Summer 2019 was HARD. And, so incredibly REWARDING. Like no summer I’ve ever experienced. I would do it all over again and I hope I have the opportunity to do so next summer. Here’s why….
In early 2019, Uptown Daycamp offered 15 spots to kids who are involved with the ministry where I spend a lot of my time. The daycamp, which just completed its second summer, runs Mondays to Thursdays for eight weeks in the summer and is located in Uptown Charlotte….just a few moments from the neighborhoods we serve. It provides breakfast, lunch and snacks. There are field trips, games, devotions, crafts, reading, math and LOVE. Lots and lots of LOVE. And, it’s love from people who understand, can often relate and are prepared to respond to the trauma that many of our kiddos experience on a daily basis: Housing instability. Food insecurity. Domestic violence. [Y’all, several of our camp kids experienced homelessness over the summer.] The camp was ready to receive all kids of all backgrounds and support them….and even more, make sure they had a FUN summer and didn’t experience the summer academic backslide that so many children (of all socio-economic statuses) experience.
BUT, in making that offer of 15 spots, the camp hadn’t yet taken the step to provide transportation for campers. Let me tell you why: transportation is a logistical nightmare. And, it’s expensive. Many families don’t have a car. So, while camp might be offered, it’s not actually a possibility unless transportation is provided. Without transportation, the kids will sit at home all day. Likely watching TV and playing video games. In a home that is not in the safest neighborhood, might not be their home tomorrow, and where there might not be enough food.
The Lord put it on my heart…..with an extreme heaviness….to figure out how to get the kids to camp. And y’all, trying to figure all of this out was HARD. Like I said, figuring out transportation is HARD.
A few months before camp started, the AMAZING camp director and I started trying to figure out how to provide transportation for these 15 kids. We came up against some serious barriers: people, logistics, bureaucracy, funding…. But we didn’t give up. With God’s help we persevered and figured out a cobbled-together transportation solution….with church shuttles for part of the summer, rented vans for other parts of the summer. And with a paid driver (thank you donors!), camp staff who went above and beyond, and several dedicated volunteers.
It worked. But it gave me some indigestion and heartache along the way.
When it comes to advocating for “my kids”, I am just like any parent would be. I won’t stop until I’ve figured out how to do something that God has put on my heart. I don’t like hearing “no” or receiving no response at all. These are God’s children and we will make it happen. Somehow.
So, I went into the summer a little jaded because it was so hard to figure out what had originally seemed (to me) to be easy. And then camp started. And I was quickly reminded that parents with no transportation of their own are not as easily accessible during the day. I became a primary point of contact for those 15 kiddos and anything they needed while at camp. Broken flip flops? Sure, give me a little bit of time so I can run over to Old Navy. Burn on her finger? Sure, let me cut some aloe off of my plant and I’ll bring it up to camp in 10 minutes. Cussing in class? Sure, let me FaceTime with that kid and tell him I will be talking to his mom when she gets off of work. Lost bathing suit, AGAIN? Sure! Well, by this one, I had learned my lesson and had a stash of Old Navy bathing suits, flip flops, shoes, t-shirts and shorts in my car. Friends started to joke, asking if I had bought stock in Old Navy since I was single-handedly keeping them in business. [obviously that’s an extreme exaggeration…but you get my point of how often I was there this summer.]
I had to focus on having a joyful heart through it all. Because we kept running into challenges….over and over and over. From places where I would never have expected.
And y’all, while this may seem like a lot…I literally live 4 minutes from camp and I often walked my dog to/from camp for our regular morning walks just to be ahead of the issues of the day. So, it’s not like I was going out of my way to get there…..and, God made room in my schedule and I wasn’t alone in these efforts (thank you family and friends!). I had the margin this summer to be able to be there for those 15 kids. Had it been any other time of the year, I would have been busy with work travel or my current book tour….but God worked it out because I was obedient to his call. I put His kingdom first.
I’m sure you imagined this statement coming, but just so you know for sure: It was the BEST summer EVER. I’ve never had a more rewarding season. I got to spend time with those 15 kids and so many more campers, with pastors and staff from my church and other amazing churches, and with some of my best friends and family who gave of their time and resources to serve this camp and “my kids”. And here’s the best part. Two of those 15 kids were baptized and another three of them wanted to be. Several of them gave their lives to Christ. And ALL of them came away with memories of people and God loving them. Seeds were sown into them this summer that will continue to germinate their entire lives. [my memories of summer camp are still some of the sweetest of my life.]
So what can you do? Answer God’s call on your life. Live in sacrifice. And make sure you have the margin to be able to do that. How do you create margin? Put Him and bringing His Kingdom to Earth first in your life. He will work out the rest. You just have to say yes to Him.
And do so with a joyful heart. While serving can be hard, obedience to God is worth it and it’s rewarded by the ultimate gift-giver, our Father.
Those smiles from the kids are my reward and a gift that I will keep forever.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1 ESV