If you haven’t read Part 1 – Click Here
It was a hot afternoon and the sun beat down on us as we walked across the long field to the horses so the girls could get their horse badge. My arms swung back and forth as I held the hands of Gabby and Chrissy. Meanwhile Katy was perched on my back. Everywhere we’d walk, Katy wanted to be holding my hand or perched on my back. All of the girls decided that they loved getting back-rides and would fight over who’s turn it was to get the next one. After 3 days of having a girl on my back multiple times a day, my legs and back were so sore, we walked quite slowly across the field! But how can you tell girls no when they tell you the things that meant the most to them is that you and Sarah listen to them unlike most adults who don’t want to ever listen to them and tell them to shut up, and how much they loved it that you gave them back rides?! As we walked, I asked Katy, the petite little girl perched on my back, who was the person in her life she looked up to and wanted to be like. “I don’t really know,” she said. “I don’t really have any grown ups in my life that stay in my life.” Right at this moment I could name off at least 10 older people in my life that I look up to a lot! Can you imagine what it would be like to have none?? And if you ever did have one or get close to one, they would probably be ripped away in a few months when you were moved to a new home!
These girls have such mountain sized problems, and I wish with all of my heart I could always be there for them, but I can’t. But I do know someone who can and his name is Jesus, and he can be there for them and protect them so very much better than my meager efforts! It was beautiful to see Chrissy, our Alumni camper who had gotten saved last year, living out her faith and running to Jesus in difficult times the whole week at camp! She just glowed with the love of Jesus and, even though she was only 10, she was very mature, selfless, and strong, yet gentle as a dove! Even though her parents aren’t in her life, and she faces so many challenges, God is faithful to her, and it’s beautiful to see beauty for the ashes of the broken pieces of her life.
The dreaded Friday morning came to pack up. Through the whole morning the girls clung to me and Sarah like we would vanish if they let go. One of the Friday morning activities was “Leave it Behind”. A hole was dug at the foot of the cross and each camper was given a slip of paper they could write a painful memory on that they wanted to leave buried at the foot of the cross. Each of our girls wrote something down and dropped it in. Katy pick up her paper and stared at it; I knew she could hardly write, and my heart broke as I saw her intense look of frustration and pain in place of her normal carefree, happy smile that she does her best to act like everything is perfect. I knew something very deep was going on in that little girl’s heart, and that whatever it was, she wasn’t taking it lightly. She walked up to me and said, “Jo, I need you to write for me.” “Sure”, I said. “Just tell me what to write!” “There are some lies I am going to leave behind at camp today and I want them written down on that paper just like I say them because I am determined to not believe them anymore,” she said with a very firm tone in her voice. She began to list them to me and I wrote the simple words. Meanwhile, so much more than just the simple words were being written on my heart in that moment!
-I’m a failure and won’t be anything since I’m a foster child.
– I’m stupid and don’t know anything.
– No body in the world cares about me or loves me.
– I’m plain and ugly.
For my dear little Katy, those were not just simple words on a paper, but giant ropes that bound, held, and controlled her! Those were the whispers in her ear that told her to give up when she finally decided to try! Those were the lies that held her back from being a butterfly and feeling shame to come out and shine! She requested that she be on my back when she dropped the paper of lies into the hole, so, perched on my back, my Katy and I walked to the hole, and she dropped that paper, so light, it floated to the ground, yet so very heavy, it carried the weight of hundreds of ropes of lies and hundreds of bricks of shame!
We stood outside as the busses pulled up and they were told to load up. Katy held tightly on to me and said, “Can we please stop and pray that they won’t pick me up and I can just go home with you and be your little girl?” All my great plans of making it till campers were gone without crying so I wouldn’t upset them went out the window! I squeezed her so very tight and she squeezed me just a little bit tighter. I knew the awful reality would come and I would load her up in the big green van and have to wave goodbye to her. Arie and Brea walked up, the two sisters on our team. They made a little group and we just all stood there and hugged, trying to prolong what we all knew was coming. Brea spoke up, “I loved this week at camp; at home we always fight with everyone, but this week we haven’t fought with anyone. This week has been the best week of my life and I’m coming back next year!” Then from out of the building came Gabby running, she gave me a big hug and just let everything out – sobs, words, and everything in between! She said “Jo, I don’t want to go home, home is so boring but here everyone loves me, everyone listens, and everyone has fun!” All 5 of us stood there hugging and crying when I realized I wasn’t sure where Chrissy was and want to say goodbye to her before she loaded up in the van.
I finally found her in the sea of campers and counselors saying their final sad goodbyes. My normally perfect, controlled, and composed Chrissy, leaped into my arms and said, “Jo, I don’t want to go, I love everyone here so much!” We gathered in a circle and I told them to never, ever forget Jesus because He, unlike me, would always be there for them and never have to leave! We all sobbed and I hugged them one more time. The last sight I saw of my dear Chrissy was her arms wrapped tight around another camper that she had become best friends with over the last 2 summers at camp. She look up at me with the biggest brown eyes I’ve ever seen, “I’ll be back next year,” she whispered with a glimmer of hope in her eyes! She held her hand up to the window, and I pressed mine against it, with only the glass of the window separating us, her lip was still quivering and tear drops the size of marbles rolled down her beautiful dark complexion. That was my very last glimpse of her and it is concreted in my memory forever! Most of the campers come from such horrible situations, yet their one week at camp each summer gives them hope, hope that there are people that care about them deeply even when no one else does, hope that every summer they have a week when they can feel safe, have fun, and just be loved! “God, help them and be with them,” I begged, “comfort their bleeding and broken hearts as only you can, and remind them everyday of the people who love them and care so much about them from camp, and never ever let them forget there IS hope!”
Will you take a moment to notice the children around you, to notice their deep pain that is often masked by a smile? Each one of my campers have neighbors, fellow classmates, teachers, and many other people in their lives; they could have taken the time to be a mentor to them or to invest time into these girls lives, but almost all of them had different priorities. Maybe they were too busy… busy with work, busy with school, busy socializing, or maybe they weren’t busy, and just didn’t notice the lonely girl at the playground because they had their focus elsewhere. We all have Katys, Gabbys, Aries, Breas and Chrissys that surround us. But do we choose to truly see them, do we choose to notice them, and do we choose to give them our time and pour out literal life and being into them? Jesus said “Let the little children come and forbid them not” What do we say?
*Names changed for privacy
I would greatly appreciate your prayers for my 5 dear girls, as I do my best to keep up relationships with them and stay involved in their lives!