They are your kids. They are my kids. They are hurting.
There are things that happen in our fallen world that I will never understand. The hate and fear that people bring out of the darkness are without reason. I will never fathom how a person could walk into a crowded nightclub and shoot down their fellow man. I will never grasp why a normal, beautiful family had to watch their two-year-old son be attacked by an alligator.
And I will never comprehend how a person could abuse a child.
According to Childhelp.org, five children die every day due to abuse.
A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds.
408,425 children were in the U.S. Foster System in 2010 and that number has only grown.
These children need us.
There is an organization battling these statistics that stands out from the rest. They are Royal Family Kids Camp. Offering these children a camp to attend and the opportunity to be mentored, RFKC is changing the lives of children and breaking the chains of abuse.
For one week every summer, the staff gives these mistreated children the attention and love that is their birthright. A birthright that was stolen from them. I was a guide this summer and I will admit that I never truly understood the journey these kids go through until that experience.
When the kids got off the bus the first day, I never expected to see what I did. Excitement, apprehension, hope.
As a guide, I was paired with one camper the whole week. I had two main jobs: keep my camper on schedule and make sure she felt special every second of every day.
Throughout the week, I was able to witness the transformation of some of the kids. From that first day until the last, you could see the joy growing in their hearts and the light in their eyes getting brighter and brighter.
We swam in a lake, played water games, rode a horse, had a bonfire with s’mores.
But the most heart-breakingly beautiful night was the birthday party. Every year the camp has an “Everybody’s Birthday Party” complete with cake, bounce houses and presents for each camper.
It is a sobering thought to realize some of these children have never had a birthday party or received a present. RFKC gave them that. Not because they had done anything spectacular, but because they are alive and special and worthy of recognition.
Ashley, the camp director gave a small speech before the staff sang “Happy Birthday” and campers blew out their candles. She reminded the kids that we will always be there for them and that they were born to be somebody.
After that, it was all sugar rushes and bounce houses and just being kids.
The joy that these kids are still able to exude is nothing short of a miracle. During camp, they can let their guard down. The seven-year-old who grew up too fast gets to make friendship bracelets and sing Justin Bieber songs as loud as she can. The 12-year-old who has been on the run his whole life gets to know that, while at camp, there will be someone who cares enough to chase after him. The six-year-old who has seen her father abuse her mother and who has been locked in her room for hours on end gets to experience the freedom and love of Christ for even just a week.
I have never cried so much in my life. I can assure you that this camp not only changes the lives of the children, but it changes the lives of the staff.
It made me even more thankful for the parents I have. Realizing that, though they may not have been perfect, they still took care of me in every way. I never wanted for the necessary items needed for survival. A lot of the time, I received every luxury I asked for. This camp made me realize I grew up knowing my place. Knowing I was loved. Knowing I was worthy.
The kids at RFKC didn’t know any of that. Their worth hung by a thread and even though they had a week of us building them up… It will take a lifetime to rebuild a fraction of the damage that has already been done.
So if you’re reading this and you’re a parent of an RFKC camper, it’s time to make some changes. It’s time to assume responsibility for your children. It’s time to teach them the value of family. It’s time to let them be kids. It’s time to show them their worth. It’s time to love them.
If you’re an RFKC camper, know that there are people in the world who are good. Who love you and will go to the ends of the earth to show you that. We care about you and want nothing more than to see you happy and healthy. But also know this, as much as we love you, God loves you a million times more. He is always with you and always loves you. No matter what.
If you’re reading this because it popped up on your Facebook news feed, it’s time to do something. I know that there are plenty of other causes to give to, support and donate your time to, but hear me out. These kids are your kids. These kids are my kids. When you look into the eyes of your son or daughter, niece or nephew or your grandchild, think about the “what ifs.” What if they had been born into a family who didn’t care about them? What if they were a number in the foster system? What if they were an unnamed victim in a statistic about child abuse fatalities?
We can spend our whole lives thinking that problems are too big for us to solve or that someone else will do that important thing. The truth of the matter is, there are not nearly as many people standing up for these children as you think. We pass by this problem like it’s a commercial with Sarah McLaughlin singing in the background. It’s not that simple.
Approximately 264,687,000 American citizens identify as Christian. This means, theoretically, they follow the teachings and commandments of Christ. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” There is no other way to change, translate or gloss over the meaning of those words. We are charged with the task of looking after orphans. If every single Christian would adopt a child in the system, we could completely knock out abuse and neglect 637 times over.
That may be a stretch, I don’t know for sure. There will always be extenuating circumstances that keep people from taking on that challenge… but not to the point of there still being hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. without a permanent home. What are we doing, church? Why are we not more brokenhearted than this?
There is a quote by C.S. Lewis that has been ringing in my ears since I signed up to be a Guide at RFKC. It says, “Children are not a distraction from more important work, they are the most important work.”
They can’t keep living like this – and we can’t keep pretending that it’s not happening.