I'm sitting here after a long, exhausting week, trying to think of how to summarize our time at Pine Cove. How to wrap it up for you in a post that would give you a picture of what it was like being there with 110 kids from Mercy Street.
Lots of these kids, who when filling out a camp application, will never reference a father, who have mom's in jail for selling crack, who have brothers in gangs, and pregnant sisters, and rarely hear words of encouragement, of life, of hope.
Our week was amazing and pretty hard. It was hard because juxtaposed with the laughter, screams, singing, dancing, and watching kids get to be kids for a week, with full bellies and full hearts, we had kids who looked for a fight at every opportunity, who saw nothing but the moment directly in front of them and who did not understand that every action merits a consequence - good or bad.
By Wednesday, Trey was toast. Along with some of the counselors and Mercy Street staff, he'd been dealing almost constantly with some boys who went from one fight to the next and were pretty consistently disrespectful to their counselors. Trey was already planning a trip back to Dallas with some boys in tow so that they wouldn't ruin camp for the rest of the kids. Then, Wednesday night, after club, one of the boys came up to him with tears streaming down his face. "Mr. Trey, I don't want to live like this any more. I don't know how to stop but I hate my life and want to change."
That started a long conversation into the night between he, Trey, and another counselor about the gospel and the freedom that comes from Christ alone.
Ironically, that same night, we got a call that Mercy Street had been broken into. Talk about feeling attacked.
The week continued with both frustrations and really tender moments. We saw lots of kids conquer their fears on the power pole and the horses, or just swim and run and play.
Trey never took any of those older boys home, even though they deserved it, mostly because either their own counselors who had run dozens of lines with them, or the Mercy Street staff advocated for them.
Come Friday night, we had a time together called "Camper Share". It's where all the campers and counselors gather together to talk about how they liked the week and what they learned. It wasn't contrived or dramatic, simply a time where a kid was handed a mic. if they wanted to talk and everyone listened.
About 3/4 of the way into the camper share, one of the older boys stood up and talked about how much he'd learned that week about his sin, and the One who came to save him from it. Then he looked up at the ceiling in a desperate attempt not to cry in front of his buddies. Instead of breaking down there, he said excuse me and left the room - clearly touched by the Lord. His friends saw it too and slowly conviction spread like wildfire. They began to repent to their counselors and to Trey, and to express their desire to live lives wholly different than what they'd been living. And several of those older boys, walking on the precipice of gang life, cried arm in arm with one another and prayed.
Over and over again that night, counselors heard kids struggle with how to live the life they'd found in West Dallas. They knew they'd be confronted daily with people and circumstances that fly in the face of what they'd learned about the Lord and the love they'd seen in action.
Honestly, it won't be easy in a community where humility and sacrificial love can be hard to come by. But our hope for these kids remains unchanged. As we get the great privilege of watching the Lord melt their hearts of stone one by one, we are also affirmed in our call to see West Dallas become a light on a hill - or, to be more specific, a light on the other side of the levee - covered in God's fingerprints.
These are some of the pictures from camp. It's a little long because I am editing challenged but the song is good so have a look and listen.