By Mackenzie Karn, volunteer at Heart’s Home Spokane
After nine months of living and serving together on the Gonzaga Campus, Amy, Jordan and myself travelled deep into the Cascade Mountains to spend a summer working at a YMCA camp. Just as in our home in Spokane, we aim to provide a comforting home for those who are breaking, those who are weeping, those who are rejoicing and those who are healing, in Camp Dudley we strive to provide “The Experience of a Lifetime” to our campers, to “love them to life.” As a camp counselor, we are asked to let the child be whoever they want, and to search for something deeply special about that child. We are challenged to awaken their soul to the potential that they hold. We love them through the pain of bullying, and being bullied, reiterating constantly that they have worth and value. We suffer and we rejoice. We laugh and we cry. We live out the very same charism that we serve in Spokane.
One encounter in particular that dwells in my heart is meeting a young boy named Angel. My little friend Angel has been coming to camp for as long as I have, and our first summer he was only eight years old. I remember Angel arrived differently than many campers. While others had large suitcases and fluffy sleeping bags, Angel had a pillowcase with a change of clothes. But he also had something that I noticed even more so than the dangling pillowcase: a beautiful bright smile. After staff provided him with a sleeping bag, extra clothes, and a toothbrush (the first time he had his very own), I spent the week getting very familiar with that sparkling smile. As the summers went on, Angel grew older and I started to learn a little more about his life at home. This past summer, no one thought Angel would be able to come to camp because now he was thirteen, and expected to work 14 hour shifts for his family. But by the grace of God, Angel came up for not just one, but two weeks. As I spent time with the boy I had watched grow, he told me something that I will not soon forget. When I asked him how things were with his family at home, he shook his head and said, “They want me to be a man. But I am not a man yet. I’m still a boy.” He began to cry, and I held him and cried, too. I knew that being here was his happy place, his place of miracles; his Bethany.