Saturday, August 29, 2015

One Indescribable Week

{written August 16th =)}

August 9th arrived, and I was thrilled the countdown to RFK camp {} was over. What a privilege to have one week to spend selflessly giving to children who've been selfishly robbed of the simplest gifts of life! Praying God would use me to make a difference, be it “only” for one, I never would've dreamed camp would be so amazing. How the joys and challenges would compound for an indescribable week!
{Three pictures are of my cabin...the one on the far right is of Anna's =)}

Sunday afternoon, cabin preparations were underway. Tissue paper became butterflies and fluffy flowers, while duct tape formed a picket fence.  Outside our cabin a brightly colored banner hung, welcoming our butterfly beauties.  At the next door cabin where Anna would spend the week, streamers were twisted to form seaweed, and paper fish and bubbles filled the walls.  The time spent working, worshiping, praying, eating, and playing together Sunday night was grand, and the excitement was almost felt as we said our good nights early Monday morning.

Sunlight streamed down, and the vivid blue sky became enhanced by puffy white clouds Monday morning. Over one hundred volunteers lined the bus loop with our signs in tow; our voices ready to raise. The wait was nearly finished!  As the yellow bus came lumbering around the bend, shining eyes, and waving hands became visible through the narrow window openings.  Their Royal family ran forward, some giving high fives; others pressing in closer to see faces as they stepped off the bus. One by one, each child was announced.  Some approached timid, questioning; others with a bright smile. Whatever their deportment, we began the week of giving our loudest cheers to those who need it most.

I eagerly anticipated C***** stepping off the bus, for she was the little girl I held a name sign for. Love at first sight described the moment...her bright blue eyes, blonde hair pulled off to the side, and sweet voice was the best! Smiling ear to ear, we took each other's hands, standing together and cheering for the others as they hopped off.

After all our Royal family was introduced, we headed to our cabins. Four eight-year-old girls watched me--looked up to me. For that week my roommates and I were mommy to them...for some, the only mommy they know. They warmed up quickly, even wanting their hair done and putting my flowers in it. I loved seeing their eyes light up as we became acquainted.  Right off the bat, there were sobering moments too, such as listening to them attempting counting up ten plus siblings, and "this step sibling I haven't met" and “this sibling who lives I don’t know where”.  
The next five days were a blur of moments that mattered.  There was Royal Court and Lunch Club where they sang, learning songs about an awesome God who loves them and will never leave them. They learned about Daniel, Esther, and Joshua; how God uses even the bad in our lives for good and that trusting Him is always the best thing we can do.  They were presented with a clear gospel message, bringing recognition of the importance of deciding to go Jesus' way or their own.  By week's end, several of them individually saw their need for Jesus.
Bedtime was a challenge and joy all it's own. The first night, K*** volunteered to lead in the “now I lay me down to sleep” prayer.  Next she wanted to pray a lengthy prayer from her heart, which included praying that all the bad people in the world would be good.  C**** began asking God to bless people.  It was beyond precious. For some, there were nightmares and fear of sleeping.  We read Bible stories, sang about God's love, and prayed.  Side hugs were hard to stick to when three little girls wanted real hugs and kisses, on top of not wanting bedtime to come! Of course, we respected authority!  A mattress in the middle of two bunks worked, and all four girls enjoyed their top bunk position.
{Picture from Monday morning breakfast =)}

