Summer after summer after summer of Eagles’ Wings. literally dozens of kids have touched my heart. Relationships formed, lights turned on, behaviors changed… yet this summer one very special young lady stands in the forefront of my mind. For once, I can see how even a “small breakthrough” could change her life.
When “Alice” arrived at camp, we knew she’d had a bad experience with the police. None of us knew the story, only she had the idea authorities were out to hurt her. Within an hour of arrival, she decided not to participate in the game the rest of the campers and staff were enjoying. She sat, defiant, in the chapel until I called her out to the porch with me. We spent the next hour there. She turned her face, hid it in her hands, and refused to answer my repeated attempts at conversation. A passing staffer finally coaxed a response, but it was terse and the open window quickly closed. Hunger broke the spell and “Alice” went with the flow until we started our evening games. The minute I gave directions, she stepped out. I gently put my hand on her shoulder and was startled by the angry defensive reaction. Although she did participate in a couple of games, she refused to enjoy any.
This attitude continued through Tuesday and Wednesday morning. She told even her young and fun staffers she hated camp, she wanted to go home, and she thought they were stupid – but we caught a few smiles here and there and even one or two pleasant conversations. Still, on Tuesday evening she refused to participate for almost two hours, sitting on the porch with me and hiding her face the entire time. The most words I could elicit were, “Why do you talk so much?” along with a few tears. I was thankful for the change of activities. When I offered that she could go to bed without showering, she quickly decided she wanted to shower.
By Wednesday midday, we could see the walls coming down. Smiles were more frequent, words less hateful. Still, my very presence shut her down quickly. Somehow I represented the thing she hated most – authority. Thursday was less stressful for all of us. Thursday night, we saw the glimmer. We were on the porch, all the campers and just a few staff. “Alice” walked toward me with “the look.” The look that said she was NOT going to cooperate. The look that said she had an agenda. Yet she came to me. She stopped in front of me, and I asked, “What do you need?” I got no response. “Can I help you? Can you tell me what you need?” Did I glimpse tears? I reached out and pulled her to me. She leaned on me as I hugged her and she began to cry. We walked together behind the group and she told me she hadn’t talked to her mom that day and she was homesick.
This very child who resisted love, who put up walls, who hated those above her had reached out. Touched by the consistency of her young staffers in light of her hateful attitude, she’d realized we were not “out to get her.” The child who had seen authority figures as bringing her harm could now see that they could bring her good. It’s a Romans 13 principle. It’s part of living in a world in relationship with God—realizing that He puts people in places of authority. It’s something that will keep her in line with school expectations, with the law, but more important, it’s something that will affect her view of God – for the same God who makes the rules and doesn’t let us wander without consequence is the God who wraps us in His arms when we cry out for mercy. My prayer is that “Alice” will cry to Him like she finally did with me.