I haven’t been to camp in a very, very long time, but I’m going next week. The last time I went, it was to G.A. camp (Girls Auxiliary), and I was a teen counselor. This time I”ll be more of a grandma counselor, but that’s not the only difference. Instead of helping to supervise a group of girls, I’ve been assigned to two pre-teen campers. I’ll shepherd them through 5 days and 4 nights of swimming, games, crafts, devotionals, and lots of other fun and inspirational activities. This will probably be foreign to them. They’re both in the foster system, and they’ve both been a victim of child abuse.
My plans for camp started one Sunday in February which is volunteer month in my church. The pastor and various leaders and forward thinkers line up Inside-the-Building Ministries and Outside-the-Building Opportunities of Service. The ministries include the normal things like greeter, usher, pastor’s prayer partner, and nursery worker. The outside opportunities are more unusual like the First Responders Appreciation Dinner or Painting the Doors on the School Building Project. Then in February a table appears in the foyer with sign-up sheets, ready and waiting for signatures of volunteers. This year there was a new one called “Royal Family Kids Camp.”
I didn’t know what that meant, but I was somehow drawn to it. I looked at it several times, but I didn’t sign up. Then the last Sunday of the month I was standing by the table when Wes walked up. Wes and Lisa are involved in the RFKC organization and are very enthusiastic about it.
“Hey,” said Wes. “I think you and David should sign up to be camp volunteers.”
“I’ve been thinking about it,” I said.
“So have I,” said David who had walked up behind me.
He hadn’t mentioned his interest before, so I was surprised. We asked Wes a few questions and agreed that we might consider being camp grandparents. That sounded like it would be fun without being too stressful. We talked with both Wes and Lisa several times during the next few months, and somehow we ended up morphing from possible grandparents to full-fledged counselors.
We went to a training last weekend and found out how challenging and yet how rewarding our week at camp will be. We both came home filled with equal parts excitement and terror. Since then we’ve been shopping for poster board, stickers, pens, notebooks, glitter nail polish, chapstick, sun screen and a host of other paraphernalia. We’ve e-mailed and phoned our buddy counselors and studied the training manual, but mostly we’ve prayed. We’ve prayed for our campers and for ourselves, praying that somehow, in a few short days, we can make a lasting difference in these precious lives.
This morning I was a little down, caught in a little cesspool of doubt, thinking that a welcome poster on neon yellow poster or a red gel pen wouldn’t really matter. But I thought about the stories I heard at training about the kids who never had a Bible or any other book of their own, never had a birthday party, never had any reason to feel special until they came to camp.
Then I went to the Royal Family Kids Camp website. I clicked on “Camps” and read “A Day in the Life.” It told the story of a little boy who lay sobbing in his bed because he didn’t want camp to end. In an attempt to comfort him, one of the adults in his cabin recounted all the fun things they had done in the last few days and asked which was his favorite. He thought for a minute and gave his answer.
“Just walking with my counselor, Todd.”
The trainers told us we might see big breakthroughs in our campers, or we might see only tiny glimmers, but we were assured that the memories we make will be important. I spent a little more time perusing the website, and my excitement began to grow. I watched a video called Samantha’s Story under Former Campers. Tears flowed and any remaining doubt of the importance of what we’re doing melted away.
If you want to know more, click the name – Royal Family Kids Camps –and go to the website. Maybe you’ll be inspired to join the effort as a volunteer, a donor, or a prayer partner. Now I have to go cut out some hot pink sparkly letters.