Last week First Christian Church held its 19th Royal Family Kids Camp at Camp FarWesta in Stewartsville. 34 children who have experienced abuse and neglect from their families enjoyed a week where they could just be kids in a setting that was safe and where all attention was on them. Unlike other camps which have “camp counselors” who take care of many children, at RFKC “special friends” (for these kids the word “counselor” has a particular and possibly negative connotation) have only two children a piece in their care. At the end of the week, camp staff debriefed and told about their experiences with the children. Here are a few of them. (Names have been changed in order to protect the privacy of the children.)
A girl named “Jane1” told her special friend near the end of the week that she wished camp would last for two weeks. The special friend replied, “Oh, but we have to go back to our families.” Jane1 then said, “My family doesn’t want me to come back home.”
On the last night, a boy named “John1” blew bubbles with his special friend to whom he said, “I’m going to blow a bubble big enough to take you home to Kansas City with me.”
A girl named “Jane2” refused to talk all week long until the last two days. On the last night of the week, the children, who often do not get to celebrate their own birthdays, receive a box filled with presents. One of the presents was an MP3 player with the camp songs loaded on it. Jane2, whom had been almost silent all week, put on her earphones and walked around singing songs about God’s love at the top of her lungs.
“John2” had been difficult all week and often combative. Toward the end of the week, his special friend spoke sternly to him. John2 stopped and asked, “Are you going to hit me? That’s what my dad does when he’s mad at me.”
“Jane3” asked a special friend at bedtime one night if she was safe to fall sleep. The special friend assured her that she could fall asleep because she was safe here. Jane3 responded, “One night I thought I was safe. My mommy was there with me. But I wasn’t safe.”
“Jane4” cried at bedtime, so her special friend stroked her hair and sang to her. Jane4 said, “God put you here as my special friend, my guardian angel, because no one has ever been able to put me to sleep except you and my mom.”
“Jane5” opened up her birthday box on the last night of camp to find a box containing a necklace. Jane5 stared in wonder at it for a moment then quickly closed the box. She then found some Scotch tape and taped the box shut. A staff member said, “Oh Jane5, that necklace is yours. You can wear it. Nobody will take it away from you.” The small girl replied, “I want to give it to my mom.” The staff member answered, “Oh, O.K., but I’m sure your mother has lots of nice things, and this was a gift for you to enjoy.” Jane5 said, “We don’t have nice things in my family.”
- · Almost five children die every day as a result of child abuse. More than three out of four are under the age of 4.
- · Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
- · Over 60% of people in drug rehabilitation centers report being abused or neglected as a child.
- · About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children.
- · About 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
Please pray that the 34 children who attended RFKC this year.
Grace and Peace,