REACH Camp...WHERE HEAVEN TOUCHED THE EARTH
This is how we are intended to live together and care about each other.
This was our fifteenth anniversary and the kids and their families were truly amazing.
our Special Calling!
It takes months of preparation to bring it all together. Dozens of volunteers to be recruited and trained to provide one on one or one on two ratio of kids per counselor. Parents are given a break for these four days from the daily grind of caring for their kids and households.
Activities are reviewed and planned; no detail is too small. The challenge...pack a lifetime of experiences into four days.
Oh, and create an environment that reflects where heaven touches the earth.
These are God's kids. He knows each and every one. He has created them to be truly amazing. Jeremiah 29:11 captures His love perfectly:
..."For I know the plans that I have for you", says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future."
And this; it's amazing...
"You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed."
Our goal is to insure that our kids and their families know that this is true for them; and in a very practical way.
For many, this is the only time that they will hear these words and see that they are loved.
This year many of our families have endured the economic hardship of the recession. Unemployment, foreclosures, and the crush of higher prices on reduced incomes are a few of the issues that these folks are facing. Camp offered a respite from this grinding burden, and we want to do more.
The recession has also impacted REACH. This is the first year that we did not raise enough money to pay for the camp. Here's our challenge...We need your support and provision for our families in this very difficult environment. All of our staff have gone to part time in order to keep vital programs for our families. However, this impacts the level of service, and we must restore these hours in January. So, we need your help!
Please commit to $1/day for 2012. Contact Pat Askren at the REACH offices for information about online giving, go here. We cannot do this without you!
Camp 2011 Reflections
On September 2nd starting at 11:30 AM, campers of all different backgrounds began checking in for REACH Camp. What we call the "Lawn Commons"—an open grassy area ideal for field games and impromptu water gun fights—was filled with volunteerseager to meet their campers.
Families who came to the first camp 15 years ago arrived ready for the annual REACH reunion. Their children are miracles. They weren't supposed to make it this far, and now they are the teens and young adults that form their own posse, ready to take over someday.
New families arrive, timid yet unavoidably excited for the adventures awaiting them. Their children are rambunctious, exuberant, and ready to explore and discover. Many of these children were adopted by parents seeking to do their part to help children suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world. These children have the promise of a life free from the death sentence that once was the story of HIV/AIDS. They are the future of REACH.
This year of camp was indeed the 15th year since we began. It marked a year where everyone sensed that things are different. We celebrate a history of camaraderie in the face of injustice; we celebrate a future of togetherness because of the hope and freedom now available to our children. And we rejoice at the promise that we can all share in God's perfect plan for our lives.
As each child entered the check-in room, they were offered a puzzle piece to decorate—their piece of a grand proclamation that would be our theme for the year. As the afternoon unfolded, children busily decorated their puzzle pieces, created their buttons to show off their camp names (such as "Alex the Dragon", "Superman" and "Funny Bunny"), and signed up for horseback riding and the high ropes course. After an afternoon of art therapy, small groups and outdoor activities under the best sunshiny weather we've seen in years, campers and volunteers assembled the puzzle.
"Made to Be Amazing!" It shouted once it was finally erected in the common area. Each letter was a mosaic with each child's tiny creative offering. They formed a masterpiece declaring a unique promise that paved the way for a camp that became one that would be set apart from all the rest.
"Made to Be Amazing!" We cheered, as children, teens and young adults performed a unique skill or otherwise hysterical act at the annual Talent Show; as one by one those same campers strolled down the red carpet on Hollywood Night, overwhelmed and enthralled with the attention.
"Made to Be Amazing!" We cried, as we sang of hippos eating pumpkin pancakes, and a little red caboose; as we wiggled and shouted gibberish lyrics at the tops of our lungs to tunes lost long ago around the campfire.
"Made to Be Amazing!" We nodded, as we wrapped our arms around each other, reunion. But at our closing ceremony where each child received a special award from their counselor, we were reminded that the special feeling we have inside when we are together doesn't have to end.
That sacredness we experience at camp is a trademark of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That unconditional love, favor, and grace doesn't end just because camp is over. Everyone—staff, volunteers, and campers—have the opportunity to share it with others for the rest of the 361 days of the year!
Holidays for REACH Families
Now after camp, we are looking forward to recreating the spirit of camp in microcosmic ways. A few days ago, local REACH families gathered for a Thanksgiving dinner—because that's what families do. We recounted the things we are thankful for over a heaping plate of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.
In three weeks, we will gather again to celebrate Christmas. Instead of receiving gifts this year, our families will extend the love of Jesus by bearing gifts for other families in need, for "It is better to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
While REACH has indeed faced financial hardship, we press on by doing what we do best: creating sacred spaces for our kids and families to both experience the love and hope God promises, and learn to extend it themselves.
Won't you join us?
Director of Programs
You are my sunshine and my delight". "You are my favorite"! "You are my first choice"! " I love you beyond measure"! "You are my work of art"! "You are a miracle ...and all the angels marvel at you"!
Go tell it on a mountain.
Creative Art Reflections from Camp
Picture this...you walk into a room where Creative Art is taking place. Tables are strewn with art materials; the smell of hot glue is in the air… But it is silent, and no one is sitting at the tables... Across the room, you see fifteen or so kids, lying on the floor, eyes closed - some of them head-to-toe, some at angles to each other, and each has a rock the size of a small bag of sugar on their chest.
Sometimes our emotions are just like that rock – a weight holding us down, a heaviness to overcome. If we each have a plan, dreams for our life, what happens when obstacles obstruct that life plan? What do you do? Does it paralyze you or do you face it straight on?
The art project was to confront that obstacle, the weight that needed two hands to carry, not something merely to decorate, but rather something to work through and change in a positive way.
Our kids know about obstacles. Some of them are equipped to confront them and overcome them. They know about that heaviness inside. God has a promise that he will be with us through our struggles. Like the song we sing at campfire each night: "Lean on me, when you're not strong, I'll be a friend, I'll help you carry on"…God is more than a friend, He is a constant. And that amazing promise is what REACH Camp brought to our kids this summer.
Creative Art Coordinator
The REACH Team