About 250 kids attended (middle school through high school) and there were 3 cabins of Junior girls, which are the ladies I get to spend Wednesday nights with at youth group. 5 kids even came up from my home church in Merlin, OR. (Just another way in which God affirmed our Spring Break mission trip relocation to southern Oregon.) Two of the Merlin girls got to be in my cabin, one of whom hosted two of our students during our home stay down south.
I knew about a particular strained relationship between 3 of my girls, and had a tearful conversation with one of them about how it was time to make things right. With "I'm sorry's" exchanged, God answered our prayer with a worship night that turned into a night of reconciliation for not only those 3, but for another girl as well, who described her moment of forgiveness as a burden lifted. A smile lit up her face as she struggled to find words to describe her moment of peace and joy. A smile that represented deep healing from bitterness, hurt and anger.
One of the girls from Merlin was particularly difficult to connect with in my cabin - she pretended to be asleep during our cabin discussions and didn't open up at all. Finally, during our one on one, we had a breakthrough. She related a lot to our camp speaker's story (Mike Miller). As one of 18 kids from a mom who has been with a multitude of different men, she called herself a bastard child - born out of wedlock into a dysfunctional home. She'd been recently kicked out and was living with her ex-boyfriend/almost fiance (which meant sharing a bed) because she had nowhere else to go. Grasping for words of comfort and failing miserably, all I could do was agree with how sucky things were for her at "home" and encouraged her to share her story with Mike. Hesitantly, she agreed.
That night, after the message, I introduced her to Mike. She didn't feel like sharing, so, with her permission, I gave him a snapshot of her background. I told him how our mission trip was re-directed to Grants Pass, how we had stayed with her friend who was also in my cabin, made connections with her youth pastor, and how awesome it was that she ended up in my cabin after all of that. I'm still playing the conversation out in my mind.
Mike looked at her and said:
"Do you know why God would change a mission trip for 30 people so you could be here at camp this week?"
"Why?" she asked
"Because you're worth it."
She rolled her eyes and sighed.
Mike asked her to look at him, and repeated "You're worth it..
"Oh honey, you've never heard that before, have you?"
She began to sob, and he said " Listen, if an old, fat guy can tell you that he loves you after he just met you, how much more does your Heavenly Father love you because he sent his son to die for you?!"
Shaking with tears, we embraced. He challenged her to look forward and to choose who she wants to be. Her past doesn't define her- she has decisions to make about who she wants to become.
We walked back into the chapel and continued our worship set, and I was broken inside. I fell into Paul's arms after the service and sobbed about her bleak situation. Thinking about how impossible it seemed to "just look forward" when all she had ahead of her was yucky.
After spending a year-ish of job-searching and feeling restless in my current situation, God even moved in me. He sprinkled water on my dry heart, bringing life to a place I felt was barren. Missing friends, longing for a career job, desiring to know people outside of church, etc. And here, among a group of young ladies 10 years younger than I, I found such peace in my current situation and felt God affirm: "I have you here for this." Sure enough, that same night, 2 other young ladies sought me out to talk.
When the Merlin crowd returned home and attended the church service the next day, the one whom had the "breakthrough" introduced herself to my parents, saying how much she enjoyed being in my cabin. My mom, knowing nothing about her story yet, said "welcome to the family!" and gave her a hug. Only later, when I told her what happened at camp, did we recognize the power of her words. Not to mention, this young lady spent the next week helping my dad with games at VBS.
Because she's worth it.
Photos from camp:
My team: "Calvary Crusaders"
My childhood best friend, Hallie, got to be our camp nurse!
The infamous game of "antiquing" - with cans of shaving cream and bags full of flour. The point?
Get as messy as possible!
Belly-flop competitions, etc.
Baptisms in the lake after "antiquing"
...and then a weekend away to recover from it all. A free trip to Ilwaco/Long Beach at a bed and breakfast, and a moped ride around town.
Haystack rock in the distance - the view from Crescent Beach