Hello TLF friends,
My name is Shelly Swope, and I am one of the many volunteer leaders that have the privilege of guiding my church through Teen Leadership Camp in the summer. I recently returned from camp and would love to share a few thoughts.
My heroes at camp are anything but ordinary. They are teenagers whose lives have been ravaged by their experiences with the child welfare system. They have known trauma and deep loss. They have felt overlooked, unseen, and unwanted. They have learned to be adults years too soon, taking responsibility seriously and investing their time in caring for their siblings with fierce vigilance. They have learned to walk with strength and bravery – to face the unthinkable with endurance.
So many of the teens expressed throughout the weekend that TLC has changed their lives – that they come because we are a family. At the fire pit, we had a sharing time and there were heartfelt moments of appreciation for this group. During our affirmation time, the teens were generous and wholeheartedly embraced and celebrated the other campers. It is beautiful to see them exhibit their belief in one another and to walk together in joy.
At camp I saw them step out of their stories and refuse to let their past define their potential. They’ve given me new eyes to see with compassion and care, and I am profoundly changed by their presence in my life.