Last week I went to camp with 110 3rd-5th graders from church. From the minute we got to camp I could see God's provision and grace in how He provided 11 amazing counselors...including one the day before we left. I did my best to prepare the counselors for what to expect that week, but of course words can't even to begin to describe the wave of emotions that go through you moment by moment. I mostly just wanted them to know that I was there for them, to help in whatever capacity they needed. At that point, little did I know how much those words would mean.
The kids arrived...excited, scared, sad to leave moms, nervous, noisy, shy, anxious...many of the counselors were feeling the same way! Sunday night was fun, but tiring. The kids were too excited to sleep, many of them bragged the next day that they didn't fall asleep until 3:00am or 5:00am, which is funny because they had absolutely no way of telling what time it was!
I spent most of Monday with one of my counselors who had signed up at the last minute. I really felt like I was feeding him to the wolves, as he had just returned from camp himself, hadn't gone through any of the camp trainings, and was closer in age to the kids than to me. He was amazing though, and it was clear from the beginning that he was connecting and had a strong bond with his 10 boys. He and I also connected that week...in ways people should never connect...over cleaning up barf!
Anyway, I checked in periodically with the other 10 counselors, who were doing a great job. I'd help walk kids to the nurse so she could bandage scrapes and bruises, made sure kids were drinking water, ask the counselors if they needed breaks, etc. Everything was going so well.
When I woke up Tuesday morning, I was anticipating BIG THINGS from God. That night the salvation message was going to be taught by Festus, the camp director. I love hearing him teach kids about Jesus. He is so intentional and brings it right down to the kids level. After the morning meeting, I gathered my counselors together to pray, specifically for those we knew weren't believers. I couldn't wait to hear their stories that night of how God had transformed kids hearts and minds.
|me, Cinnamon, & Ariel|
The day was great...kids were having fun, relationships were continuing to develop, counselors had great attitudes...what more could I ask for?!?
That night, as we walked into the barn for the salvation message, I could just feel that some things were off. The girls were great, but there were just a few small things going on with the boys that were causing a lot of distraction. I stood in the back, not listening to anything being said, just praying, watching, tapping shoulders to quietly hush, and watching 3 boys in particular.
One couldn't stop chatting with the kids around him, one kept laying down on the floor, and one was crying, sitting close to the back door in case he needed to leave and be sick. At the end of the barn meeting, the crying one was now almost in hysterics and it took several people to try to help calm him down. 3 of us walked with him back to his dwelling, a covered wagon, but we never got there. We realized he had had an accident and that's why he was so upset. His counselor got clean clothes and shower supplies for him to get clean and hopefully calm down. We never got that far....because...that's when it all started....barfing....everything came out all over the place...and it didn't stop...at least 5 times. Poor kid, all he wanted was his mom, and that's all I wanted at that point, too.
We FINALLY got him cleaned up and into bed, but it was a struggle...it lasted a couple hours...finally promising him to call home in the morning. We thought we were in the clear. Mufasa (the counselor) and I went to meet up with the other counselors and hear all the stories of kids giving their lives to Jesus, It was exciting to hear that 25 kids asked Jesus to be their Savior, but I was so tired, I told them to give me all the details the next day (now looking back, I should've just made them tell me right then).
Jane (my boss) brought walkie-talkies out for all the counselors that night. I'm so glad she did for many reasons...one being that it offered comedic relief to what was turning into a difficult week. Give 5 boys walkie-talkies and suddenly they think we all need to know all the details going on with them, and it's always followed with "10-4" or "do you copy?". The other reason I'm glad she brought them was because then everyone was able to get a hold of me and let me know exactly who was barfing...not even joking...that was the night it all began.
After we all said goodnight, I walked back with Mufasa to his wagon to check on our little barfer and discovered he hadn't stopped. BUT, he also never woke up...I'll let your imagination take it from there!! We cleaned it up the best we could...
|Shaggy & Marky-Mark summarizing the week|
The next morning, I started hearing rumors of all the barfing that had been happening through the night. I went to the nurses office and it was all confirmed...so many sick kids hanging out in her office.
We went about our day doing more fun activities...all the time in the back of my mind I was hoping all the sickness was over with. We zip lined, went to the petting zoo, sang fun camp songs, swam, did archery...and I continued to trek back and forth to the nurses office. By the end of Wednesday, we had sent 9 kids home. I was really sad about it, but it seemed like we were on the mend. Wednesday night a couple more kids got sick and went home...then...finally, some relief.
Thursday was a great day...our last full day of camp. I was exhausted...I hadn't slept for more than 4 hours each night and I felt like every emotion had been drained from my body. But I was still having fun...the one thing that was bothering me was this tight, queasy feeling I had right in the middle of my stomach. "OK God...I can get sick on Friday when I get home...but I HAVE to be here for these kids and my counselors," I kept praying.
I stayed up late that night with Jasmine...she was the other mom counselor...my partner, a big reason I was able to get through the week, she made me laugh at all the right times. We stayed up late laughing and talking, and I'm so glad we did because we were already awake and ready for the excitement of that night.
By the end of camp on Friday at 1:00pm, 29 kids and 2 counselors went home with the flu. At that point, I let the tears flow...from behind a tree of course. I seriously felt like a mom to all those kids, so it was heartbreaking to see them leave.
|8 of the 11 AMAZING Counselors!!|
I couldn't have asked for 11 more amazing people to go on this camp journey with...Jasmine, Cinnamon, Butterfly, Ariel, Fancy Nancy, Lavender, Mufasa, Marky-Mark, Baggins, Ski, and Shaggy...the Dream Team...and professional Barf Analysts...I love you all and am SO thankful the Lord brought you to my life.
I'm also so thankful for the 25 salvations we had at camp...God is SO good, even in the midst of gross trials...He remains so faithful.
Although it sounds like a bad week, it wasn't. It was amazing....I grew so much, I was challenged beyond what I thought I could handle emotionally and physically...I am so thankful God took me through that journey...and I can't wait for IHC 2013!!