Monday, June 23, 2008

Why We Have Royal Family Kids Camp (Dialogue Column 6.24.08)

The Dialogue is the newsletter of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in St. Joseph, MO. Often, I'll post here on the blog my columns for the weekly newsletter. I mention it just so that folks who read the snail-mail version can skip this post if they've already read it.

For sixteen years, First Christian Church has held a Royal Family Kids Camp for children in northwest Missouri. This residential camp for abused and neglected children seeks to share God’s love with these kids. Our camp is one of 165 RFKC camps across the United States and other countries. Here at First Christian, we have become familiar with this camp—so familiar, that we may at times forget the stakes involved in this ministry offered by our church. Here are a few reminders (click here for the sources of the statistics I cite):

  • An estimated 906,000 children are victims of abuse & neglect every year. The rate of victimization is 12.3 children per 1,000 children. That means among the approximately 24,000 children in Buchanan County, 295 children are abused.

  • 1500 children die every year from child abuse and neglect. That is just over 4 fatalities every day. 79% of these children are under the age of 4.

  • 80% of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least 1 psychiatric disorder at the age of 21.

  • Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy.

  • Children who experience child abuse & neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime.

  • 14.4% of all men in prison in the United States were abused as children and 36.7% of all women in prison were abused as children

  • Children who have been sexually abused are 2.5 times more likely develop alcohol abuse.

  • Children who have been sexually abused are 3.8 times more likely develop drug addictions.

  • Nearly 2/3’s of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused as children.

These statistics are staggering. On Monday morning, the 26 children going to our RFKC camp gathered in our fellowship hall. For the most part, they acted like any other children—nervous about the camp, rambunctious and impatient for things to begin, eager for attention and full of life and potential. There is a disconnect in my mind between the beautiful children going to our camp and the terrible circumstances that resulted in them needing to be a part of it. I don’t really have an adequate way to articulate my experience of these children in light of the overwhelming statistics of child abuse in this country. Also, I don’t really have adequate theological language to explain how human beings can do such horrible things to children or to explain why God would allow such acts to occur. Words like “sin” and “the problem of evil” are unable to speak to the reality of child abuse.

What keeps me going in light of my confusion and offers me hope in light of the grim reality of abuse is what our church is doing to make a difference in the lives of children year after year. The knowledge that people care to do this year after year, not only at our church but at camps like it across the country, along with the many other agencies and ministries that also seek to heal lives broken by abuse, helps me to continue to hope and believe even in the face of evil I cannot understand. I hope the same hope and light is evident to you. As a church, we can feel proud of what we are doing to help these children avoid the statistics listed above, even as we grieve about the greater problems facing children in our culture.

Grace and Peace,


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