"Powered Up!" is the summer theme at Fort Lone Tree this year, and I have never seen our group of eleven inner-city El Paso 11-13 year olds so powered up as much as I did in accompanying them this past week at camp.
Five days of jumping through puddles, racing down the waterslide, hanging by ropes, hiding in bushes, riding horses, listening to honest stories, singing worship songs, and throwing dodgeballs revealed just how empowered pre-teens can be, especially those that are often labeled the "bad kids," "troubled," or "at-risk."
One of our kids refused to do the zipline...and the high ropes course...and the giant swing. He refused to try out the rather tall waterslide the first time our group was assigned it. But when he came to the bottom of the slide after he finally decided to give it a try the second time we were assigned the slide, he was all smiles and ran back to the top. Conquered his fears and had fun. He was sure about trying rappelling and horse-back riding...until he stood next to his assigned horse. He got up onto the saddle, and the first thing out of his mouth was, "Miss, I want to get down." I, being somewhat pushy and stubborn, refused to help him down. He eyed the ground and his stirrup, looking for the best way to get himself down, but let the height of the animal decided for him that the trip down was scarier than where he found himself up top. I saw the riders off, following on foot with our cameras, and then rejoined them after their 20-minute trail ride, only to see him with a smile. And when asked if it was fun, getting an energetic head nod.
One night at dinner some of the camp leaders announced that they would be having a sign up for campers to sign up to get involved in that nights mud rodeo, either in teams of five or individually. One of our girls came up to me and said, "I want to do the rodeo." So I asked her if the other four girls would like to sign up with her, but she was quick to respond that she already asked them and none of them wanted to. "I still want to sign up." It might not seem like a big deal, but with the girls' very self-conscious and need-to-be-with-my-friends-all-the-time attitudes, I was super proud of one of them standing up and signing up for the mud obstacle course all by herself. And not to mention, she dominated the course and wasn't scared to get rather muddy. And the other four girls had a great time cheering her on. :)
These are just two examples of the many many times I witnessed our kids stepping up the plate, trying something new, risking looking foolish, and having fun in the meantime.
I am constantly amazed at how the simplicity and silliness of a summer camp can bring kids to their knees or encourage them to climb to the top of the platform. It was so great to be able to accompany these great kids as their confidence was boosted, their courage was discovered, and their lives were given a break from their normal routines.
Thanks be to God.