Last summer we received an application for a potential camper for our Royal Family Kids Camp. The words alone broke our heart. Last of his sibling waiting for a forever home, 9 placement disruptions in two years, 6 mental health diagnoses, and a trauma history that evokes a visceral reaction, Hope deferred had been his norm and statistics would tell us that story would continue to lead to darkness, but my friends, we are called to re-write these stories with a hope that defies earthly statistics. So we returned to our core mission and felt God tell us to give him a “yes”.
Our friend arrived at camp in a dark hoodie he refused to remove in the 95 degree weather and was greeted by the first safe male he had ever encountered. Within 24 hours our leadership team was questioning all we felt the Lord had called us to do when our friend made a verbal threat to one of our other campers. Have you been there before, knowing you heard the Lord, but confused by the result to your obedience and begging Him to reveal your next step? We could technically send him back home but we felt God giving us another option, "create him a safe place here and watch me."
So we moved him to his own cabin and selected a team of four male volunteers to spend the week with him. These men I now consider some of the strongest most faithful men I know. By mid week our friend was calling this cabin his castle and these godly men his royal guards, but from our perspective it was a fiery furnace with a real life Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego fighting a mighty spiritual battle. At camp we prepare for campers by praying over their names and the meanings of their names. On Thursday we were brought to tears as we were reminded that our campers name in fact meant “fiery trial”. “Yes, Lord” we hear you. There were glimpses of hope like his eyes lighting up with the simple success of catching his first fish, but the reality that our friend would be leaving camp with a transporter he’d never met and taken to placement number 10 made us wonder if a week could really make the difference he so desperately needed. Goodbye was gut wrenching. Our team attempted to remain faithful in prayer and contact through the Department of Children and Family Services, but letters marked “return to sender” left a lingering sense that hope had been deferred once again.
Fast forward ½ a year and we are preparing for camp, returning campers all registered and good to go, but no word from our boy. We invited the DFCS director to come speak to our team at training and she agreed requesting that she share a story of how camp changed the life of a child. I racked my brain and had a few stories I hoped she might share. But as she began her story, our team began to lock eyes, “11 yrs old, 10 placement disruptions, 6 mental health diagnoses, and a week at camp that changed his whole life." It was our fiery boy, a trial we thought we had lost. But God. He left camp and yet another placement failed, but this time was different when he said for the first time to his caseworker, “I want a family.” The caseworker worked to try to find him a male placement as he had done so well in his camp castle with his “royal guards.” She reported to us having found a male placement that has lasted longer than any previous placement. Our friend’s grades have improved, he’s in regular therapy and talking, he’s been on vacation, and best of all “ he gets to fish regularly.”
God is working in the small things, making every moment matter. As frustrated as I could’ve felt having not had this information sooner. Our prayers for our boy were not in vain and his story was gifted to our team at just the right time as we prepare to make another hot July week matter for 34 new seemingly hopeless stories, 35 counting our boy who will no doubt return after he personally contacted the DFCS director asking to see confirmation that he was registered for “his camp"! Proverbs 13:12 tells us that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” We have claimed this verse over our mission and vision since our start and today we consider it a privilege to share a story that brings it to life. Will you join us in thanking Jesus and asking Him to do it again?