Mealtimes we all gathered at round tables in the cafeteria, where energetic volunteer servers waited on us.  How amazing to see everyone enjoying abundant food!  To have lively conversations, and observe the 160+ people around me enjoying one another. The children tried new things like salad, garbanzo beans, or strawberries.  For many of these children, camp is the only place they have the double blessing of good food and good company three times a day.
Amidst all the fun camp activities--kayaking, swimming, the water slide, the flying squirrel, fishing, octoball, volleyball, paddle boarding, and field games with Coach were awesome "God moments".  Opportunities to share hearts, and for them to be courageous...and treated like a hero.  They were always looking up to their Royal family leaders for answers on all topics.  For a lighter one:  "What are contacts?"   My girls thoroughly amused me the first night as they all gathered to watch me remove my contacts, then informed me how weird I looked with glasses.
 At any random time, came usual childish questions or comments and heart wrenching ones too. In many cases, these children have lost the carefree innocence of childhood, bringing questions far beyond their years.
"If God loves us, why are we in foster care?"
“Why do other people have Moms and not me?”
"When's a good time to get married?"
"I need a boyfriend."
"Why are you here?!"
"Has someone told you they hate you?"
"Does your Dad ever come see you?"
"Why do all your siblings live in the same house?"
"I hate my freckles."
"I wish my brother was nice to me."
"Do you have scars from people being mean to you?"  
Friday's "good-bye" came too fast.  We volunteers recognize that we love them more than many of their "caregivers".  For the final time, the children hopped on stage and sang favorite camp songs for those who came to pick them up.  We volunteers sang along, forcing smiles, giving them thumbs up and “I heart you”.  Our emotions ran the gamut as the video of our precious week together played.  The sky was ashen gray, and the rain drops blended with our tears as we gave them back.  God's presence was real as we cried and shared together, knowing they’re in His hands...whether at camp or abroad.
{some of Anna's camp treasures...}

Heading home after dinner Friday night, the sunset was glorious.  I smiled through tears, realizing those precious kids were seeing the same sunset I was.  Emotions were overwhelming as I entered my big, clean house, full of dear family that makes it a home; all of them welcoming me, wanting to hear about my week. More intensely than ever came the realization: I’m in a world I don’t deserve.

My mind couldn’t stray from the stark reality that those kids I said goodbye to just a few hours earlier are back in a world I've never known.  I could smile though, for through RFK, they knew one week of "my world".   In their Royal family, we pour all our energy into making them feel loved.  As they learned to swim and jumped off the flying squirrel, were were there--praising them, applauding them for their courage.  When one of my girls cried over hardships in her life or another over the loss of her mom, I got to be there for them; hugging them, praying over them.  At the birthday, they walked down red carpet dressed in finery as we applauded, celebrating their life--because of who and Whose they are. They received birthday presents, some for the first time in years. They displayed their talents on stage, and we cheered them on.  Playing around on instruments, they were praised as if their skill ranked professional.  Handmade cards and crafts by them were all beautiful, and warmly received.  Their questions were answered with love and compassion, bringing them back for more.  They were given dozens of post it notes, praising them for courage, respect, positiveness, and safety we volunteers observed in them.  Daily mail brought them our letters, hand delivered by "Grandpa" and "Grandma." Some didn't own pillows, yet they were all given new ones with their name monogrammed on the case.  The girl who never slept on a mattress, received one. Those that came dirty enjoyed hot showers.  The little boy who came clad in pajama pants, left with several new outfits. Laughter abounded, whether on stage or crawling through mud, covered head to toe!
Despite disabilities like autism, emotional scars, and behavioral issues, we volunteers count this week a privilege.  Not only is this privilege spoken--it’s sensed. The bright smiles, high fives, warm hugs, energy for all activities, and eagerness to share Jesus in my fellow volunteers was amazing! They were His hands and feet, giving everything...and then some.  Because of them, precious children realize there are still people they can trust.  Who believe the Gospel can turn broken stories into beautiful testimonies.  Who treasure the relationships forged, accept them as they are, and will always love them. No wonder camp is these kids’ favorite week of the year!
Today, many of them are delving into a new school year, still reflecting on camp week.  I'm back in my world...but not completely, for part of my heart remains with my RFK family.  I’d love to be re-experiencing last week, even if it’s just so one child can feel loved.  It’s indescribable.

"A father to the God is in His holy dwelling."  {from Psalm 68:5}


Anonymous said...

This is so precious, Charity! What a wonderful opportunity for you and Anna; I am so glad that you had this opportunity! Praying for the children right now.
~Aunt Leah

grammie said...

this is third (I believe) time I've read this and I still cry.