I was an extremely selfish person.
I liked to sleep, I liked to be lazy, and I only cared about myself. I would like to say that this changed when I became a mom, but I can’t. It changed over two years before Aiden was even conceived.
My whole worldview was shattered in 2007.
I almost didn’t even go. I was sixteen, the person I looked up to most at the time had died a month before, and I honestly didn’t care about anything other than myself, and my “boyfriend” at the time. I was angry at God, and completely closed off to any sort of message He may have been trying to send me.
Rewind a few months. The director of the camp I worked at the previous summer put this trip on the table. It was a place called Camp Barnabas. It had been on an episode of Extreme Makeover a few years before, our director was friends with that director, and she wanted to know if we wanted to volunteer for a week.
I said yes, mostly because my friends were going. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My youth pastor, Art, came home from Afghanistan for a few weeks and I told him about the trip. He was SO excited about it. His advice to me was, “Switchfoot said it best: Maybe we’ve been living with our eyes half open, maybe we’re bent and broken. I dare you to move. Yes, I know it’s two different songs, but you get the point.”
I started to get excited!
Camp Barnabas is a summer camp for kids and adults with special needs. These range from autism and hearing-impaired, to physically and mentally disabled, and wheelchair bound. Campers get to swim, canoe, ride horses, zipline, and any other activities you would imagine a normal summer camp to consist of. We were going to volunteer during a week with physically-disabled campers.
A little over a month before we left, Art was killed in Afghanistan. Read about it here.
angry..no, livid with God. And it showed. I didn’t even want to go on the stupid trip anymore.
But I did. 24+ hours in a van with way too many people, an overnight in Nashville, and a lot of carsickness later and we were in Purdy, Missouri.
We went through hours and hours of training and classes to “prepare” us to be the 24/7 caregivers for these campers. The night before they arrived we sat down and chose our campers, and prayed with each other for strength and guidance. It was overwhelming, and I remember being so anxious about the campers arriving.
The way Camp Barnabas does the camper arrivals is amazing. The cars line up, and one-by-one campers get out, have their names called out over the loudspeaker, and the counselor assigned to them comes to greet them while the remaining hundreds of counselors and staff members scream and cheer in the background.
My camper’s name was Jackie. She was a 52-year-old woman who was legally blind, wheelchair bound, and full of opinions. Over the next few days, she wore me out. The first couple of days were rough. I was still learning her routine, and getting accustomed to putting someone else’s needs ahead of my own. (That’s no easy feat when you’re sixteen and selfish). She was completely dependent on me, and that alone was overwhelming. Overwhelming and humbling.
“…but all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for God has opposed the proud, but takes delight in the humbled.” -1 Peter 5:5
And He did. I was so humbled by this experience, and God used it to show me that although I was so angry with Him, he was still there. I have a hard time putting the experience from that week into words. Jackie got to go canoeing with me and swimming with me. She got to dance with me and even go down a waterslide. Jackie couldn’t even use the bathroom or see where her food was without my help. These are things that we often take for granted as completely healthy human beings.
I did return to Camp Barnabas for two more weeks before becoming Aiden’s mommy, but those stories are for another day 🙂