David and I were asked to share a little about our camp experiences at church this morning. This is what I said.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10
Most of the kids we met at camp don’t have a safe place. They may never have had one.
During training, we were told not to try and “fix” the campers or try to counsel them. These kids have counselors and case workers and teachers and foster parents to help them with their issues. Our job was to provide a refuge, a safe place.
One of the veteran counselors said she once had a camper who almost immediately started talking about the abuse she had experienced. When the trainer told her she didn’t have to talk about it if she didn’t want to, she brightened up, relaxed and didn’t mention it again the rest of the week.
It also wasn’t our job to try to get them saved. I know that sounds strange for a Christian camp. Don’t get the wrong idea. They went to Kids’ Club every morning, and we all went to Chapel every evening. We had devotionals with them, prayed with them, took advantage of teaching moments when they popped up, but these kids are so hungry for love and acceptance that they will say or do whatever they think will please you, so we didn’t apply any pressure. What we tried to do was give them a safe place where they could run and play and have fun and just be kids for a few days.
The camp planners go out of their way to provide a safe environment. One of the favorite activities is swimming. There’s a pool for the timid and a pond for the adventurous. The pond is deeper than the pool, and there’s a slide, a trapeze, and a zip-line so you have to pass a swim test to go there. Everyone wears a life jacket, there are life guards in and out of the water, and there are helpers who tell you how to be safe on each challenge. The kids love it.
Another highlight is the Princess Tea Party where the girls dress in formal gowns and tiaras and are served fancy treats on fine china. The male staff members who aren’t occupied with the boys at that time, dress in t-shirts that look like tuxedos and escort the young ladies to their seats. The men bring them in two at a time, one on each arm, and announce them something like this.
“It is my honor to present the beautiful Princess Jane.”
It may be the first time these girls have ever been under the protective covering of a Christian man.
I loved my girls. I had one girl who was full of big talk but often had nothing to back it up. Toward the end of the week, she finally got the nerve to go off the zip-line. She came running to me, shouting in triumph.
“I did it. Did you see me? I faced my fears and went off the zip-line!”
My other girl loved the praise and worship time during Chapel, especially the up-beat numbers that involved lots of movement. Tuesday night we were sitting on the floor singing a quiet song when she began to cry. I put my arm around her and asked if she was okay.
“Yes,” she said. “It’s just that song. When we were singing it I felt like Jesus caught me.”
I pray that their experiences at camp help these children face their fears in the future, and regardless of what hardships come their way that they will feel Jesus holding them.
Friday when we had to say good-bye was chaotic and traumatic. Here’s a little of what I wrote Saturday morning.
We gathered in the parking lot where the idling buses provided the background rhythm for the noise of saying good-bye. Shirts were signed, hugs were given, hearts were broken. A little girl I had seen but didn’t know asked me to sign her shirt, and I did. A tiny boy I didn’t remember seeing ran up and grabbed my legs, burying his face against my knees. He seemed to be looking for a safe place, any safe place, to hide for a moment from the chaos around him.
I ended with this question: Can you be a safe spot, just for a little while, for one of the least of these?
Since I’ve been back, two people have told me that, if they had known about the camp, they would have gone. Well, you’re in luck. There will be lots of other chances. If you can’t help by actually going to camp, you can help by praying and/or donating. You can find more stories from campers and staff members at www.RoyalFamilyKids.com. I hope you’ll give it some thought and pray about how you might help provide a safe place, even for just a little while, for one of these little ones.
NOTE: Royal Family Kids is a national organization. Go to the website and click the “Camps” tab to find a camp near you.
For more information, go to the Royal Family Kids website.