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Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;
the LORD delivers him in times of trouble.
– Psalm 41:1

Andrew

Andrew

We (Larry and I) spent last weekend visiting our boys, who are working at Clemson’s Outdoor Lab camps. Clemson’s beautiful grounds on a finger of Lake Hartwell are home to several summer camps sponsored by agencies such as Sertoma (Camp Sertoma) and the Jaycees (Camp Hope). Sertoma offers week-long camps for kids from underprivileged backgrounds, kids with hearing impairments, and kids with other life challenges. Many of them are foster children who have already bounced from home to home multiple times in their short lives. Camp Hope hosts mentally handicapped adults, for the most part, and these campers by contrast are very often brought to camp by their birth families, who love them well but I’m sure are happy to have a week off from caring for them, knowing that they are safe, and having a ball. Camp Hope is often their favorite week of the year. The Hope staff go out of their way to make it that way for them.

It is truly inspiring to watch the young people on staff at Hope/Sertoma work with the campers. While not expressly Christian, these programs attract young people (mostly college students) who are there to give their lives away, and many of them are indeed believers. You can feel that in the spirit of the place.

Daniel

Daniel

Many of the campers have been coming for several–or in some cases many–years, and their friendships have developed with the staff over the years. Each one has a unique requirement as to what he or she needs most from the staff: speak to me but don’t try to hug me; hug me and don’t let me go; give me simple instructions one step at a time; speak to me in sign language; motivate me with Mardi Gras beads and I’ll do anything you ask. It’s a learning curve that the staff have to negotiate quickly, and once they’ve mastered the best technique for each camper, the week’s up and it’s time to say goodbye, for this year.

Jared

Jared

Our two oldest sons, Andrew and Daniel, are working their second year as counselors. The pay’s not anything like what they might make working a summer job at home (caddying, waiting tables, working construction for Dad, another engineering internship) — but that doesn’t seem to bother them much. Our youngest, Jared, was also there last week with a group from our church (Christ Covenant), serving as a counselor’s helper, or “CIT” (counselor in training). Andrew and Daniel did that in years past as well. Apparently, once the bug bites, you just can’t get enough Sertoma/Hope. Our intention was to bring Jared home from his week at Sertoma, but he asked the staff if he could stay and volunteer for a few more weeks (he’s too young to be on paid staff). That offer was accepted pretty quickly, and we hear that he is actually working in Andrew’s cabin this week, which is cool.

I couldn’t be prouder of my boys. We might tease them about the money they’re not making (and may very well need as poor college boys)–but as Psalm 41 assures us, God will indeed honor those who honor him by caring for the least. Their lives will be blessed in ways that money can’t rival. As one Christ Covenant youth leader said to me during our visit, watching these young people pour out their hearts and energies into the campers gives one much hope about the future. This is the silver lining of the often self-involved Generation-Y. Some of them just don’t fit the mold, praise God.

I encourage you to view the slideshow of images from this amazing place (click HERE, then click on “slideshow”) , and see if it doesn’t bring a lump to your throat too. You can also see more pictures and read about the experiences of counselors by visiting Andrew’s camp blog. If you visit that blog, be sure to leave comments; I’m sure they could use a word of encouragement. They are tired.

UPDATE for summer 2011 — Andrew and Daniel have had to move on to full-time, all-year jobs, but Jared is full time at Sertoma this summer, and also got his lifeguarding certificate.  He reports loving being on/at the water, and has already hauled in some flailing swimmers (or non-swimmers).  Also adding to his sign-language, de-odorizing, and peacemaking skills.

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