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Transforming Love
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His face broke into a smile as he and I said goodbye on a recent Sunday morning, and my heart was filled with gratitude for what had transpired in the previous seven days. I had volunteered to work at a Christian summer camp in our area and I have to admit, I was taken by surprise by the chain of events that caused this boy to finally smile. 

A woman from our church brought an eleven year old foster child to camp with the hope that he would break out of his shyness, enjoy a week without the constant thoughts of the home that he left, and somehow move past the abuse that he had endured as a small boy. It was a tall order and I privately wondered if those hopes were a bit too unrealistic.

As she unloaded his duffle bag, he stood motionless, his small hands jammed in his front pockets, eyes looking to the ground. I silently prayed, “God, please let us reach this child.”  I smiled and welcomed him to camp, careful not to come too close. When asked how he was doing, he responded with, “OK” and said nothing more.

The first few days of camp were filled with settling into a routine; raising the flag, eating meals, and doing various activities. Our shy camper stood at the sidelines, hands still in his pockets, eyes focused downward. I prayed again, “God, please help someone reach him.”

Answer to Prayer

The answer to that prayer came in the form of a local twelve year old boy. Almost instinctively, he seemed to understand that this shy kid needed to be accepted and loved without condition. They tossed a football back and forth, ate meals together, and bunked in the same cabin. They could be seen standing together at flag raising, and sitting together at night during story time. In short, our twelve year old hero nurtured this shy “underdog,” and the change that occured was simply breathtaking.

The bashful boy began to really smile, and opened up to the counselor in a way that previously seemed impossible. His hands swung freely as he walked, no longer jammed in his front pockets, and his rigid stance relaxed. But even more important than his social interaction, was his desire for spiritual things. On the last night of camp, he made a decision to follow God with his life, and signified his comittment by coming forward and standing next to the young man who had chosen to focus his attention on a hurting comrade.

A lump still makes it’s way into my throat when I ponder this tangible example of what love and acceptance can do to bring people from where they are, to where they need to be. This twelve year old taught a lesson in God-likeness that I will never forget.

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By Michael Temple. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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