THE AFTERMATH OF CAMP

As camp ended I knew God was telling me I had to do more.
There were 2 girls that stood out to me that I wanted to mentor. Although my home church at the time had a mentoring program – we had very little training and understanding of how trauma impacts these youths and how we relate to them, as well as systematic issues that exist around the child welfare department.
I reached out to the group home these one of these girls resided – she had gone AWOL. So, I let the home know I was available and waiting for her return. Over the course of 3 weeks I would call the house everyday…and, finally, she did come back. I remember vividly walking into the charming old Santa Ana home and this girl saying to me “why would you want to mentor me? And why would you call for 3 weeks waiting on me to come back?”
And that began our relationship.
The second girl had transferred homes within the first week of retuning from camp. I remember at camp learning she had already been in four other homes that year. Not having an understanding of the system we were unable to locate her…This is a painful reality that comes with not being properly educated all that comes with advocating for foster youth.
Today, years later, I still have her name in a journal and pray for her regularly.

IT ALL STARTED AT CAMP…

In the summer of 2000 I went to a 3 day retreat for teens in foster care. 

This was the first time I had heard any of the statistics I am now overly familiar with:
Increased chance of young pregnancy.
40% incarcerated in 2-4 years after emancipation
As little as 1% graduating college
56% graduating high school… 
Not only did I memorize these statistics, but they became increasingly real as I met youth after youth who had been abandoned, neglected, abused…all by the ones who were meant to protect and nurture and love them.
It was that weekend God broke my heart for what breaks His-I finally understood what the Scriptures talked about when God calls his people to care for the orphan.
One camper particularly stood out to me. He embraced his time in the mountains with a sense of joy and confidence that belied the scars covering most of his body. On the last night of camp, this young man took his turn on the microphone to address what he felt was an obvious question: his appearance. He explained that the scars were the result of years of abuse by his father, who regularly burned him with cigarettes – until the time the embers ignited their home, killing everyone but this young man, who was severely burned.

He thanked everyone there for accepting him as just a regular kid. For the first time since the fire, he didn’t feel like he was scrutinized for how he looked or what he’d faced in his childhood. Camp was a safe place where he could be himself.

That kids faced such horrors – and that something as simple as a weekend at camp could be so freeing – was a defining moment for me that would change the trajectory of my life forever.