May 24th, 2012 by Kristi Stephens
This week Focus on the Family, the Cry of the Orphan, and Show Hope are calling for a prayer vigil for children in the foster care system, and we have spent the past three days with some very powerful testimonies here on the blog. I pray you have been blessed by them and also have been challenged to pray! Today I’m so grateful to have my very dear friend Rachel and her husband Pete sharing with us. They have a true heart for adoption and ministering to children in foster care.
I am thrilled to have them here today to share the ministry of Royal Family Kids’ Camp! Pete and Rachel are deeply involved in this ministry within their home church and community, and their enthusiasm has been contagious over the years as they have shared their experiences and heart with me! It is an exciting reminder that there are some powerful ways to invest in the lives of these children, even if God has not specifically called you to foster or adopt.
1. Tell us about how you became involved with Royal Family Kids’ Camp. Why were you drawn to this ministry? How long have you been involved/ what are your role(s) have you filled in the camp?
Pete: In 2001, as a college student, the Lord made it clear to me that He was giving me a ministry to “outcasts”. Moving forward to 2006, my wife and I were living in San Antonio, where our Pastor, Sean Azzaro of River City Community Church, had told us about the Royal Family Kids Camp (RFKC) ministry to foster children he had worked with in California. From that point on, Rachel and I felt the specific call to serve.
As for individual roles, I’ve served as Assistant Director, Dean of Support Staff, Coach (Games Leader), Videographer, Counselor. Rachel has been our camp Nurse and plans to be a counselor this summer.
2. What is a typical week of camp like? What is the focus of what you do?
The theme for camp this year is Joshua 1:9 “This is my command-be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” We’re excited to share this life changing truth with 48 seven to eleven-year-old campers through chapel, drama, music, skits, puppets and daily devotional time during our five day over-night camp. Our goal is to create positive memories in a very relational and fun environment.
Many of our campers come from a large group home in San Antonio and don’t have one-on-one interaction with someone who has the time to sit and listen to them. We have one counselor for every two campers ratio so that everyone has a hand to hold when needed. God has blessed us with an awesome camp facility where we get to spend time in God’s creation together and enjoy the camp’s zip line, pool, archery, and climbing wall, as well as crafts and woodworking.
One unique aspect of camp is what we call “Everybody’s Birthday Party.” Some children within the foster care system may have never had their own birthday party so we create a huge birthday carnival with awesome rides, horses, games and presents for each camper to know that they are loved and celebrated. Each camper receives a birthday box with an mp3 player with the songs from the camp week and they love to listen to their music!
3. How has being part of this ministry impacted you personally?
We are whole-heartedly committed to what we call “vacationing with a purpose.” Camp is on our calendars and minds all year long and we look forward to showing God’s love to a special group of children. I love being able to serve with my ministry partner, my spouse. Coincidentally, the campers are always excited to find out that we’re married because married couples aren’t really the norm in their world. It has opened our eyes to the great needs within the foster care world.
4. Will you share with us a couple of the most impacting memories from your times at camp?
Two years ago, one of my 9-year old boys was telling me about a movie he had seen. After hearing his enthusiastic description of the movie, he asked me why I hadn’t seen it yet. I told him that I hadn’t watched that particular movie because there was too much death and destruction for me. He then “taught” me that death isn’t a big deal, because we just “Turn to grass”. I then asked him if he wanted to hear what God’s Word says about what happens to us when we die. Teachable moments like this happen all of the time as we spend a week of quality time together.
Other memories that bring goose-bumps involve:
Watching a ten year old girl swim for the VERY first time and hearing 100 people cheering her on.
Watching an 11 year old boy, who was “too cool” to do anything at camp, initially avoid the horse, but then face his fear, approach the horse, mount the horse, and spend the next 3 hours riding and helping and encouraging others to do the same. Note: This boy’s social let us know that he was a completely changed young man with a great change in his behavior and outlook after his week of camp.
(Rachel) As one of the nurses I’m not with the campers all the time, but it thrills my heart to walk into the evening chapel time and hear all the kids enthusiastically singing God’s truth. They love to shout out the song “You Never Let Go.”
5. How can readers find out more about RFKC and learn how they can get involved?
From their website you can see if there is already a camp in your area by clicking the “Find a Camp” tab. Each camp director’s contact information is listed. Directors are always seeking volunteers to pray, financially support, volunteer to serve as camp staff, or help with registration/everybody’s birthday party/welcome home dinner. If there isn’t already a camp in your area and you’d like to start one, click the “Start a Camp” tab to find out what you need to do.
Want to find out more? You can also follow Royal Family Kids on facebook and twitter. Join us down on our knees for the 400,000 children in the foster care system? Download the official prayer guide here.