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For three years I’ve had the pleasure of serving at TRAC camp, a camp for teenage foster kids who come from abused and neglected backgrounds. Below is part one of observations of this years camp.

Thursday — It’s been a warm day and as 6:00 comes, and then goes, people are slowly rolling in. It is the evening before another TRAC camp. A camp designed for teen foster kids that come from abused and neglected backgrounds.

The kids will arrive Friday morning but Thursday evening is prep time for the counselors and support staff that will serve these kids until late Sunday afternoon.

Strolling around camp I have the chance to visit with people I’ve worked with for several years. The new camp improvements are obvious and welcome. A new 3rd cabin is in place that will allow another six campers. A new moderately sized air hockey game sits outside the activity center. Quilt blocks decorated by campers in past camps hang from the front of the activity center. Blocks with pictures and words such as “Be safe, have fun” and “ELE – everyone love everyone”

The campers will have opportunities to earn necklace beads as well as tickets that can be spent at the newly expanded store next to the activity center. During the girls camp the previous weekend the jawbreakers proved to be the popular item. Jeremy and Alexis have set up the store with a variety of items sure to attract the attention of the campers.

A shower trailer, three cabins, a stage for the camp band and sessions known as Cross Talk stand empty, for one final evening. Tomorrow they will be the hubs of activity for 16 teenage boys and 20 plus counselors and support staff. The stage, trailers, cabins, and challenge course are a testament to the dedication of those who believe in the power a weekend. A weekend focused on sharing the love of God with kids whose background include neglect and abuse; physical, sexual and emotional. The burdens of abandonment have, in many cases, followed these kids for most, or even all, of their young lives. TRAC camp is a chance to create an environment where they are wanted and valued, just for who they are.

The staff and volunteers come from all backgrounds. Moms and Dads, young people, newly marrieds. Some come from abusive backgrounds of their own and have learned to be conquerors. They see camp as the chance to give back to those that suffer in ways that they themselves have experienced.

Eventually everyone arrives and dinner is served at five of the six tables that will be used by campers and staff starting with lunch the next day. The talk is light. Old friends catch up and new acquaintances are made. Some have been serving in the same capacity for years. Others are getting their feet wet; curious to see if there is a bigger role for them. Kim is one such person. He started by serving as a handyman and laborer for camp projects and now finds himself only hours away from serving as a counselor to his first two teen campers.

Conversation continues while dinner is served. It has been a warm day and at last there is a hint of coolness moving up from the creek below through the giant cottonwood and fir trees that fill the camp. Announcements are made and afterward everyone makes their way down to the wooden benches surrounding the stage below. It is a serene and quiet setting. A few bugs are out but the dreaded mosquitoes have seemed to stay home for the night.

The setting is special. Old hymns mixed with new worship songs float over the now cool air. The giant trees seem to stand guard as the sun slowly retreats towards the horizon. The cool air from the swimming hole now flows through the area like an invisible fog and the sound and solitude that attends the sound of voices, piano and guitar seem to perfectly create what the studio produced worship albums seek to replicate.

The camp theme will be the story of David and Goliath. There are a lot of Davids tonight. Everyone present understands that on their own they are inadequate. The kids that arrive tomorrow morning move, on average, from one foster home to the next every 16 months. Some have parents in prison; some have no idea who their parents are. Others wonder what is wrong with them at their parents just didn’t seem to care. And tomorrow they come to a camp where they are told the people care for them. That’s a tough sell. And every one here knows that. So like David these adults will put aside their own inadequacies and run to the fight. Proceeding only in the knowledge and confidence that, as in David’s words, “the battle is the Lord’s to win.”

To learn more about TRAC, click here. To read Part Two click here.

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