I got back in town Sunday from an exhausting, extremely rewarding 4 days at Angel Tree Camp. I was in charge of a great cabin of nine 4th and 5th grade boys: Anthony, Artrell, Billy, Christopher, Cody, David, Marco, Mykeal, and Tremel, along with three high school guys – John, Colton, and Kelly.
Tremel’s family lives out at the North Grand Villas, so I’ve known him quite a while. I met the rest of the boys for the very first time on Thursday afternoon. We had a great time filled with swimming, fishing, hiking, shaving cream fighting, eating, and general 10 year old boy-styled mischief.
Most boys in their situation (absentee father, poverty, etc.) wear an outer shell of toughness. They fly of the handle in anger very easily and just try to exude this strength that doesn’t really fit who they really are. On Saturday night, we took them out on a late night hike. It was really funny, because out in nature, in the dark, with all kinds of weird sounds, the boys dropped their toughness and were scared to death. Most had never been out in the “wilderness” before. Cody at one point grabbed my arm and put it around me and held it there, because he was convinced a mountain lion would attack us at any time. The hike revealed who they really were – frightened little boys unsure of what dangers the world was going to bring them next. It made for great opportunities for us to talk about God’s protection and love for them.
I was able to develop a great relationship with Mykeal, the boy you see in the picture with me. Mykeal was recently placed in foster care, where he lives at a children’s home in Amarillo. Both his parents are in prison. When his mom went to jail in the Dallas, he and his siblings moved in with his grandmother in Lubbock. Unfortunately, earlier this year she encountered several health problems. As a result, she could no longer adequately care for the kids, and they were taken from her home, placed in foster care, and moved to Amarillo. Mykeal told me his mom gets out in September, and he thinks he’ll get to go back and live with her after she takes some parenting classes.
He’s one of the sweetest and brightest kids you’ll ever meet. Saturday was my son Luke’s birthday, so I left camp to spend the day in Amarillo for his birthday. Mykeal thought that was really cool and told me he really wanted to get Luke something for his birthday. I told him that was okay and I that I would just pass along a “happy birthday” from all the boys. During any down time we had, he’d ask me to play a math game with him, where I would ask a math problem, and he’d try to give an answer as fast as possible.
“Mykeal, what’s 12 times 12?”
I was pretty impressed. I don’t know what the future holds for Mykeal, but he has the oppotunity to really make something of himself in the future. On Friday night, he prayed with me and said he wanted to make Jesus the Lord of his life. It was a pretty cool time together. Pray for Mykeal and his family as they face a very uncertain future. And pray that God will continue to reveal Himself to that great little boy.
Seeing over 160 children get to experience the love of Christ through the hands of many men, women, and teenagers was great, but also heartbreaking. Because I knew that camp was only four days long, and that they were going to have to go back to their uncertain lives. But for 4 great days, they got to just be kids. They ate 3 meals a day. They played. They learned to fish. They swam. They received countless hugs. They were disciplined in love. And they heard about Jesus. You can’t beat that.