by Wynne Elder Posted Jul 30, 2019
When we found Wynne Elder’s story on Instagram about her family’s experience with Camp in the City, we knew we had to get in touch with her and learn more! We know her words will touch you just as they did us. Thank you for sharing, Wynne!
My husband and I both grew up going to summer camp, and eventually running a Christian summer camp was my big dream for my life. When we got married, we interviewed for a few full-time camp positions before God made it clear that it wasn’t His plan for us.
We were challenged to pray about adoption through working with an organization that puts on a free summer camp for at-risk youth. We said “YES” to adopting a baby boy from Ethiopia, and we both knew that we wanted to name our son Camp as a symbol. God had a “camp” in store for us, just not what we imagined.
Fast forward a few years. We signed up both of our children for Camp in the City, but honestly, we weren’t sure that our son Camp was going to be able to attend. He is very special, but he has his challenges. I got online and found the director’s info and emailed EJ. After our first conversation with him on the phone, I wasn’t so sure it was going to be a good fit. I was still nervous about potential behaviors that could come up. But after more conversation with both EJ and the church’s on-site director Katelin, we decided to give it a go!
Pine Cove blew us away the very first day. After I dropped the kids off, I decided to stay close in case I needed to go back. Later that morning, I got a call from EJ about Camp’s behavior. I was in complete AWE the way EJ responded with such grace and love. Instead of making me feel shame for the challenges they were experiencing with Camp, EJ simply asked me how they could come alongside of and love on Camp.
I couldn’t believe it! In all my years with teachers, coaches, and counselors, NO ONE had exemplified such grace as EJ did on the phone that day. I felt safe enough with him to tell him normally these conversations end with me profusely apologizing, to which he said NO NEED. I gave him some tips, and by the afternoon I was getting texts, pictures, and videos from both EJ and Katelin of Camp having the time of his life!
The biggest gift was the day I got a text message from Katelin saying, “Look who’s on stage!” It was Camp! I cannot explain to you the emotions that went through me. I cried, I laughed, I praised God. I was reminded that God SEES and He knows us, because what EJ didn’t know when he invited Camp up on stage is that he is a natural in front of a crowd. He loves to tell jokes, give speeches, be silly, and dance. God, in the way only He does, saw my Camp that day and lifted him up.
That day I called to get on the waitlist for Pine Cove family camp. I knew I found a place where we belonged. A place we could be free to be our messy, glorious selves and still be accepted and loved. God is using Pine Cove and the entire staff to advance the kingdom and encourage believers. We are eternally grateful.
We have all learned that Jesus loves and accepts all of us. We learned that people want to show up and serve God through loving people. We learned that the kindness of strangers goes a long way. We learned some really fun cheers that we sing in our home now! We were so encouraged to pray for and encourage the counselors and people who are giving their lives to serve the kingdom. We learned that Jesus is gentle, kind, and has a sense of humor.
We also LOVED getting to see a person of color in the main leadership role. Raising two black kids, this is SO SO SO important for us all. We learned even more that Jesus doesn’t qualify us by the color of our skin, our age, our education, our denomination — He loves and accepts ALL OF US, and can use every single one of us for His glory.
Our week at Camp in the City impacted our entire family. It gave us the reminder that we are not a burden, but a blessing. So often with a child with special needs and children who experience trauma, we feel like we are “too much.” We often battle the thought that it would be easier to just stay home.
BUT GOD. He reminded us through His servants that in His eyes we are all the same. He doesn’t love one of us more than the others, and to Him we are never a burden. He is there to fight for us, love us, and extend grace to us—and He often does that through others.