One of the concerns I had going into all this was "Am I going to get bored doing the same field games and working on the same rock wall every weeks? Am I going to turn into a robot when I ask these kids questions about themselves and their lives?"
Short answer: not even a little bit. Because every group is different, and every kid has a different story to tell.
As I sit here sipping my morning coffee and soaking in the mountains (praise that the smoke levels have dropped a lot!) I'm going back and forth on what stories to share, because I can't share all of them. It would be the length of a novella.
Do I share my own bits of growth and learning?
Or the moments I have with my roommates and getting to counsel them?
Or the one on ones with the high-schoolers?
Or what about the late nights with my girls during Kids Camp?
What helps me decide is to remember that some of my readers are financially supporting me right now. Without them giving of their earthly possessions; it'd be a lot harder to be doing what I'm doing right now. A quick thank you to everyone who is supporting me in whatever way you are. I definitely could not be doing this without the love, support, prayers, and encouragement from home. :)
I'll start with the middle-schoolers.
I'm not going to lie and say I didn't have moments of telling myself to breathe and calm down. I never knew that middleschool boys could anger me quite so much. It wasn't just their lack of teamwork, refusal to work together, and insistence on constantly putting eachother down...it was mostly their complete lack of even trying to be men. They barely acknowledged the weakest in their numbers, and if they did, it was only long enough to make fun of him. It made me equally sad and angry. Nothing I could say would get through to them, and I was so caught off guard by it that I didn't even have much to say but glares. It was a sad reminderthat some boys grow up to be in the body of a man, but never truly become one. Which ended up being a timely lesson to carry with me to Kids Camp in talk after talk with my ten year old girls about boys.
The middleschool girls were definitely a different story. I expected there to be cliques and exclusion, and have to pay special attention to making sure they got along. But, surprisingly, the girls listened to each other really well and had a lot of fun together. They even listened to me and I wasn't their youth group leader! I got to have a long conversation with two of them about their inherent, God-given value. That nothing, and no one, in life can ever take that from them. People will try, and life will try, but they will always be invaluably precious in God's eyes. Both of them were dealing with the drama of cliques and the social ladder and school, and one even had a girl completely diss her via Instagram and practically disown their entire friendship which had lasted their entire lives. I told her not to take it personal. Girls do nasty and cruel things to each other because we don't fully understand our value in Christ. We like to tear other girls down to make ourselves feel better. No matter how hard life gets, or how mean people become, don't let yourself fall to their level because that's exactly what they and satan want you to do. They see your joy, they see that Jesus lives in you and they want that SO BAD but they're too proud to ask; so the pick, bully, and tear at you in hopes of getting you to turn away from God's Love.
Looking back on this conversation now, I'm a little shocked at just how many times I repeated it (in so many words) to different girls of different ages over the past couple of weeks. I absolutely LOVED sharing this with girls. My worth and value in Christ hasn't really been apparent to me until about this last year or so. I've been so blessed with older women pouring these words of life into me, and now I finally get to pour them into someone else.
In the back to back high school camps I was thoroughly shocked, and heartbroken, to heart story after story of young men and women dealing with self-harm and suicide. Story after story of heartbreak and endless bullying that pushed them to the thoughts of "No one wants me. I'm a burden." I walked away from both of those camps with a still remaining burden for these young people. We've all seen the statistics and the numbers revolving around teen suicide. But to meet the"numbers" up close and personal was something else entirely. As they told me these things I found my own mind and tongue completely speechless. But then the Holy Spirit always came and gave me the exact words they needed to hear.
I don't think I can properly put into words just how much these experiences have shaken and impacted me, or how much I love them. I crave these kinds of heart ot heart talks with people, especially other girls and women who are struggling through some of the same things I've struggled through. Almost every single day a door opens for me, if my heart is willing to go through it.
So I'll finish this with a prayer request.
My body is tired. I've been sick for almost three days now.
My heart is tired too. After the second high school camp I didn't even want to talk to the new group of high-schoolers because I felt so overwhelmed with burden and emotion.
And now, after Kids Camp, I barely want to talk to my fellow staff. I kind of just want to hide in my room with a book for a month and not look at ANYBODY.