She came, timidly at first, this small, veteran camper. She had heard the invitation to all campers to make a commitment to Christ for a week – just a week. But she had also heard that campers could come forward with concerns they had, and the pastoral staff would pray for their concerns. I was one of the pastoral staff that week at summer camp.
She came, timidly at first, this small child in a teen’s body who was passed from camp-to-camp all summer long – this child whom no one claimed. I asked, “Do you want to make a commitment to follow Jesus this week?” “No – well – I’m not sure,” she whispered.
“Do you have a concern that’s on your heart – one you want to talk to God about?” “Um – yes. I had these two hamsters, and they died.” She continued to stare at the floor. I tried again. “Would you like to talk to God about your hamsters?” “Yes,” she replied quietly.
As a Sunday School teacher, I had prayed for goldfish, hamsters, parakeets, and even frogs. Sometimes we adults underestimate how deeply a child grieves for these animal friends who love them unconditionally – especially when the adults in their lives do not. So we prayed for her two dead hamsters. We reminded God how precious they were to her, and that they were also precious to God. We asked for God to care for her hamsters, wherever they were, and we remembered together that God knows even when a sparrow falls – so God knew all about her beloved pets. Then we thanked God again for loving us as we are, just like God loved her hamsters.
I gave her a hug, and she returned to her seat next to her group leader, an occasional tear rolling down her cheek. I said a silent prayer for her, that the Holy Spirit would surface the real issue that weighed on her heart, and that she would find the love and acceptance that week at camp that I could see she craved. The time for coming forward was drawing to a close. And then – it happened!
She came, timidly at first, this small veteran camper. But this time, she did not come alone. She brought her group leader – her “mom” for the week – to give her courage. I threw my arms open to welcome her, and she got a “sandwich hug” from the both of us. I asked if she wanted to make a commitment to follow Jesus for the week. She sobbed once – then blurted out, “I don’t know what that means!”
“It means,” I said, “to promise God that you will do your best to learn about Jesus, to listen and do what Jesus wants us to do while you are here at camp. And you don’t have to figure it out by yourself – you have a whole group of people who will help.”
“Yes!” she said, her face breaking out in a grin for the first time. “I want to!” And so we prayed again. But this time, I prayed for her directly: that God would help her learn, that she would begin to understand new things, that God would touch her heart in a new way and remind her how much He loves her. Then we thanked God that she had responded to His presence that night and had come forward for prayer. She returned to her seat and snuggled up close to her camp “mom.”
As I thought about my time with her, I came to realize why she had asked for prayer for her hamsters first. This special child of the Father – this unclaimed veteran camper with the tough exterior – just wanted to know if God cared about her half as much as I had said that God cared for her hamsters. That week, Anna discovered that her heavenly Father was very pleased to claim her as His own child!
“But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1
See you in worship!
Yours for the Journey,