As volunteers, we are privileged to be paired with one child for the week, to take them to all of the activities, play with them, help care for them, encourage their parents and give their parents opportunities for rest and relaxation. I was blessed to be with Svitlana and her daughter Angelina this year.
Angelina is 6 years old and has cerebral palsy. She cannot talk, her understanding is very limited and she has almost no voluntary control over her body. But she has the most beautiful blue eyes and curly hair and when she smiles or laughs it is absolutely contagious!!!
We had a great time participating in all of the camp activitiesmp! Angelina's mom, Svitlana, is 6 months pregnant but was equally active in all of the activities for parents, such as spa time, Zumba, and Bible studies.
She was particularly encouraged by the testimony of a family from America who also have a son with cerebral palsy. She excitedly told me some of the the things they shared from their experience. She was encouraged to hear that other parents let their children with disabilities "cry it out" alone in their rooms after assuring that their basic needs have been met. Angelina and her family actually live very close to us so I look forward to staying in contact, taking her for walks, and maybe even having some rehabilitation sessions with her. I am praying for this family to come to know the hope and salvation that can be found in God alone.
At camp, every child get an opportunity to try everything. From getting a manicure, to participating in the talent show, to slinging water balloons with a huge slingshot at a crazily dressed volunteer, to crafts, to rides in the boats, to blowing huge bubbles, to getting up on stage for their group presentation, to swimming...if it is a camp activity, everyone has a chance to try it. And it is wonderful to observe it and participate in it!
These children are precious image bearers of God. The same God Who created the beautiful sunsets we witnessed and the forest and lake near the campground fashioned each of these children with their unique physical appearance, abilities and character. I was so privileged to spend these days with them, to love on them and be loved by them, to share joy with them and be infused with their joy.
In closing, I will share a quick story about Katya:
This young lady first came to our camp 3-4 years ago. She has a younger sister who also has cerebral palsy and is much more outgoing. That first year, Katya was stoic and reserved, rarely lifting her head or showing any interest in what was going on around her. She seemed to take no pleasure in any of the activities of the camp and I honestly was not sure how much she was able participate and interact. After camp, her mother continued to come to church and other activities with the girls and a few years ago she repented and was baptized. But God has also made a transformation in Katya! It takes effort for her to talk and her speech is not always clear, but she is now eager to pray and answer questions in her Bible study groups. She smiles, responds to others and her desire to know and share about God is evident. She loves to listen to Christian music and this year she participated in the talent show, singing "Jesus, You are the Best Friend." As I listened to her sing, I remembered that young girl from the first camp with her head always bowed and not interacting with others and I rejoiced over the transformation God has made in her life!
Please join me in praying for similar transformations in the lives of the children and adults who came to the camp this year.