Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Camp Grace

This is a story I wrote nine year ago, shortly after I attended my first camp for adults with developmental disabilities.

Have you ever lamented, "What am I getting myself into?" when you agreed to volunteer for something? This is how I felt when I reluctantly agreed to be a camp counselor for adults with developmental disabilities (ADD). As camp week drew nearer, I worried about what I'd have to do for those who can't always do for themselves. I fretted about being tied down because of the constant supervision they would require. While I'd never worked with adults with developmental disabilities, I was convinced that ADD camp was going to be a gloomy week.

On Monday morning, the campers arrived and I met for the first time those I feared. Mike was autistic; he could only get out a quiet "yes" or "no," Brian wore a helmet because of frequent seizures. Ricky was terrified of storms. James' mouth hung open most of the time. Terry couldn't pronounce his words with clarity. Big Dan asked me, "Are you coming back next year?" Next year? We have even eaten the week's first lunch!

But his question was the beginning of a discovery--these guys and gals are full of grace.

Grace. Theologians define it as "undeserved favor." The ADD campers put it into action.

Someone asked, "Can I take your picture?" We've never met have we? A second person declared, "You're really nice." We met, but only a few moments earlier. Several approached me saying, "Let me give you a big hug." Ummm, I guess that will be OK. Another insisted, "You're a great guy." I am?

As the week progressed, it was apparent to me that they were the great ones.

Don't think we didn't have problems. We did. One cried hysterically when denied a soda pop. Another in a furious rage punched a counselor. Several sulked and ran off by themselves when they didn't get their way.

They weren't perfect. But then again, when God's Holy Spirit confronted my crusty attitude toward the campers, I found I wasn't either.

Before God, all of us are "disabled." We fail to love Him and our neighbor. Nevertheless, God demonstrates His own love toward us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God took the initiative to pay our sin debt. He did what we "crippled" folks could never do for ourselves. God offers grace and through faith in Jesus, we are forgiven and made whole.

Before camp started, I judged adults with developmental disabilities as a liability and a burden. But they simply showed kindness toward me. Their grace convicted me and then won me over.

Am I coming back next year? You bet I am!

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