The rain stops and the sun starts to peek through the clouds, my heart fills with joy because I know in just a few hours, some of the people I love most in this world, my “babies” are going to experience something amazing, that they are going to be removed from their “concrete jungle” and put in the middle of what to them will seem like nowhere for two days. My brain is overwhelmed with the thought of packing for 14 kids to go camping, I am filled with anxiety because I wonder how they are going to react, how are they going to be in an unfamiliar place. Then it happens, they begin to wander up the street with their bags packed (some of them don’t comprehend we’re going to the woods, not the Hilton and have packed enough clothes for a week, and clothes that are not hiking friendly), but they are coming all 14 of them, everyone of them showed up. I know from this moment on the weekend is going to be an adventure. I know that all of us are going to be stretched far beyond what we can imagine, I know that each of us are going to learn this weekend, we’re going to grow and we are going to be come back different.
As we travel through the city, and hop on Rt. 70 headed for what my kids will probably call the country, I smile because I know that in the van behind us, there are kids getting excited about the trees, about the cows on the side of the road and I hear from my own back seat, “What them is? Sheep,” as we pass by fields and fields of cows. “Who lives out here, this the middle of nowhere.” My heart continues to fill with excitement because she has NO IDEA what we are about to embark on. We pull into the gravel driveway, and see the tents waiting to be put up, we see picnic tables, camping chairs and a fire pit, I hear, “This is it, wow! Can we go fishing? Where we sleepin? I have to put this thing up? Where can I pee…” it goes on and on and I stand back take a deep breath and take it all in, because these are moments I live for, moments I get excited (and anxious for) these are moments that I wish the entire world could experience with me, these are moments when I realize just how innocent my “hard hearted” kids are. And if I write this blog entry for no other reason than I need a reminder sometimes that my hard-hearted kids are just that kids.
The next morning I smile because I am reminded of just that, that my “hard” kids from the hood are kids as I sit around the fire and I see Mickey Mouse blankets emerge with teenage boys from tents, as I hear a teen girl talk about her diary, and I see Iron man pj’s running around a fire, as I see boys hiding toads and jumping and giggling like girls as the toad jumps towards them. Then devotion time came, and Pastor Tally sat down and asked the kids what they believed others believe about them, and I had to blink back the tears as I heard, “We’re low life’s… Thugs… No Good….dirty… bad,” the rest of the world doesn’t see what I see, the rest of the world doesn’t see the Mickey Mouse blankets, the rest of the world doesn’t see a teenage boy sleeping with his Tasmanian Devil stuffed animal or a teenage girl writing in her diary, the rest of the world doesn’t see “little” boys trapped in hard bodies squealing at toads. What the rest of the world sees is 14 black kids getting off a van and thinking, “Oh no…” the rest of the world isn’t seeing the opportunities I see.
As the weekend went on I had to be the “bad guy” at some points, but at other points I got to laugh and play with toads, and take in watching my kids experience things for the first time, building a fire, making S’mores, hiking, putting up a tent. I got to disconnect from the “concrete jungle” myself, I got to get excited about what’s to come, I got to lay in my tent at night and dream about what ministry is beginning to look like, I got to silent pray for each sweet head that was in the tents surrounding me and more than that I got to watch the kids become a team, hold each other accountable, lead each other, serve each other and love each other. I got to watch some of the boys who just months ago someone might have looked at them and saw no hope, step up and become leaders. I was reminded that there is NOTHING different about my kids if you pull them out of their environment, they are kids.
As Pastor shared the scripture, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[a] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse,” (Romans 1:20, ESV), I was reminded that God is the center of everything and that each of us are created so that God can be seen and recognized, and my kids are such examples of Christ to me, to those around them and they don’t even realize it.
I am reminded daily through interactions with my kids that need to be believed in, they need to see the opportunities before them they need to see hope, and I pray daily that I can walk along side them seeking the opportunities and presenting them, I can help them to peel away the darkness and see the hope, that I can help them to reach new heights in their lives, that they know that someone believes in them. Would you pray with me that over the next few weeks, months and years as we walk along side our kids that these things would be revealed, would you pray about how you can be a part of that adventure (I promise there will be a blog coming soon with some exciting news and opportunities!), would you pray for the people who are already a part of the adventure?