This week, I was a counselor at Royal Family Kids Camp, and it was challenging, heartbreaking, and life-changing. Since this was my third year being involved with RFK, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but I was clearly wrong. Leading up to camp, I kept praying that God would allow me to give 100% to my camper, and He honored that. I have never been so exhausted, yet filled with joy. The team that I worked with, those praying for me, and God’s strength gave me the ability to get through this week. By the end of this week, I left with a better understanding of the unconditional love that God has for all of us.
Royal Family for us staff began on Sunday. After attending church, we drove to the campsite, unloaded, and decorated our cabins in order to fit this year’s Olympic theme. That evening, I finally found out who my camper was going to be. I pretty much only knew her name and that she was 9, none of her temperaments (for the safety and confidentiality of my camper, I’m only going to refer to her as “my camper”). I knew I was going in blind, but that didn’t matter to me. I was just so excited for Monday to come so that I could finally meet her. That night we all walked over to the lake in order to pray and do a devotional. In the midst of this beautiful nature, everyone could feel God’s presence. While at the lake, one of our staff members decided to be baptized, which was amazing. I have never seen a baptism like this. It was beautiful just seeing him declare his life to Christ while having his new RFK family there to support him. What was even cooler was that later a random woman saw us gathered on the beach and asked if she could be baptized. If that wasn’t a God moment, I don’t know what is. So we had two baptisms that evening. That night, I went to sleep knowing that this is God’s camp. He is orchestrating this whole thing. I knew that he had hand picked my camper, and I was so excited to finally meet her.
On Monday as the coach bus rolled in, we all stood outside with posters with each of the campers names on them in order to welcome our 24 precious princes and princesses. Each child had varying emotions as they stepped off of the bus–excitement, a little bit of fear, maybe nothing at all. When my camper walked off the bus, I was filled with such joy! I just couldn’t wait to get to know this precious girl! What I didn’t know was that behind that beautiful face was a girl with a broken heart.
Even though the week was filled with fun events, such as Grandma’s Tea Party, Everybody’s Birthday Party, and the Variety show, she struggled throughout the entire week. My camper loved being the center of attention and being in control. When she couldn’t have her ways, she ran around or ran away. So the whole week, I was on high alert because if I turned away for one minute, she could have been out the door running somewhere else. In addition, pretty much everyday, she had some sort of of meltdown over something small– she wasn’t picked to dance on stage, someone else took her spot, etc. These weren’t the real reasons for the meltdowns. In actuality, she was dealing with past heartbreaks. She hasn’t seen her birth parents in three years, and she yearns for them, even though they must have done something terrible enough to get her taken out of that family in the first place. What probably intensified her behaviors was the fact that she and three of her other siblings are currently up for adoption at the end of this month. You think that adoption would be a good thing– finally a being taken out of foster care and being placed into a stable home, hopefully. However, I think that to my camper, adoption means never seeing her birth parents again.
Most of the week was exhausting. My camper looked so downtrodden. She constantly told me how she didn’t like this camp, and she tried to hide any emotion whatsoever. God gave we such unwavering patience with her, though. He gave me the strength to just be there for her. And the thing is by day two, I had so much love for my camper. It didn’t matter that she was constantly wandering away, acting sassy, or having a meltdown. I was her rock, and I owe that all to God. The beautiful thing was that behind her act, I could tell that she really cared for me too. She would always be asking, “Where’s my counselor?,” and she would ask me to race her up the rock wall or to dance the Whip and Nae Nae with her at the talent show. My favorite moments with her, though, were when we were at the lake. That girl loved to swim; I think it was therapeutic for her. Together, we would swim “all over the world”– to Florida, Illinois, Australia even. She also loved using her goggles to grab sand at the bottom of the lake. We would look at the sand together and find all sorts of neat rocks and shells. In the water, she would open up, not about her past, but about her interests and school and just normal things.
Friday, when we were back at church, was the hardest part for me. It was beautiful to see my camper singing the songs she learned at camp up onstage. Normally she is hogging the stage for attention, but that afternoon, she was just singing and dancing next to her best friend that she made at camp. What made it worse was when I saw a couple of tears escape her eyes during the closing ceremony. That was confirmation to me that she actually cared about me too. Saying goodbye was the hardest. I thought that her future parents were going to pick her and her siblings up, but some random lady that the girls didn’t even know picked them up instead. That made me so upset because I wanted to meet the people that were planning on adopting her just to see if they seemed loving and safe. I guess we don’t always get what we want. Eventually, my camper and I said our final goodbyes. Tears were shed by both of us, and I just kept telling her how much I loved her and how I would be praying for her. Then just like that, she was gone.
I truly believe that God matched my camper and me together. Even though I have a huge heart, I am emotionally strong, and I think that allowed me to be so consistent and composed around my camper. My camper has shown me how to love and persevere way beyond what I thought I could do. That little girl–who is so brave, smart, caring, helpful, and charismatic– now will forever have a piece of my heart. I just have to trust God that He will keep her safe and that He will use her to do amazing things. I could go on and on about camp, but this post is already so long. Camp was amazing and life-changing. It challenged me probably more than I’ve ever been challenged, but I had a great group of people to support me along the way. I pray that I will be able to keep attending Royal Family Kids Camps for many years to come.
Lots of love,