One Friday night, the weekend of Father’s Day, I was babysitting a few kids at a life group. During our time together, I explained what it means to be a foster child. I told the kids it’s really hard to live as foster children and they would really appreciate some love. So I handed out papers and let these kids begin to make cards for the foster children.
As they did so, I explained I would have the opportunity to share God’s love with foster kids at Royal Family Kid’s Camp. This was where foster kids from around the area could come to learn about God’s love, play archery, have a birthday party, go swimming, and do many other things they’ve never done before or only get to do when they are at camp.
When I mentioned “archery”, though, one of the little boys got really excited. He said, “I want to be a foster kid so I can play archery!” I tried to re-explain to him how difficult it would be to be a foster kid. And so I asked, “How do you think you would feel?”
That statement must have stuck out, because another boy wrote this inside his letter:
Several weeks later, as I was sitting in our staff meeting at camp on Wednesday listening to Jason playing the song “Beautiful Things”, the weight of their past hit me hard. It hurt my heart. “Lord, why? Why did they go through all the pain?” My heart ached that these precious kids were abused, mistreated, and neglected by their parents. The card that little boy had so innocently written a few weeks before perfectly captured the deep felt emotions I was experiencing at that moment.
God made these kids in His image. He knew these kids before the foundations of the earth. And though we don’t know why – He does. Even though we don’t understand – He does. Although we can’t comprehend – He does. So, we leave the pain of these kids’ past in the palm of His hands, knowing He is a faithful God. He can redeem their lives and use even their pain for His glory. We may never know, we may never understand, we may never comprehend the pain of their past, but God does. And since we lay it all in His hands trusting Him, we have a great hope He will be mighty and will be seen in their lives.
One thing that really struck me was the joy on these kids’ faces. They lit up with joy. They radiated joy. They showcased great joy. Regardless of their past, these kids were able to experience the wonderful joy of the Lord this week at camp because we all joined together as the Body of Christ and allowed Jesus to fill us up with His love and pour us out on the kids. And a result, we saw lovely smiles, heard beautiful laughter, and spent the week with children running, playing, and having a great time.
That’s the reason why we went. We went to show them the love of Jesus. We went in hopes that one day they, too, would come to know of their Savior and their God who loves and cares for them. We went that they may experience some healing from their past. We went that God would be seen and glorified in and through us.
God used these kids during this week to teach me many glorious truths from His Word. Here are just two specific interactions that He laid on my heart to share with you.
#1: God had prepared and planned this camp for what it is that He desired it to be. He knew who was going to be helping there and He knew what children were going to be coming there. He knew. He knew each of us by name.
Because I was a staff member for the week (instead of a counselor), I had the opportunity to meet most of the kids. At one point, I was asking a little boy his name was. He told me and I commented on what a nice name it was. Then he added, “It’s my second one already.” Yet, God knows him by name – no matter how many names he has had or how many more he will have in his lifetime, God knows his name. It’s true for all the other kids too – God knows each and every one of them by their name. Whether it is their first name or their twenty-first name, He intimately knows each one of them and their name.
#2: Sometimes we may wonder, “Was it really worth it?” After all the training, all the meetings, all the praying, all the fundraising, all the packing, all the preparations, is spending one week – a mere 96 hours – with those 63 kids really worthwhile?
On Friday afternoon, I was helping some kids and counselors pack the last few items before it was time to go. The kids knew what was coming: saying goodbye to the people who loved them so much, taking the long bus ride back, getting picked up by their caregivers, going back to life – the life they wished they didn’t have to live. So, there was a girl in that cabin who just didn’t want to leave. She insisted she wasn’t going to leave – she was just going to stay. She liked it there and she didn’t want to go back.
As I gulped down my tears and swallowed hard trying not to cry, I joined another counselor in encouraging the child it was time to leave. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve done in my life. I loved them so much I wished I could just take them all home with me. But I also realized that’s not why God brought us there. I wished these kids didn’t have to go back to their hard life of pain. But that’s not why God called us there.
I want to say it hurt me more than it hurt her to say, “It’s time to go,” but perhaps it would be a false statement. It was hard for all of us to say goodbye. We couldn’t make promises to see them next year, we couldn’t excitedly exclaim, “See you in heaven!”, we couldn’t even be certain we would ever see them again. We didn’t have anything to hold onto but the confidence that God will direct their steps and give them a hope and a future.
This story tells me that this week – and all its preparations – was far beyond worth it. It was one of the best things I have done in my life. God was seen in and through me, God’s power was manifested in and through me, God’s grace was given to them in and through me, God loved them in and through me, and God was glorified in and through me.
How could anyone have a better week than that?