We returned on Wednesday afternoon from 3 days of wild and crazy fun at Hidden Falls Ranch that we dubbed “Camp Awesome.” Our camp every summer is the highlight of the year for most of our kids. During the summer, they don’t get much in the way of vacations. They don’t leave the city limits. If they’re lucky, they get to go to Wonderland for a night or to Splash. But that’s about it.
So we have the incredible opportunity to get 29 of our Mission 2540 kids (age 8-12) out in nature to explore and run and climb and ride, to eat 3 meals a day, to get attention and love from our caring teenage and adult volunteers, and to get away from the chaos, pain and worry of their daily lives. It really is an awesome thing. I guess that’s why I named it Camp Awesome.
Kids got to climb the big wall every day and zip line off of it. This year was no different from previous years in that we always have a few kids make it to the top, then sit up there crying because they’re scared to zip line. And every year I tell them there’s no other way down and they have no choice. Some stay up there for 5-10 minutes. One boy even refused to zip line for 30 minutes. But every one finally took the leap. It sounds cheesy, and it may seem cruel that I make kids stay up on that wall crying, but getting kids up and off that wall is hugely important to me. Kids have to learn to overcome their fears and obstacles in the way. I see parents every day who model to their children how to give up. How to let the world and its trouble overwhelm you and paralyze you. When a kid gets off the zip line after making the scary leap, they walk a little taller. I tell every one of those kids how proud I am of them. They need to hear it. They need to be proud of themselves.
One little boy, nicknamed Ray-Ray, had never spent a night away from either his mom or his grandfather. He started crying about 1o that first night while we were out on a night hike with the boys. He didn’t stop until he was in bed an hour later. One of my friends and amazing volunteers, Kenny, who was in charge of Ray-Ray’s cabin, had all the other boys pray for their friend, that he would be able to sleep and not be scared. It worked, and Ray-Ray woke up excited and ready to face the day. Tuesday night, he had no problem going to sleep. Once again, a simple little act was a very big step in the life of that kid. So cool.
The kids got to participate in a bunch of other great activities – roasting S’mores over the campfire (thanks to my friend Matt Morgan and his life group at Hillside Chruch), singing songs, hearing Bible stories, praying together, swimming, hiking, horseback riding, playing in the mud (which was gross), and other fun games.
I’m so thankful for the generous staff at Hidden Falls Ranch who gave a lot of their time and effort to make the week successful and safe. Our group of volunteers was phenomenal. Josh, Kenny and Elizabeth led their groups and cared for the kids so well. And thanks to Suzanne and Wendy for helping us drive the kids down there and back.
And our crazy gang of teenagers – Matt, Ty, Caitlin, Abby, both Hannahs, Melissa, and Victoria were great, full of energy, and willing to get really muddy with the kids and make them feel important.
It was really a special few days that I know the kids will be talking about until we go back next year. Of course, nothing will be talked about more by the boys than the large rattlesnake that Josh heroically killed in front of their bathroom. I’m not sure Josh’s heart rate has slowed down yet, but it was indeed the most awesome thing the boys experienced. I doubt we’ll top that.
Thanks to all who give and pray for us so that we can do things like this. It’s a celebration of a great year of ministry and tough work with our kids. Sure,it’s an exhausting few days filled with the occasional fight, tantrum, injury, whine, or bad attitude. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It may take me a month to recover, but like the kids, I can’t wait until we do it again next year.