I cannot believe that only four weeks are left of summer camp! Week six has been really encouraging for me! Recently we realized that the kids' behavior has gotten out of hand. On Monday morning Andy had a talk with all the kids; he explained that we were going to enforce the rules a lot more than we have been. He stressed that we are looking for first time obedience instead of the children making up excuses for their actions or disobeying us. When the children do not obey us the first time, we are taking tallies from them. (We created a tally system to reinforce positive behavior, but when kids disobey us and are mean to other children they lose tallies.) On Monday after the talk, the kids did not change that much, but once they saw that we were actually going to do this, they started to obey us more. For every trip we take, each child must earn five more tallies than they had the previous week. A lot of kids were not allowed to go to the zoo this week because they did not have enough tallies. Usually we make sure that the kids catch up on their tallies so that they can go on the trip, but this week we left it up to the kids to earn tallies and many did not. By the end of the week, the kids started to obey us a lot more which is an answer to prayer.
This trip we took this week was to the zoo and the tickets were donated (another time that God has shown His provision this summer!) Only eight children had enough tallies to go on the trip, but those children who went had a blast! The kids were fascinated with all the animals, but were especially entertained with the monkeys. The monkeys were making lots of noise and our kids tried to imitate them for about ten minutes. Although I loved watching the kids enjoy all the animals, I cherished the time when I was sitting in a rocking chair by the playground. I sat there and watched the children interact with each other, I began to realize that the kids are learning to love each other. It was so encouraging to see them interact with one another on this playground and not say one mean thing to each other. We have been praying for this all summer, and it was such a delight for me to watch them! God gave me another glimpse of this later in the week when we were outside of the church after drama waiting for lunch. Two of our younger kids (who are very hyper) were separated from the group because they were being disobedient. I was sitting with them and a tickle war started. I stepped back for a moment and watched these two children tickle each other, rolling on the ground in laughter. And then the young girl piggybacked on the boy's back; he spun her around in circles as they both were smiling and laughing. This moment truly warmed my heart. I was able to watch two kids play lovingly with one another instead of them intentionally speaking spitefully to each other like usual. This may seem like such a small thing, but I know that God allowed me to step back and watch the kids in both of these circumstances and relish these moments because God is teaching them how to love!
In drama this week, the kids started blocking for their plays. For those of you who are not well versed with theatre terms, that means the kids learned where they need to sit/stand on stage for their performance. The children also practiced a few of their skits for the end of the summer performance. They were all assigned different roles, and I can tell they are thoroughly enjoying it! The kids were really getting into it. One of the older girls developed an attitude halfway through practice, but Miss Cortney brilliantly asked her to help direct the play. This gave Brie a chance to take ownership of this skit by using her ideas to better the scene. I cannot wait to see the final performance!
Our mentor groups have been awesome! It has been a great time to talk to the kids about real issues that need to be addressed and discussed. This week, the girls talked about beauty. We let the girls thumb through some magazines and pick out some pictures of the women they thought were beautiful. Then we showed them a youtube clip of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. It is a short video clip that shows an average girl being transformed into a model on a billboard through makeup, hairstyling, and photoshop. When I started the clip, one of the girls said "Eww, she is ugly!" But by the end of the clip, all the girls were staring at the computer screen dumbfounded that the girl from the beginning was the same girl on the billboard. We were able to tell our girls that supermodel beauty is what our culture strives for, but in reality these "supermodels" are average girls that have undergone extreme transformation through photo-editing. We explained to our girls that each of them are fearfully and wonderfully made; that God made them the way they are and he loves the way they look! But God is far more concerned with a woman's heart than her appearance. We talked with the girls about what God thinks is a beautiful heart- one being transformed by the Holy Spirit producing fruit. This kind of heart comes from having a personal relationship with Jesus. There are so many girls struggle with not feeling beautiful, so it was so great to be able to tell the girls that God thinks they are beautiful. And He wants to transform their hearts into ones that are full of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The boys have also been having some great conversations about the Lord, having a relationship with Him, and what it means to be a Godly man.
For devotions this week we told the story of Jesus feeding the 5000, Jesus healing the blind man and the paralytic, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The kids were amazed with the miracles Jesus preformed through God's power. Each devotion time, we always point back to the gospel. Please continue to pray that the children will develop a curiosity for the Lord, that they will desire to have a relationship with God! Pray for understanding, that the children will grasp the fact that we are sinners, we have been separated from God, but Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. If we choose to believe this we can be forgiven of our sins and Christ's righteousness is placed on us. This means that when God looks at us he sees us without blemish because He sees Christ. And please continue to pray that God will use our mentor groups to speak to the kids and transform their lives.