I know I've already mentioned this a time or two or twenty, but this week at Camp Grace is our first-ever teenage session. The kids here this week range in age from 12-17, which is not only a wide range, but also a slightly frightening one for me. Not so much frightening like they might beat me up (which they clearly could) but more because 16-17 years old is just an age that intimidates me, they're getting too old to just automatically think I'm cool, which means they probably know I'm NOT . . .
Although every kid who comes to camp is (technically) not able to afford camp, we usually have a wide range of backgrounds and situations. The kids this week are not only breaking my heart with their stories, but they are reminding me over and over again exactly why I'm here and why we do this camp.
Because one of our campers? Is a momma with a 2 year old baby at home. Last night I watched another camper suck her thumb with a huge real tattoo on her arm. At least 5 of the kids have lost their mothers in the last 5 years. They have fathers in prison or whom they've never met. A 12 year old put out on the street by her mom. A 14 year old who ran away from home and his family hasn't bothered to even try and find out where he is or if he's ok. A brother and sister with a father in prison, who just lost their mom, and moved into their cousins' already crowded home. . .
But the best part of my week so far? Watching the 17 year old mom slowly, but surely, let her guard down and enjoy herself. Seeing Sabo and Zack get blobbed by Adam, and having the girls (and Walter) sing Justin Bieber songs. Watching them laugh at their counselors doing synchronized swimming routines. Giving big hugs and seeing Jayci run up to see her "friends" every chance she gets.
Giving these kids a chance to actually be KIDS. That's one of our goals here at camp, and let me tell you that there is redemption, and a newness to His mercy, that comes through every single day when the kids let their problems disappear even just for a few minutes.