my royal family kids camp 2015 experience

Posted: July 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

I just got back Friday evening from serving for my second year as staff at Royal Family Kids Camp.  You may recall that this is a camp for abused and neglected foster kids.  My feisty little 3-year-old church plant started its own camp (RFK for short) last year after more than a year of planning, and it was inspiring to watch how God provided the nearly $30,000 we needed, plus all the supplies and staff and counselors and various other supports needed.  After we got back from camp last summer, we took a few weeks off and then started meeting to prepare for this year, and once again, God brought the cash and an endless number of amazing surprises to wow us and show us that this project is HIS and we are just along for the ride.  I believe He loves doing the impossible for us and through us, just to blow our little minds and change our small, silly, sad, pathetic expectations of who He is and what He does.  I was so undone by what He accomplished that it made me bold at the dinner that was held for staff and counselors at our church after we had sent the kiddos back home with their foster families – I just went ahead and asked Him for the next $30,000ish right off.  Clearly we need it, clearly this is His project, and I’m not waiting until next spring to believe that He will supply the need once more.  Period.

I could go on for tens of thousands of words here about camp.  I could wax eloquent about the beautiful sacrifice of service made by every counselor, doing spiritual battle right down in the bloody, muddy trenches.  I could talk about the tirelessness of the staff, working behind the scenes.  I could share about the deep camaraderie among us who were there to serve.  I could tell endless stories about the kids that would make you laugh and cry and cause your hair to stand on end and keep you up at night, trying to insist that God answer some very pointed questions.  I could spell out the what seems like 24 billion details that it takes to pull something like this off.  There is more to tell than I can ever manage, and then there is the complication that confidentiality is of the utmost importance when dealing with foster kids – this is their LIVES, not just a point of conversation or debate here, you know?

Instead of all that, I think I’ll do what I try to do with every single thing I experience in life:  I will pause to examine what I learned or can still learn from it, spelling it out so that I can capture it more thoroughly, so that I can hold on to it to turn it over and over, catching unexpected nuances and surprise angles with each new examination.  That’s one of the big things God gives us each experience for, I believe – that we can suck the marrow out of the bones of it.  I can’t/won’t set down a gift this good without looking it over first and storing it away well.  Let’s see…what did I learn at camp?

The enemy plays dirty.  In the weeks leading up to camp this year, I experienced extensive spiritual attack.  Now…while I once upon a time attributed almost EVERY hardship to spiritual attack, I have since then grown a bit and now understand that much of what we call “attacks” has little or nothing to do with any outside force picking on us, and more often is just our own selfish, self-centered, demanding, weak neediness in force.  We cause most of our pain.  The enemy doesn’t have to do all that much to us most of the time – we’re more than ready to screw up our own lives and then moan and groan and feel sorry for ourselves and blame anything except our own attitudes and decisions.  Nonetheless, we DO have an enemy who just HATES it when we love one another or serve one another or try to pull someone who is falling up, before they can disappear into an abyss.  He just hates it.  And he’ll do any darn dirty trick he can to keep us small and whiny and centered on ourselves, so that we don’t have the time or energy to be used well of God for the kingdom.  So I know that whenever I take on a ministry opportunity that is something I’d consider “front lines ministry”…well…things are likely to get ugly.

This was no exception.  For weeks leading up to camp, there were constant messages assuring me that everyone I knew was just plain OVER me.  Tired of my many imperfections, disgusted by my poor physical condition, sick of the sound of my voice, etc.  What helped me push through this battle was how overdone it was – while surely sometimes some of my friends, family, or coworkers get annoyed with me, it cannot possibly be true that 100% of the people who matter in my life are all mad at me, disgusted with me, tired of me, etc…ALL AT THE SAME TIME.  See how dumb that is?  So I’d hear it, and sure, I’d feel the blows as some bit of pain, but it was easy to answer with the truth that all this bad news couldn’t be true simultaneously…so I just operated the premise that NONE of it was, and trusted that any real truth would be revealed over a longer period of time, most likely after I had pushed through camp.

