“All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney.
I grew up in the country. We are talking, a teeny tiny spot on the map in East Texas – Gallatin, Texas to be exact. Population 235. And growing up in the country, we created most of our own memories and learned to entertain ourselves.
Most of my memories centered around our black and white TV. Not only did we watch the black and white TV while the rest of the world saw color, we had only one channel to view. Our family ritual for each Labor Day weekend was to watch the Jerry Lewis Telethon, from beginning to end. We loved it. We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning with our eyes glued to the TV. I absolutely loved Jerry Lewis, his big “buck” teeth, his craziness and the drum rolls sent chills up my spine as the donations increased with each tiffany roll. Not only did I love watching Jerry Lewis, I loved watching the kids go to the MD camps and often dreamed of going to camp to play with the kids.
So with that image in your mind, fast forward about 40 years when my pursuit of my dream became my reality. I contacted Camp Quality of Northwest Missouri to volunteer for their week long summer camp. I completed my application. Recruited three letters of recommendation. Took my TB test. Completed my face to face interview. Received a phone call from the committee and heard these amazing words, “would you be interested in being a dorm mom for our 3 to 6 year old little boys?” And I immediately answered “YES!”
Camp Quality is not your normal summer camp. It’s a camp for kids with cancer; a camp that allows kids with cancer to be kids again for the week. During the first summer, I ended up with 9 little campers from the age of 3 to 6 and 11 companions. Companions are usually college kids and are assigned to each camper in a one to one ratio unless the camper needs additional assistance then a camper may have two companions. And some of my companions were once campers! Yes, cancer survivors coming back to serve others. Love ….. Love …. Love their hearts!
I fell in deep love with my little guys and their companions – head over heels in love with being a dorm mom. Loved it so much that I did it all over again this year but my quiver increased to 15 little guys and 18 companions.
I am also a processor. I had to process what my heart and what my head was experiencing. The first week, I had no words or I didn’t know how to put the feelings into words. Then I came to realize that I was full and empty at the same time and I had no idea as to how to verbalize those feelings.
- Full that my 9 original campers returned. Empty in that six more little boys were added to the list of kids with cancer.
- Full that my original companions returned. Empty that one of the other dorm’s companions had passed away.
- Full that most of my little guys had hair. Empty that one is going blind because of the inoperable tumor on his optic nerve.
- Full that my 9 original campers returned. Empty that we lost one of our dorm mates the first year to cancer.
- Full that most were in remission with the help of chemo. Empty as I watched them gag down all of the different types of chemo – from syringes filled with chemo to tablets containing chemo.
- Full that all 15 eventually made it to camp. Empty that one arrives in a wheel chair and has no use of his legs due a tumor on his spine.
- Full to the brim as I rode the bus from camp to the city holding little Michael as he fell asleep in my arms and empty as I said goodbye to my 15 little guys not knowing what the future holds for them.
As the bus pulled away, I knew that God has a purpose for the pain experienced by these little ones, just as He did for me 11 years ago. You see, I too am a cancer survivor, an eleven year survivor. I’m not sure what His purpose for my pain would be other than the fact that God revealed Himself to me as my Jehovah Shalom, my peace (Judges 6:24) and as my Jehovah Rapha, my Healer (Exod. 15:26). Without my cancer experience, I may not have ever experienced Jesus as my PEACE nor as my HEALER.
My prayer would be that God uses their pain to draw not only these little guys to Himself but also their families. Matthew 19:13-14, tells us “Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” I am blessed and find comfort in His words to the little children that the kingdom belongs to them.
We can’t miss the fact that Jesus prayed for them. And just as Jesus was called to pray for the little ones, so are we. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thes. 5:16-18).
So in my fullness and emptiness, I will rejoice, I will pray and I will give thanks for my fifteen little boys, their parents, and their companions, praying that God will draw each one to His heart, calling each into His eternal kingdom. And I will be a woman who says “YES” to God again next summer for “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) and it’s because “He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-11)