Halfway done with summer camp already! Earlier this week, all the interns met with Mr. Sanders and we reflected on the summer so far. We asked ourselves what do we like about summer camp so far and what needs to change for the next half of summer? We all agreed that we want to have more intentional time with the kids during the second half of the summer. Even though we have devotions every morning, we realized that majority of our time is spent playing games with the kids and honestly a lot of behavior control. It is basically impossible right now for us to have good conversations with one or a few children during camp hours because of behavior problems. The main reason we developed this summer program was to share Christ with these children and invest in their lives; we want to make sure that we are actually doing this. We decided to split the kids up into groups of two or three and have a couple of hours each week with a mentor. We had our first mentor time on Friday morning. The boys left camp with their mentors (some went downtown to falls park, some ate some tasty treats, and others went to a conference room.) The girls stayed back at the mission house. We tried to keep all the girls together on Friday because there are only six girls, but there is such a large age/maturity difference between the girls that we will be splitting them up in the future. The girls talked about God's love and that his greatest display of love was Jesus taking our punishment for sin. Mrs. Sanders read the girls some scenarios from Sticky Situations, which is a devotional for middle school age kids with real life situations to start discussions about how to handle the situation. We are hoping that the mentor time will not only teach the kids more about Christ, but it will be very personal with the kids sharing about their lives, and address situations that are personal to them. I heard that the boys groups were really good too! Mr. Sanders and his son took their groups to a conference room. The kids came up with a group name and are going to design t-shirts for their mentor group too. At this point, the kids were very excited about the mentor group and Mr. Sanders discussed behavior with his group. Later one of the kids came up to a volunteer and apologized to him for saying something mean to him earlier that day. This is extremely rare because the children never admit they have done anything wrong, and they will usually never apologize to someone unless they have to. But this boy did and I know that it was because of the mentor time earlier that day! Andy was able to talk to some of the young teenagers about some of the things they deal with, such as sex and drugs. Not only has this time opened our eyes to more things that the children go through, it is deepening our relationships with the kids, and we are discussing everyday things in their lives that no one has ever talk to them about. So please pray for our mentor groups that God will lead the mentors to what they should talk about, that the kids will open up during this time and share from personal experiences, and that God will bring change through these mentor groups.
We finished our devotions about Joseph this week. It was neat to hear some of the girls tell Mrs. Sanders all the things they had learned about Joseph. It was encouraging to see that the kids are actually listening and retaining information from our devotion times. It is also good to be reminded that God's word will not return void and to trust that He will use the bible stories in the children's lives. I was super excited for the children to discover that God allows us to go through trials and hard times for a purpose. My favorite verse from the Joseph story is Genesis 50:20 when Joseph is speaking to his brothers after they sold him into slavery. Joseph had been gone for over 13 years and he told his brothers "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." It is so encouraging for me to be reminded that God uses everything for His glory and for our good. Some of these children have never heard this, we were able to talk about how God can use extremely hard situations (like family members in jail or abuse) for our good and God's glory!
At drama the kids have wrote their own scenes for the play and poems that will be presented at the end of the summer play. The kids had a read-through of the scripts that they wrote, and revised them. Starting next week they will begin to memorize and practice their skits. I am so excited for the parents and families to see the children perform and to hear the kids speak out about circumstances in their lives.
On Friday we took the kids to the Otter Creek waterpark in Greenville for our field trip. A lot of the kids had never been to a waterpark before; they were so excited! We all had a great time with the kids! It is really nice to be able to get away from normal camp activities and take a trip with the kids. I was able to go down a waterslide and swim with a few children that I normally have to discipline a lot; it was so refreshing to have fun with those kids and it was definitely a bonding experience! After I took the kids back home, I realized that one of the girls had left her medicine in my car. I went back to her house to give it to her and her grandpa was sitting out on the front porch. He pulled me aside and said "I have been living in this neighborhood for years and it is so amazing to see what ya'll are doing. You are taking so many kids off of the street this summer and really making a difference in their lives. Thank you, and please let me know what I can do to help." The Lord used that to encourage me so much! I think that is the first time a parent/relative had thanked me for what we are doing this summer. And we are not doing this for people to thank us, but it was definitely encouraging. I was able to tell him that the reason we are here is to simply build relationships with the children and share Jesus' love with them.
God is doing some truly amazing things this summer in the lives of the children and the community! We still have had a group every week doing work projects in the community to help out neighbors and share God's love. Please pray that God will continue to work in the hearts of the children (giving them a desire for Him and an understanding of the gospel) and that God will transform all the people in this community- maybe from the families seeing a transformation in the youth! Thanks for your prayers and support and please let us know if you are interested in volunteering with camp one day!