July 18, 2013

On Learning to Love [that girl] at Summer Camp.

Amy* was that girl at summer camp. She smelled. She was loud, obnoxious, and needed four times as much work grace as the other 13-year-olds.

In addition to her awkward appearance, her social awkwardness isolated her even more. She would burst out with answers that were exactly opposite of the expected reply, especially when speakers presented rhetorical questions.

The 14 of us sat in a circle on the concrete floor of the covered pavilion for our small group devotional: half of us in the shade, the other half baking in the sun. The girls smelled of a musky combination of sunscreen, bug spray, dirty hair, and summer.

The church kids flipped their Bible's pages quickly from passage to passage. You could easily point out those who were less familiar with it when they couldn’t identify which half of the Bible was the “New Testament,” or they didn't have a Bible altogether. 

I saw myself in the church kids in a way that was embarrassing. I remember trying to impress my camp counselors at that age too. I knew Bible verses and song lyrics and the right Sunday School answers. I didn’t know that maybe being nice to Amy would have made them the most proud. The other girls weren’t mean to Amy. They mostly just ignored her, which is often more painful that direct humiliation.

After devos, the schedule said to have personal quiet time for reflection. There were questions in each camper's booklet and a space to write in their answers. The girls dispersed around the area: some leaned against the walls, others sat on the steps, a few perched on the pews with their hands under their chins, their elbows sinking into the pew’s yellow carpeting, and their legs swinging behind them.

But Amy.

I finished scribbling in my answers, you know, to set a good example. What does this verse mean to you? What is God saying to you today? What do you want to say to God today?

I looked over at Amy again. She was laying face up on the concrete, in her same spot from the circle. Her booklet was laying open next to her (on the wrong page). I closed my book and quietly walked over to where she was sprawled, and settled in on the ground next to her.


“Hmm?” she replied, with more annoyance than wondering what I was doing there.

“Amy, have you already finished your questions?”

“No. I'm not doing them.”

I opened her booklet for her, finding the right page. The answers from the group devos were only half filled in, and the personal portion was untouched.

“Amy, do you think we could answer these questions together?”

“Ok.” She rolled over and peered over my hand as we read the question together. “What does this verse mean to you?” She slowly sounded out the words. “I don’t know.”

“Maybe we should skip ahead,” I suggested, “to the last question.”

“What do you want to say to God today?” She read aloud, far too loud for quiet time, but I didn't reprimand her. I was simply grateful she was engaging.

“Is there anything you want to tell God?” I asked.

“Nothing.” She said. “I just want to go home.”

“Why do you want to go home? Aren’t you having fun at camp?” I asked.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~ ~ ~ ~ ~           

She’d mentioned wanting to go home earlier in the day during the group worship service. All the kids were jumping up and down and enthusiastically participating in the hand motions for each song. Amy sat next to me on the end of the row, curled in a ball on the pew.

“Do you want to stand up and sing with us?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “I’m the weird girl who doesn’t participate. I just want to go home.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~ ~ ~ ~ ~           

She scuffed her white tennis shoes on the concrete and closed her booklet. “I want to go home, because my Grandpa died.”

“Oh honey! I remember when my Grandpa passed away too. That was really hard! When did that happen?”

“When I was six.” She went on and on about how her parents were unhappy and her Grandma was in a nursing home and they couldn’t visit her and her mom was always sad and her dad was always grumpy.

“Do you want to tell that to God, Amy? Do you want to write that in your booklet?” I asked.

“No.” She crossed her arms and set her pen down.

“Maybe you could just talk to God; you don’t have to write anything down. It's ok to tell him that you are mad or sad or lonely.

“No. I don’t pray.”

“Well, would it be ok if I prayed with you? I can do all the talking and you can just listen, in case you ever want to try it yourself. It’s really easy.”


We put our heads together and I talked to Jesus. I prayed for peace for Amy’s achy little heart. I prayed for her family—each member specifically that Amy had mentioned in her moment of openness. I prayed for her to feel comfortable at camp. I prayed conversationally and normal and without saying “Father God” in the middle of each sentence. I prayed like Jesus was lying there on the concrete with us, his head right there with ours, making a three-pointed star on the floor.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~ ~ ~ ~ ~           

All week Amy rarely left my side; I jokingly referred to her as my “shadow.” As I loved on Amy, the other girls in the cabin opened up to her too. They wanted to make their counselor proud, and they saw that loving each other was important.

When it was time for worship, Amy tapped me on the arm.


“Yeah, Amy?”

“Can I go up there and sing at the front with all the other kids?”

“Of course!”

She ran up to the front and joined a group of middle schoolers praising Jesus, hand motions and all.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ | ~ ~ ~ ~ ~           

I continued helping Amy with her personal devos through the week. Her spelling and writing skills were weak, her comprehension was even weaker, but I think she really just craved the company.

“Is there anything you want to say to God today?”

“No.” She hesitated, “but…” Then she started to write, without saying it out loud first. Thank you for bringing me here, because I have made some new friends.

“What is God telling you through this passage?”

She looked up at me with big eyes. “I think He is saying He wants to open my eyes,” she said. And she wrote it in her booklet.

He wants to open all of our eyes, Amy. He is saying that to all of us. 

*name changed


  1. Beautiful!

    I miss you, Kelly, but I love seeing how God's using you in your new home.

    1. I MISS YOU TOOOO, KARAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Nice post! I saw you on 20sb.net. Feel free to check out my blog and follow.