Every Thursday is Red and White day, all summer at Camp Ray Bird henceforth: CRB (except for discipleship week ....we'll get to that.) The day where the campers learn that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of their sins. They learned about sin on dark day, Wednesday. Gold day is Tuesday, when they learn of the goodness of God, and Green day is Friday, when the campers learn how to grow in the Lord. (If you read your Bible and pray every day then you'll grow, grow, grow.)
Christian and I worked at Camp Ray Bird the summer before we moved to Atlanta (Summer 2006). We had some friends on the speech team who encouraged us to get summer jobs there, so we thought "what the heck." I spent the summer answering phones and messing up registration (seriously....talk about learning about God's grace...) while Christian led activities that the counselors took their campers to. A job you don't normally need a masters degree for (you don't usually need to be old enough to vote....but Christian managed to fit right in.) What goes on is so much more than the sum of the stuff that everyone does there.
The basics are this. Around a thousand kids come through CRB every summer. Almost every single kid qualifies for a reduced fee. $30 for the week. The whole week, overnight, 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, and a t-shirt if they memorize all of their Bible verses. Not to mention swimming everyday, daily activities, crafts, the whole summer camp experience. From where I sit that is less than VBS at some churches, and all the kids eat there is a themed snack.
But the biggest piece is this. The kids are loved at CRB. The counselors, the kitchen staff, the lifeguards, the 16 year olds whose job it is to put the worm on the hook for the 7 year old girls, every single person is there to love campers, even if that means discreetly picking up wet sleeping bags and having them laundered before "horizontal hour." Every worker believes it is their job to love the kids in whatever way they can.Even if it means cleaning toilets or roping off the field for games later that night.
And the kids, even the little ones, can't leave without understanding who Jesus is and exactly how much God loves them. I'm not saying it fixes all their problems or anything, poverty is a beast for sure. But for a week, one week, kids who otherwise wouldn't get the opportunity, get to do summer. Not sit in front of the TV all day because it is too hot or not safe enough in their neighborhood to go outside.There is no public pool in South Bend, so for most of the campers their week at camp is the only week they swim.
Christian and I feel so, so blessed to have been witness to what goes on there, to be able to participate in the ministry. This is the first year we won't be able to visit, even for a weekend. The timing of it all just didn't pan out. I'm praying for the ministry this summer. And praying that the staff can see beyond the grueling hours and incessant needs of the campers to the investment they are making in the name of the Lord. It gets hard sometimes.
And if you feel so called...even if it is just a couple bucks, feel free to click the pay pal button on the Camp Ray Bird website. I worked in the office, and can honestly tell you that NO ONE can stretch a dollar like the CRB staff. I've got details if you want them. Seriously, even 5 bucks will pay for bait for fishing for a week. And by all means put them on your prayer list!