About 2 weeks ago, I went on the most life changing camp of my life thus far. My amazing friend Keenan runs a Christian Summer Camp once a year in a place just out of Cape Town, this year was only the second year of camp and I volunteered to be a leader. Camp was…..mind blowing, the campers consisted of kids from average homes who go to good schools, kids from a children’s home with varying bad home situations and foster home kids. Each child had a story, a story they kept hidden for the first two days, and their walls were sky high around them. But over the week of camp, we witnessed God break down walls, kids began talking about their situations, some for the first time, they began letting us in. We were slowly being allowed to hug them and tell them we love them without them looking at us as if we were crazy, they started asking us to pray for them and their families, they started to have fun in all the activities we did.
For a full week, I watched God move minute by minute, literally. I saw a different child changing every minute of each day, I found myself just wanting to pour every ounce of love I possess into them. Some of them had never been told that they are loved, some were never fussed over or cared for. It became all I wanted to do, I just wanted to love them for every time they had been rejected, I wanted to fuss over them and make sure they’re okay, that they’d eaten and slept enough and every other annoying thing you could fuss over. I cried everyday, after hearing each story, things I could never even imagine was possible to happen to a child, things that made me so angry and made my heart literally ache in my chest because stories & situations became real because they now had a name, a face, a personality….those situations were the realities of these kids that I love so much. Even the kids from average homes needed some extra ears to listen to their stories or hugs or love and we were so honoured to be able to give it to them! Every time one of them would tell me that they loved me, I’d cry again…they laughed at how much I cried. But they never realised the breakthrough it was for them to say those words, to accept the love from us and what an honour it was to me to have them say it!
At the end of the week, we sobbed. Having to say goodbye to those kids was torture, knowing the situations they’re going back to. I wanted to take them all home with me where I would know that they are safe, that they have food and that no one is hurting them. But we had to let them go….that’s when God reminded us all that they were not going alone, God was going with them and He would protect them. I missed them the minute they left, all the leaders got home and cried that day, we cried as we told our families all we had experienced that week and we cried about how much we missed them. Two days later on Christmas Eve the other leaders, myself and a few other camp kids were on our way to the Children’s home, I had found out that all the kids had gone home for the holidays, all except two because they have no family to go to, Jeff & Mandy had been on camp with us and it was Jeff’s birthday on Christmas Day. There was no way we weren’t going to do something for them, no one deserves to be alone ever, they were going to lunch on Christmas day at a child care workers house so we decided to throw a suprise birthday/christmas party for them on Christmas eve. We got cake, luxuries, cooldrinks, balloons and I even managed to get them each gifts.
I will never forget Jeff’s face as he walked in and we began singing happy birthday. He was so overwhelmed, he kept trying to hide his face and did not know what to do. For the first hour he was in complete shock, he was happy….exceedingly happy but he was in shock. Mandy opened her gift and screamed with excitement, I thought my heart was going to burst. Jeff opened his gifts and he fought back tears, we read our cards to him where we told him how much we love him & how we are always going to be there for him, he fought back tears even harder. One of the child care workers told us that this was the first birthday party Jeff has ever had and that he has never been fussed over or been centre of attention. We then understood his shock all afternoon. I was certain my heart had already burst open, and my Christmas was officially made, I needed nothing more, the happiness and gratitude in their faces gave me a happiness I could not describe.
One of the foster home kids, a 14 year old boy, crept right into my heart, he has become my little brother and I cannot see him as anything other than that, he is family. His life story thus far is one of the worst stories I have ever heard in my life and it brought me to an uncontrollable sob when I first heard just a part of the story. What people have done to him and put him through is horrendous but he is my living evidence of God the Healer, the Restorer, the Comforter, the Miracle Worker and God of the impossible. When you meet this boy, he is the sweetest, most respectful and caring young man and it just doesn’t make sense how is able to be that way after all he’s been through. But he will tell you himself how God healed him and continues to heal and help him. To know this boy is to love him.
Every child on camp has a story, has a situation, everyday since camp has been filled with us trying to do what we can for whichever child God needs us to help that day. Whether it be with a simple I love you reminder, a message of encouragement, checking in with them, praying for them, taking them out or buying them clothing so they don’t have to wear things with holes in anymore, that is what we have done. Trying to borrow moms car to go pick the kids up, take them out for a bit, whatever. I have gone to bed every night, exhausted. But my heart is the fullest that it has ever been, I have so much joy because of all these kids.
Next week I turn 27, I’ve asked that my friends don’t buy me any birthday gifts but instead they can buy things for my little brother and his 15 year old brother as I’m okay not getting new things but it’s about time those boys get new things that is theirs and only theirs, they need to experience blessings in abundance. My friends have brought me to tears because they are fulfilling my request, so for my birthday I’ll get to spoil those brothers and blow their minds a bit more and show them again how much God is loving them through people even.
2014 has taught me that to love is to serve and to serve is to love. I exit 2014 abundantly blessed, not in material things but in something I cannot accurately describe but wish everyone could experience.<3