Last month in this space, James Morrow, Vice President of the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home Foundation encouraged you to pray and provide funds to send an MBCH kid to our summer camp. We have just returned to our “normal” lives from this annual camp and I have the privilege of sharing how lives were changed because of your donations and prayers.
The kids we serve have experienced deep levels of trauma throughout their lives. This has greatly affected how they perceive and respond to the world. Activities of everyday life are often overwhelming and terrifying to them. The MBCH summer camp is designed for these kids from hard places who have experienced things that most of us cannot – nor want to – imagine.
Camp is a safe, supportive place where our kids experience some of the same things WE experienced in camp as kids….swimming, recreation, crafts, making new friends and learning about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Throughout the week, camp leaders took every opportunity to inspire and connect with the campers. They offered words of encouragement and support while sharing their hearts and love for the campers who have not always had loving, caring adults in their lives.
A couple of highlights stand out to me from this year’s camp.
The first night featured a bicycle stunt rider who clearly and persuasively shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ that had changed HIS life. When he led in a prayer of commitment, several of our campers gave their lives to Christ!
Baptist Hill (where we hold camp) has a course where kids are challenged to climb a warped wall (similar to the ones on American Ninja Warrior) in an effort to make it to the top. It was amazing to watch as everyone gathered around cheering and encouraging as kid after kid made it up the wall. For most of our kids, the “walls” in their lives have been faced alone, so to have a crowd cheering them on is amazing and is an important part of their healing. One camper said, “although I am big, I made it all the way up the wall!” Along with a crowd of her peers and camp leaders, she was so proud of her accomplishment.
The last night featured a talent show. Campers and camp leaders spent all week preparing and mustering up the courage to perform their talent. This became another occasion where kids were cheered on by their peers and camp leaders. If a performer hesitated or became fearful, immediately there were friends up on stage with them, reassuring them that they could do this and standing beside them as they performed.
One of the best things was when one of the kids was talking about being in the “system” and not having anyone in his corner, then he gestured out at the crowd and said “but now I have people.”
During the talent show, one cabin leader was standing and dancing to the rap-type song that a camper was performing. It was an awesome moment, because there was such a generational difference of music between the two. We later learned the cabin leader had told the camper that he would stand while the young man performed. If the camper got nervous, he was to look at his cabin leader, relax and pretend to only be singing to him. The camper later said, “I did get nervous singing, but I looked at my cabin leader and that settled me down”.
Connection is at the heart of what we do, and camp gives these kids opportunities to connect with each other and with loving, Christian adults in ways they couldn’t otherwise. Camp is a place where camp leadership connects with kids from hard places. Many kids shared stories about connections they made with some of the volunteers and staff who worked with them. These connections are making a huge difference in the lives of these campers in ways we cannot see…but it is happening!
Camp is a place where heroes are born! If you are a person who prayed for our camp, gave to send a kid to camp or volunteered to work at our camp – YOU are a hero, too.