This is camp… by Shelly; TLC volunteer

I am home from camp and there are a million things I want to say and share, but none are really enough. I wish you could really know and understand, but unless you were there, unless you took it all in, unless you were walking it and breathing it all in, it’s virtually impossible to even begin to explain it. You see for me, each of these teens have a name, and a face, and a story uniquely their own. But even in a weekend you cannot possibly KNOW them. And really, the goal of camp is not to hear their stories, but rather to give them a place to just BE – to live OUTSIDE their stories even if only for a brief moment. So many of them have lived in circumstances that are incomprehensible. They are stronger than they should have to be. They have known a side of life that is heartbreaking and brutally unkind. Some are more like parents than kids. Some live in a constant state of chaos and fear. Some have watched the most unspeakable things unfold before them. Many do not know the seemingly ordinary of simple things like sleeping in their own bed, or healthy meals three times a day, or a new pair of shoes at the beginning of the school year. And I would venture to say that most if not all do not enjoy what we might remember as highlights of childhood like slumber parties and having friends over to play.

So when people ask me what the highlight was from camp this year, it isn’t a deep or significant moment. For me, it was a teen eating an entire pizza Lunchable in one bite and the room erupting in cheers. it is a water balloon game that didn’t work in the slightest – it was utter and complete chaos. But as I stood in the middle of the game, and saw the smiles spread over their faces and listened to the deep and resounding laughter, it was like I was experiencing a small taste of heaven. In those moments, the teens were safe, and loved, and free. They were surrounded by the family of Christ and embraced EXACTLY as they are. They are the same kind of different with the same kind of hard. I wish I could push play on that sound – it was pure joy – perhaps the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.

ThI hope that moment will forever be buried deep in my heart and that from there hope and love may spring forth and Praise Him for being a GOOD Father and choosing me to love these amazing teens and writing me into a tiny part of their stories. I know I can never do enough. I cannot write a new story for them, but I pray with all my heart that I can speak truth into their lives and remind them that there is hope for a great future because of the love of Christ and His all surpassing power. I pray I can give them a side hug on a hard day and remind them they are seen and heard and covered in prayer. I pray in a dark moment there is some small piece of their hearts that holds tight and clings to the memories of laughter and remembers that there are people that care because OH MY GOODNESS there are people that care and carry them close regardless of how far away they feel today.