Last summer, I spent lots of my free time at Chop Point with a camper who was struggling with self-worth and with hurting herself. (Click here to read last summer's post about her.) We met daily and tried to sift through the ugly thoughts in her mind. It was a slow and painful process. The culmination was a 7-page letter that I wrote her, offering God's truth to counter the lies of self-destruction and worthlessness that she kept hearing in her head. I started the letter with this: "None of this will make sense if you don't believe in God and if you don't believe in the Bible. My truth and my joy are based entirely from God's Truth and that is where I want you to find your truth and your joy."
When my camper left in August, we both cried our good-byes. I hated to see her go, knowing that she didn't have God-loving influences at home, worried that she would slide deeper into the pit. So I did the only things I could to keep helping her - I wrote emails and I prayed.
For months, the messages I received back from my young friend were haunting. Nightmares, loneliness, "a hole that grows bigger as if someone was stabbing you over and over". She wrote about being addicted to the pain, even though she knew that hurting herself was wrong. I urged her to tell someone at home, but she refused and stopped answering my messages for a while. I kept praying.
In early spring, out of the blue, my camper wrote to me. "I've been doing pretty well lately!" she announced. "I smile, I laugh, and I really mean it. I just woke up one day and something was different. Now when I go to bed, I can't sleep because I want to wake up and learn about everything. But what I really feel, Kez, is that I want to learn about God. It's an amazing feeling."
I rejoiced. I rejoiced a lot.
Two months later, she sent another message. It ended with "...I know that God loves me. Yep, He loves me and nothing can change that. Nothing I do can change that love. When I'm having a bad day, He smiles at me...and it's great because God is great. PS Don't get jealous, God loves you too."
I read her message and then I danced around the house like a madwoman.
A few weeks ago, my camper and I were reunited at Chop Point. Since then, she's brought me two things. The first was a handful of razors and lighters, her tools of self-mutilation. She said that she didn't need them anymore, that she hadn't used them in months, and that she wanted them as far away from her as possible. The second thing was a poem titled "No Longer a Sinking Sailor". I'd like to share with you the first and last paragraphs.
First you have darkness
Nothing more, nothing less.
Simple, destructive darkness.
It swallows everything it touches,
It takes away your dreams,
It's the wolf inside my nightmares,
and the voice inside my head.
Little by little you start sinking
sinking in frustrated despair.
But praise God,
for He is with you.
He has opened up your eyes.
He has healed you from this darkness
and filled it with fulfilling light.
My God answers prayers. He took a hurting confused little girl who wasn't even sure about His existence and has radically healed her. I am humbled and I am grateful. The Truth won!
Saturday, July 13, 2013
... and I love knowing with utter certainty that they are taking amazing care of Jubilee. My missing of them is entirely selfish - a simple desire to see them and laugh with them and pray with them - not necessarily to help them do their job because frankly, they do it so much better than I!
(Left to right: Samuela, nursing assistant, Oscar, nursing assistant and clinic manager, and GraceFace, clinic director and nurse extraordinaire)
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
You've heard of synchronized swimming, but have you ever heard of synchronized spraying?
Friday, July 5, 2013
Seven years ago, I welcomed my first group of teenagers into Monhegan, the cabin I'd been assigned as a counselor. One of those girls was Sierra, a quiet 12 year old who participated cheerfully and enjoyed the 5-day camp program she'd signed up for. We convinced her to return for one of the three week sessions and the rest was history.
Sierra came back every summer. There's something special about having a girl start in your cabin, as if she's your kid in some strange way. So we got closer and closer as the summers passed.
Sierra's last year as a camper, she was almost a fulltime worker too. She led the surfing trips with me and I was impressed repeatedly by her leadership and her kind attitude towards the younger kids. I also watched her mature in the faith that she'd adopted through her time at Chop Point, and when that final summer ended, I crossed my fingers that she'd stick with it once she was out in the big world.
Another girl came for her first year of camp one year after Sierra, but I would never describe her as quiet. Raelyn was outgoing and creative, talkative and goofy. While I claimed Sierra as mine because of our summer in Monhegan, Raelyn became mine because of a severe food allergy that brought nurse and camper together rather frequently.
During that first summer, Raelyn started a relationship with Christ, and we spent many hours talking about life and God and faith. She had an emotional and spiritual depth to her that isn't common in teenage girls and over the next few summers that she came to camp, she and I walked through the good and the bad, leaning on Christ together.
This year, 2013, is a special year for me because both of my girls are back at camp. But they're not little campers anymore; they're counselors. It's come full circle - the teens that I poured my heart and soul into for so many summers are now pouring their hearts and souls into the lives of new teenagers. Sometimes I watch them from afar and find myself grinning a huge grin. Those are my girls and I am so proud of them.
There's a verse in Deuteronomy that says, "I have put before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God and listen to His voice and hold fast to Him." I don't have biological children, but I have what I call my camp kids, and my prayer has always been that they would choose life, the way that I have. Sierra and Rae have, and I can't wait to see how many girls follow them because of that choice.