How do I describe this past week? I knew going into camp that it was going to be an amazing experience. Clayton King and Crossroads Worldwide have an amazing ministry, and I grew so much my first summer there. So when it came time to sign up for Camp Soar again, I jumped right on board. Camp Soar was started by two mothers in Greenville whose sons are in wheelchairs. They wanted the boys to have the normal summer camp experience, and did something about it. This was the third (I think) year that Camp Soar has attended Crossroads, which is held at Gardner-Webb University, and the second year I have worked there.
In our group we had three adult leaders, seven counselors, and 13 campers. Unfortunately, a counselor backed out of camp last minute, and on Sunday we were still searching for someone to fill in for him. That’s when God started to work. On a whim, I called Tyrome, thinking he might be interested. He later shared that when I called he had just gotten out of Sunday school where they were talking about the leadership positions that others in his class had taken, and when he got the call he knew that God wanted him at Crossroads. I don’t understand why God works the way he does, but I know that Tyrome was the right man for the job.
We were housed in the apartments at GWU, so each counselor and camper had their own room. This sounds unfair, but keep in mind that we had two shower chairs and two power wheelchairs along with an insane amount of luggage. My apartment housed myself, Jenae, an amazing person who is so much fun, and our campers Tia and Rachel. Those girls were hysterical. They didn’t know each other before camp, but by the second day they were inseparable. I was Tia’s counselor the last time I worked at Camp Soar, so it was great getting to hang out with her again.
As you probably have figured out by now, being a counselor there is hard work. Tia has rods in her back, so you have to do a two-man lift every time she is moved and you can’t twist her back. I had shoulder and back trouble most of the week, which made things even crazier. Almost all the people in wheelchairs (six campers and one counselor) had speed impediments, so understanding them was a challenge at first. Our girls would just laugh at Jenae and I if we couldn’t understand them, which actually made it easier to learn their accents. One thing that I did not realize that Tia told me half way through the week is that she has no idea how her accent sounds, to her it sounds like normal speech. Knowing that helped immensely.
I learned to celebrate victories that seem dumb to other people. After trying and trying, when one of the girls was finally able to go to the bathroom, it was a major celebration at 4:30 in the morning. If Tia ate her entire meal without getting food on herself, it was a celebration. If I could ride on the back of one of the wheelchairs for long periods of time without holding on, it was a celebration. (And I have bruises all over my legs to prove that I did in fact ride all over a very hilly and bumpy campus on the backs of at least three different chairs) If I understood what Tia or Rachel said the first time they said it, it was a celebration.
Watching them worship was another thing I will never forget for the rest of my life. I can’t tell you how many times Tia and I sang “Worthy Is the Lamb” while riding around. We had an amazing worship leader, Carl Cartee. While the able-bodied people swayed back and forth clapping or raising our hands, they rolled their wheelchairs back and forth, doing the same. They sang their hearts out in total surrender and worship to God. Each night after the service, the entire group along with a few Crossroads staff would cram into the leader’s apartment for group discussion about that night’s service. Those discussions were the highlight of my day. Not everyone spoke up, but to see the hearts of these teens and their love for God was such a precious gift.
The staff at Crossroads were amazing – not only at their jobs, but with their interaction with the Camp Soar teens. Even though many of the activities were not handicap friendly, they modified them till they were. The absolute joy on their faces while playing with a 10 foot tall “earth ball” and the bracelets and/or anklets we all left wearing were proof of that. One tradition that Camp Soar and Crossroads has is a dance party on the last night of camp. It was insanely hot, we all (the counselors and staff, at least) were tired, and the cakes were a little too brown, but no one cared. An hour and a half solid of dancing…it was nuts.
Overall it was an amazing experience that can never be duplicated or replaced in my heart. I saw God work not only in the lives of our campers, but also in the lives of the roughly 750 campers there. I made so many good friends on the Crossroads staff, and I can’t wait to see them again next year. Clayton King, the founder and director of Crossroads, made it his mission to speak to the campers daily and make them feel welcome. They had their picture taken with one of the dining hall ladies after breakfast this morning, and she could name them all.
Yes, I grew in my own spiritual walk this week, but I learned more about God in watching the campers interact with each other, the staff, and other campers than I did in any of the services, and I can not wait until camp next year!
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