Story of Summer Programming Session 5

We are concluding session five of summer programming this week. We have two sessions of summer programming left before the youth we serve head back to school and join us again throughout the year for monthly leadership retreats.

We would like to share the impactful story from one of our summer staffer’s journals with you today. We are so blessed and thankful to have leaders like Kierra who pour in to the youth that we serve that are so in need of love, hope and safety.

Today was a rough one. It started fine! We began the day with breakfast, then lead into our different rotations. Starting with agriculture and fitness, transitioning to art, lunch, and then aquatics.

In aquatics, it was creek stomping day! This experience was a little different for me. Ha!

We walked down to the creek and sat on top of the hill above the creek for a moment. Personally, I was a little fearful to go down there because I am not your average “mudding” girl, but by the time I was halfway down the hill to the creek every fear was subdued. As I heard the screeches of excitement and laughter rising from the water below, every apprehension had dissipated. And as I made my final step into the creek, my leg sunk up to my knee in the mud. More than anything I wanted to retreat, but the pure joy on my girls’ faces, and the excitement they had, made every second worth it.

At that point, my heart flourished and I realized that this is all or nothing. The impact we are making in these girls’ lives is more than just the trivial fun we are having, but it is a matter of the heart we are dealing with. Each child has a story. And a challenge that they have gone through that they didn’t deserve. But, right then (in even the smallest moment) I had the choice to show them that there is more. I am here to show them that no matter the depths of the sinking mud, and no matter the amount of gunk that is built up in their hearts from all they have been through, I am here to love them right where they are at. Just like the Lord meets me in the middle of my mess, I am here to help them take their burdens to the One who carries the weight of the world on His shoulders.

This picture didn’t all come together until later that night when my beautifully broken heart sat weeping alongside my innocent girls as they shared with me the stories of their pasts.

As little Sophia shared about being locked in a closet for a great amount of time, and only given dog food to eat, and then having to hide away because the horrific bruises on her frail body would reveal the secrets of her abuse to the world. As she told of these terrors all she could do is cry in my arms and ask “why did this happen to me?”.

Then sweet Katie shared about being left fatherless and then eventually taken from her mother. She then was placed with her adoptive sisters and forced to watch them be beaten over and over again. Daily she would watch their heads be slammed into doors and their bodies be torn down, and she never felt safe.

These are just stories from two of my girls and there are so many more heart-wrenching stories just like theirs.

Sydney, Lizzy, Maria, Cece, Megan, Lexi, and Shannon all have stories of past hurt and pain. But the Lord, for some reason has called me (us) to walk through the grime with these tattered souls and see them with His eyes. He calls us to hold them in their suffering and call them priceless, redeemed, and worthy of love. Never have I seen through the eyes of Christ more clearly, but God has so much more for these sweet girls. He sees them for more than the past hurt they have experienced and He values them as Princesses.

So, as I reflect on today, my heart is so heavy with the burdens of my favorite little princesses, but it is also full knowing that this session at Wildwood Hills Ranch they felt deep, authentic love that they have never before received  and they saw a Jesus that they may not have otherwise ever known. Thank you, Lord, for showing me how to love intentionally and to be loved by your consuming love.