"Mom, you should help serve at Special Camp next year!" Joanna, my daughter, said to me, when she came back from Mt. Hermon in 2005. As a college camper, she was able to interact with Special Campers at Ponderosa. In the past two years, she has served as a cabin leader at the Junior High camp. She is possessive and protective when it comes to her campers and calls them "my girls". Harvey (my better half) attended Mt. Hermon as a college camper and has been serving in the Youth Ministries in various capacities since 1974. Although he would come back exhausted, he said it was very rewarding and he loves serving. He has touched many people at camp, as he has touched my heart, by serving the Lord in his own way.
My family and I (minus Harvey, since he was at one of the youth camps) tried to attend every Mount Hermon Main Camp, until the kids were old enough to go to Junior High Camp. I had seen the Special Campers and Aides come to Main Camp on Thursdays, and the kids were always able to share a meal with the Special Campers. I had a very minuscule idea of what the Aides did. I don't think I fully understood what a blessing it would be for me, if I were to serve. As our children got older, Harvey mentioned that I should serve in some way, but I always had other things to do....
This year, everything fell in place. I requested time off from work, hoping to serve at Mt. Hermon, and was able to get time off for vacation. Then, I received a notice from Bruce and Val, saying I had been accepted as an Aide at Special Camp! I was excited! Throughout the months before camp, the Aides were blessed with the Administrators and core staff, who prepared us for camp. We had several meetings, where we were given information about camp and about the campers. We had emails on ways to prepare ourselves, ways to minister, training manuals, what to bring, the special "evening snacks" which would be provided by the Sugiyama's and the Miyahara's, and prayers! We had the "Women in Prayer" Group at San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church praying for us, before and during the week of Mt. Hermon. We also had the reassurance that assistance was available, anytime we needed. We were so blessed!
As the week of Mt. Hermon approached, I started having doubts about being able to serve in any capacity. I'm not a nurse, a physical or occupational therapist; I don't even have training in the medical field. I hardly know anything about special education or individuals with disabilities! With all my shortcomings, what can I do? What skills do I have to be useful at Special Camp? NONE! At about the same time, I received an email from Bruce and Val saying: "We are confident that the Lord has hand-picked you to serve at this very special camp, in ministry to His very special people, for a very special purpose." I had prayed about my inadequacies and not knowing what to expect, here was my answer! How awesome was this?
My cabin, Surfside 5, had five aides and four campers. I was humbled and convicted by the faith in the campers. Although each camper had their own particular challenges, they were all pure in heart, innocent, trusting and loving. They had a genuine love for God. They had no preconceived ideas or notions about me or anyone else. The Aides were all so helpful and encouraging to each other as well as to the Campers. As Aides, we were the stewards of the precious individuals whom God had placed in our care for the week. God had a purpose, and we were serving His purpose. What an awesome privilege to serve our God! If only we could all live in a world where everyone is fully devoted to the Lord!
During morning worship, I heard the campers singing their hearts out, off key, but truly singing and worshipping God from their hearts. I saw kindness in campers as they interacted with each other. I was touched by the thoughtfulness and compassion, when I had a migraine and my cabin brought me hot water, a green tea bag and apples. They gathered around me and prayed that my migraine would go away. What a wonderful sweetness and satisfaction in my heart as well as in my mouth!
I had volunteered to do storytime, but I wasn't aware that I was supposed to provide the book! (It was my fault that I didn't ask.) I was blessed to have so many people come to my rescue! I appreciate and thank everyone that helped me, from all the "San Fernando-ites" for everything, to Alex the artist, Mark and his magic, Ann, Don, Bev, Lisa, Kenny, all the way to "Rainbow" Bear! I was amazed at all the encouragement and support everyone gave. I was blessed by the Campers, Aides and the Core Staff. I was told this was how Special Camp works. Everyone helping each other when there is a need. This was truly God at work!
On Friday, during lunch, Joanna sent me mail saying "God has hand picked you mom, to serve at Special Camp!" and she hoped that I had enjoyed serving at camp. She had so much confidence in me, so much more then I had in myself. Although they were smashed, she also sent me my favorite candy, Reese's peanut butter cups, attached to the letter from Jr. High Camp. I had tears in my eyes. One of the Campers in my cabin, Vanessa, asked me if I was okay and gave me a hug. I told her these are tears of happiness. She said "Oh good, I was worried about you for a minute." More tears. It truly was a blessing to see God's presence in the special campers.I am grateful to our leaders, core staff and the directors who were doing all the necessary things for Special Camp to run so smoothly. I praise God for blessing me and providing me the opportunity to serve as an aide at Special Camp. I am only a drop in the bucket, but I am looking forward to the next time I will be able to serve at Special Camp! One of many encouraging verses sent in our emails was: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9.