of the character of Jesus and the grace he shows, even in some of the most frustrating situations, and without him, I am incapable of everything, let alone ministry.
As we took time to say goodbye to the kids yesterday morning, I was not expecting to experience the emotion that I did. However, when you are surrounded by a group of teary eyed children asking you to please come home with them, something in your heart melts. More than discipline and correction, these kids need to be loved, and I need to make sure that all of my actions are based off of that goal.
Health for staff, especially counselors
Wisdom in how to best serve and encourage while on support staff
Continued growth in Mentor Kids as they re-adjust to home life