Summer Camp Reflections

by staff on September 17, 2012

I was able to attend camp this summer with a female volunteer and six female students. Even though I was the only guy in our group of eight, I was not worried. I went to help transport, supervise, and support our students.

We were at camp for five days, with a different topic on each day. On Wednesday night, the topic was “Healing”. The speaker talked about how we need to forgive others, so God can heal us. Afterwards, there were a number of activities for the campers to choose to attend for the next hour. The station the girls chose was set up with story boards containing the pain-filled life stories of different camp counselors’. Our girls went through and read each and every one of the stories that were displayed. At the end of the station, the girls got to write down what they are dealing with in their own lives, and then lay it down at the cross. We spent the entire hour at this station.

When the hour was up, the campers were sent back to their cabins for some discussion time about the station they attended. Two of our girls cried the whole way back to the cabin. When we sat down together, I brought up the topic about their thoughts on the story boards. Kat spoke up first, “It’s the same thing that I am going through in my life because my dad has never been there for me. He always promised that he would come to see me and even move to Los Angeles from Chicago, so he can be my dad. But he never keeps his promises, and it hurts me to know that I don’t have a dad here to take care of me.”

After Kat was finished, Blair spoke up and said, “These counselors went through the same thing that I am going through right now. The same as what Kat was saying about her dad not being there, my dad is not there for me either. He promised to come back, but he just left me and my mom by ourselves to struggle. When I was in fifth grade, I was the only black person in my school, and I tried making friends, but people treated me differently from others because I was black. They called me mean names that hurt my feelings to the point that I told myself, ‘why am I living this life?’ I hate it! But when I got to Central City Community Outreach, it was different from anywhere I’ve been. Every day that I came to S.A.Y. Yes! I didn’t understand why everyone had smiles on their faces. The reason why is because you guys (the staff) welcome everybody who comes through those green doors, so we all feel save and at home. That is why I love you guys! Because you guys love me for who I am and not because of the color of my skin.”

While Blair opened up, Kat & Tanya started crying, and someone who I really did not think would open up started to speak. Lisa had the same story and asked if she could share hers. I told her that this was her time, and she could talk about whatever she needed to talk about in order to heal. Lisa said, “Since I was little, my dad left my mom by herself to take care of four kids. Since I’m the second oldest out in the family, I only had my brother to look up to as a father figure. It was hard for me to open up to people. That is why I get into trouble in school to get attention from other people, and that is why I cut myself, to make the pain go away. Central City Community Outreach was a place that I felt safe and more like a kid. This program helped me out by making me feel like I have no problems as soon as I walk through those green doors. That is why I love coming to S.A.Y. Yes!, because you guys care about what happens to me both at home and at school. Other after school programs don’t care about what is happening in my life or at school. That is why I love you guys, because you care for me like I’m your daughter.”

While I listened to these stories, I could not help but get emotional because I felt like I need to do more to help these girls out. As my eyes watered, I looked over my shoulder to see our volunteer, Clair, crying with the girls. Clair is a strong woman, so it was surprising for me to see her crying like that. Then it hit me that God is working through these girls, encouraging them share their stories with each other and to trust each other.

When Lisa started crying at the end of her story, Blair got up and sat next to her. She hugged Lisa and said, “It’s ok. Your father is missing out on a beautiful girl.” This was so encouraging to me because Blair is the youngest of our group, so hearing her speak those powerful, healing words to Lisa really touched my heart. The tears came back to my eyes. Clair and I knew that God was working in these girls’ lives at that very moment.

Ell was quiet throughout the entire night, but at this time she got up and went straight to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. She started hitting the walls and screaming, “WHY!?” I really wanted to go talk with her, but I told myself that God is now healing her broken heart. As soon as that thought went through my mind, Tanya & Mary went to the bathroom to cry with her. God was putting me in a position that I had never been in in my entire life. Seeing these girls sharing their stories really pushed me to loving God more and more.

Kat said, “I know I’m hurting, but I know that God is my father, and He is watching over me. At this moment, I forgive my dad because if I don’t, the pain in my heart will not heal. When I get home, I am going to call him and tell him, ‘It’s ok. I forgive you, dad.’”

Blair follows Kat by saying, “I forgive my dad too because I have a Dad who will never leave me, and I know that now. God is my Dad and Savior.”

Then Lisa said, “I now accept God as my Father because now I know He is always going to be there.”

The words that were coming out of these girls were so powerful to me, because I had also felt in my life that I never had a father figure. But at that moment, I realized that I had a Father all of my life.

It was then that Ell, Tanya, & Mary came out of the bathroom and sat down. Mary then opened up about her life. She said, “I feel like I don’t have a mom. I have a father who was a mom and a dad, but it was not the same. After my mom got out of jail a year ago, it was more like a friendship than mother-daughter. My mom asked me for money a lot, and I feel like I should be asking her for money and looking up to her, and not the other way around. But I know that I can count on God to hear me out anytime.”

After everybody told their stories, Clair spoke up and said, “It hurts me to leave you girls after hearing your stories, but God is calling me to New York to finish school. I don’t want to leave because I love you girls, and I just want to thank you for letting me into your lives and opening up to me and Levi about your problems. Always know that I am just a text or phone call away. Always remember that you are now a part of my life, and I am never going to leave the friendships that we have now.”

That was an awesome way to finish our time together on Wednesday night. I said something similar to wrap it up, and then realized that we had spent almost two hours talking! It was then that Blair spoke up and said, “It’s too sad in here. Let’s be happy!” This made all of us laugh.

I really see that God used Clair and me in these girls’ lives that night. It was amazing to see the girls finally admit that God is their real Father figure. That’s an experience that all counselors wish to have with their kids. Just seeing these girls heal their broken hearts and accepting Jesus was the greatest feeling I have never felt before!

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