Sunshine Camp: Part 1

How do I find words to write what’s inside of me?

There’s a bittersweet feeling in being able to sit down and look through pictures from last week … all the while trying to process 1 million little moments, words, and looks passed between this one and that one {and myself} at Sunshine Camp. Mix that with the overwhelming reality of all that I’ve left behind here at the homestead, undone … and the fact that I’m exhausted, worn out,  sick, and struggling to push myself back into the daily routine of life as I know it. Praise God for my amazing family!! 🙂 ❤

It was a pat on the back, a smile, a tight hug, tears streaming down a little boy’s face, happy squeals, laughter, sickness, sadness, crazy emotions, exhaustion, games, past midnight conversations, star-watching, walks down the long lane after dark, swinging beneath the trees, walking the trail through the woods, memorizing Scripture verses, watching skits, singing songs together … getting on hands and knees in the sandbox one evening to build a castle with a tunnel – for a crowd of little boys {and one in particular} …

Sunshine camp was special – it was a camp for children from underprivileged homes. These were little boys and girls who needed a hug {but perhaps did not know how to receive one}, longed for a word of praise or encouragement, and were starving for someone who would not only be their friend, but look into their heart and love them for who they were – and are. They wanted to be special, loved, cherished, delighted in, and cared for.

This was the focus of the camp. Volunteers {including myself and 3 of my siblings … a 5th family member was not able to make it due to last minute sickness} came from all over {including FL, SC, NC and KS …} to spend a week pouring into one little boy or one little girl. This was the focus of our time at Sunshine Camp. I literally spent 7 days just having a blast with my 12-year old girl.

What did we accomplish? Horse-back riding, football, volleyball, water activities, swimming, soap-making, baking, cooking, para-cord bracelet-making, barn chores, weeding the garden, a fun pony express relay on the last full day, skits and songs and stories … swinging on swings and memorizing Bible verses together…

Just loving. Serving. Smiling, Speaking words of truth and encouragement. Giving out hugs. Talking. Listening. Being a friend. Investing in these precious kids in a way that hopefully they will remember for a very long time; that one day they might look back on these weeks at camp and remember that there are people who love them – and that Jesus will always be their true friend.

The car trip up … with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies!

Beautiful farmland in Kentucky. Almost there!!

Clayton … the 2nd youngest in the family {our friends at YR Ranch}. This little guy was a joy to be around all week! He gives amazing hugs, readily trades his hat for sunglasses … and if you don’t watch out he may just tickle you at the most random, unexpected times. 😉

Some of the leaders, watching their girls swim {girls’ pool hour} …

Girls and guys each got 2 optional swimming hours each day. Let’s just say that keeping cool in the 90+ degree weather was a top priority. The pool was a pretty popular place to be. And why not, when you’re spending 7 days outside? 🙂

Archery … one of many exciting activities to choose from…  

Signing the cross 

The big tent where we all gathered for meals, evening sessions, and sometimes a group game.

Clayton … just out of the pool, and being his usual funny {adorable} self. 😉

Signing each other’s T-shirts. Um yes … and those would be my sunglasses that Clayton is borrowing.

Amanda {with the camera} was our amazing photographer and videographer!

One of the staff meetings during a dinner hour {this was a time when we could step away from the kids for a short time and prepare a skit for the evening session, while volunteers stayed down at the tent with them}.

An evening skit … based on the story of Joseph from Scripture. {We had to play creatively, because sometimes a simple thing like tears, a hurt animal or person, or any form of pain being inflicted would trigger a reaction from one of the kids.}

Campers got talent … a fun talent show the last evening of camp. Here the S siblings lip-sync a fun song. Talk about getting the kids to laugh! 🙂

Birthday carnival! Several of the kids didn’t even know when their birthdays were. We did a big birthday carnival for everyone on the last day, and set up different activities {at various stations} where the kids could choose to participate for stickers – which they could then trade in for candy, prizes, fun food, etc. We also had a bucket of cotton candy as a birthday gift for each kid. This was a really special highlight of the week.

At some of the stations we had jump rope, ring toss, pony rides, hula hoops, water activities, corn hole toss, apple bobbing, archery, and build-your-own party hat.

The last day … this little guy was paired up with my brother all week. There were a lot of tears at the thought of going home. We gave lots of hugs and prayed with him.

A quiet evening after the kids had all left … everyone took off to clean and do chores. Later on after dinner we were able to talk, sit on the porch, and do whatever …

Brystol and Sarah were amazing! These girls kept things up and running all week. It was a privilege to meet them {again}, get to know them better, and chat here and there as time allowed.

2 very dear girls. Naomi and Rachel S.

And 2 of their other amazing siblings … Nathan and Abigail

Last morning at camp … Sunday, just before we headed off for home. A portion of the volunteer leaders {and a couple of their siblings} gathered for a few fun pictures.

Of course there were challenges – bee stings, bug bites, poison ivy, allergies … I’ll be writing more on that a little later. You never know when something might come in handy – including a patch of Plantain from the backyard. 😉

Sunshine Camp was eye-opening for me. I went to serve – passionate about loving kids with deep needs and big hurts. I just wanted to pour a little love and light into shattered, broken, empty lives. But as is the case so often in my life, Father showed me that I’m the one who needs. I need to grow closer to Him, to know more of His amazing love and power. In my weakness and frailty, HE IS STRONG. He showed me that I can’t do it, but HE CAN, through me. He touched my heart and changed my life in so many ways. I saw things I’ve never seen before. I was challenged to dig deeper into His Word, and to find answers. I was forced to go to Him because there was no other way. And what a joy-filled week it was!

I can’t wait to go back! Praying for another opportunity to be a part of this incredible ministry, and to be a blessing in some small way to more kids as they come through – to learn about Jesus and His redeeming love.

Sunshine Camp Part 2 {Dr. Emmie}

Check out the Higher Ground Sunshine Camp photo album here!


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