I hoped that the attacks would stop once I got to camp, but it only got worse.  No one was *doing* anything against me, but the voice inside was even louder than it had been for the past few weeks, and then I’d go to sleep at night and dream that people were saying all sorts of unkind, awful, unloving, uncharitable, just flat MEAN things to me.  Things they would never say, period.  I took this as a sign that the enemy was really mad that I was walking around interceding (that is a “fighting” prayer on behalf of the others around me) basically every minute I was awake.  So again, I was feeling it all as very painful pricks stabbed into my most vulnerable old healed-over wounds, but the overdoneness of it all made it possible for me to just keep praying and refusing to ACT on every bad feeling, hurtful impression, negative thought, etc.  I did get some relief partway through the week, so the second half of the week wasn’t as difficult as the first half, on that front.  I’m just saying:  the enemy fights dirty.  He wanted me to get my feelings hurt and refuse to play.  He wanted me to feel like an outsider, unacceptable, unliked, etc…and he even kind of succeeded on that front, much of the time. He wanted me to act that way and alienate others and distract the rest of the team by falling apart.  That was clear…and NO WAY was I falling for that sucker punch.  So, much of the time I felt like I was doing 3 things simultaneously:  on the outside, I was running errands and doing as I was asked.  On the inside, I was interceding desperately for the children and the staff.  And also on the inside, I was flying “double birds” at the enemy – you can beat me up, but I’m still standing.  Eat that.  I can’t say that it was fun or felt good or inspirational, but I can say that God gave me everything I needed to walk it out, and the triumph afterward – it feels GREAT.

Gentleness abounds among those who are tuned in to the Lord.  The kids we were serving were a hard bunch.  There were various diagnoses and frightening amounts of medications in some cases.  There were severe attention and mood issues and oceans of language that would make a sailor blush.  There were altercations and a pretty fair amount of just flat refusing to play along according to the plan, mostly expressed by just getting up and running away as fast as possible.  There was a lot of noise at all hours, total chaos quite often, and the kind of challenges that many of us parents have never had to face, ever, in raising our own children.  There was every excuse for lost tempers, harsh words, power struggles, etc.  But, as one of the camp “grandpas” shared late in the week, this camp was the most positive place he had ever been in his whole life. Staff and counselors watched out for one another and the kids.  Chose gentle words.  Served first without asking questions.  Followed the program without trying to insist on changing it in the face of new developments.  People who were so tired that I don’t even know how they could think reached into themselves or leaned on the Lord or whatever they did, and were magnificently loving and kind with kids that many would already deem hard to love and impossible to manage.  It was so beautiful that on more than one occasion I was nearly overcome with the need to go find a bucket and just start washing the feet of these incredible servants all around me.  I wept many times in just plain wonder at the miracles happening all around me.

Hope shouts to those who most need it.  Our music director followed a lead from God that didn’t make sense to her, adding a song to the daily lineup that was really too long to be an appropriate one for children’s programming.  The song was Whom Shall I Fear.  The link I added here includes the lyrics – please take a moment to check it out.  It wrecked me, watching the kids respond to this song, from the very first play through.  They heard the truth in it and just grabbed on with everything in them.  They couldn’t get enough of singing it.  They sang it louder and with more confidence each time, and by the end of the week, even the hardest, most checked-out, too cool kid was quietly mouthing the words when they thought no one was looking.  I think if they took home not one more thing from camp than memorizing this song, they got a miracle.  I will pray every day that they hold onto it, and that the sound of it rises up in them in every trial, and that they will see it unfold because they expect this truth to be revealed.  It was really hard not to just fall apart into the ugly cry every time they sang this one, but I held as much composure as I could and prayed for them as they sang, and I am grateful beyond words that He let me experience that.

God is all about prayer.  We were supposed to have rain all week.  We asked Him for a break on that.  While there were terrible storms at home, an hour from the camp…we had none.  One of the evenings when our director was having to make a very difficult decision, our prayer team leader, back home and not informed of this development, somehow knew to pray over this exact thing at the right time.  One night when I only sent a single line of text to my daughter, saying we were experiencing a lot of spiritual warfare and to please pray, my son-in-law knew (without any of us telling him) to aim some very specific prayers for my husband, who was struggling.  Oh, there were more stories like that, but you get it, right?  God likes to reveal His part in the prayer conversation.  And I never get tired of catching those glimpses.

There’s more of course, but now it’s my bedtime and we are nearly 2,000 words in, so a bunch of folks stopped reading awhile ago.

Blessings.  Pray for the kids we served.  Pray for the $30,000 we need to do it all over again next summer.  Pray for more counselors for next year’s camp.  Ask God what to pray, and then wow us all by sharing what that was, so we can see His hand at work once more.

Please and thank you, and blessings if you made it to the end and still care!

  1. Cindy Maynard says:

    What an awesome God we serve! Thank you for the service you and Gary gave and for all the others. So blessed to be able to pray along with you.

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