Saturday, August 01, 2015

2015: Term 7: Cabin G7: One Amazing Cabin of Ladies

I returned yesterday from Camp Barnabas, where I served for Two Terms. I did return home for one evening in-between, but gosh, it was an educational two weeks for me. *grin* I always expect Term 7 to be full of challenges, but I did not expect Term 8 to be as challenging as it was for my cabin family. I imagine this will be a fairly long post, but, I want to get it all out. In the past if I don't post about it right away, I tend to forget the amazing details of each week.

For those of you new to my world, Camp Barnabas is a camp for people with disabilities of all ages. I don't go as a camper (as several people from Term 1 thought), but I serve as a Cabin Mom. Each cabin has a camper, a teen paired with each camper, two staffers, and a cabin parent. Term 7 we had 9 campers, 10 teens (one as a floater), two staffers and me. Term 8 we had 6 campers, 6 teens, 2 staffers, and me. A term lasts one week. *grin*

Term 7 is for campers with Autism and Developmental Delays. Typically that means Down Syndrome, but there are other conditions as well. Term 8 is a mix, and there were more wheelchairs than I have ever seen before at camp, which was amazing to me!

Now that I have explained that, I want to go on with what I have learned this summer. I have learned so much that I am sure I will miss something as I type that out. I also believe that some lessons are felt, so I won't be able to explain it all, but I do want to share part of it. As always, this is more for me than for you.

Term 7.

I went into it expecting to be in Ronni's cabin again. The past 7 years I have been with Ronni, and it was just what I expected. Upon arrival, I found out that God had other ideas for me. Of course, I was bummed and didn't hide it. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't in tears or extra dramatic. That's not my style. However, I did tell those closest to me to pray because I was initially bummed. *grin* Of course, by the time camper card time rolled around, I understood why God had me where He did. I also believe that the volunteer coordinator knew it would be an initial bummer for me, but she also knows my heart enough to know I will serve where I am needed. *grin*

Camper Card Night is where we pray and the missionaries get their camper name and information about that person that they will spend the week with. Sometimes the missionaries are returners and know the campers, and other times they are brand-new and they need information about the campers. Our cabin term 7 had AMAZING missionaries, that grew amazingly close as the week progressed. I would say it's the closest cabin I've ever been a part of at camp.

Term 7 had two campers I had had before, and the rest were new to me. I will admit, I loved each of them in ways I didn't know possible. *grin* I had had Becca and Rachel before.

Becca was one of our campers, and I had Becca SEVERAL years ago. She still uses her words, "eatee", "drinkee", "waterdee", "bedee", and "showerdee". There were more, but that's all I can recall at the moment that are rated "G". (Sidenote: her use of the F word would stop when ignored. She would only say it two or three times.) Becca can be sweet, and I honestly adore her. I sat by her several times, and was in awe of what God created in her. She also threw my glasses 3 times when I couldn't give her food when she wanted it. The amazing part of Barnabas is that when I get campers like that, I fall in love with them like a Mother loves a child. I enjoy the challenge of finding the key to reaching them. She was often hard to love, but gosh there were some amazing moments when you were able to forget the hard parts and focus on the good in Becca. Perhaps my favorite Becca moment was when her Missionary was singing worship songs along with Wrap-Up (our evening service, for lack of a better description) and Becca just looked at her Missionary. It was one of those precious Camp moments that I won't forget.

I want to mention perhaps the coolest God moment of the week for me. The night before I went to camp, I walked the dollar store and prayed. I bought several items as I was prompted. On our first full day of camp, one of the former staffers came up to me and said that if we gave Becca a squirt bottle with water in it, she would spray for hours. I absolutely lit up! Guess what I bought the night before and had no idea why!!!?!!! Yep. In the cabin, in my extra backpack, was a squirt bottle!!! Woohoo! Praise the Lord! The squirt bottle made it through the first 2 full days of camp. On day #3 it was broken, but they got a new one from camp. Seriously, that made me *grin*. She squirted A LOT, and it was awesome! *grin*

We also had a camper who LOVED Cars, the movie! When I gave her my phone and she could listen to the soundtrack, she was so happy! We ALL loved it! She wasn't a hard camper at all. Truthfully, she reminded me of a Joplin student that we had because she was perfectly happy quoting books and movies. She lived in her own little world most of the time, and was quite content doing so. That's why we were so excited about the Cars 2 soundtrack, as it showed another side of her. My favorite moment was the first time we saw her while "Life is a Highway" was on. She would cue us when to sing. It was priceless! I loved it, and so did the entire cabin!

Ashleigh was another new-to-me camper that made us all wonder how the week would go. Ashleigh has Autism and hits her head and bites herself to calm herself down. Yes, you just read that right. We carried around a padded blanket everywhere we went, and learned quickly that when she went into crisis it was best to just do our best to protect her head. I REALLY liked Ashleigh. I wasn't with her as much as some of our others, but gosh she was amazing. She also loved music, so I surrendered my iPhone for the good of the cabin. *giggle* I will admit that there were moments that I prayed I'd have an iPhone at the end of the week, and found (at the end of the week) she was always careful with it. *grin* Ashleigh spends a lot of her time in intense moments, but when it's over and she smiles, it lights up the room.

Anna and her Missionary, Paige, were the ones I spent the most time with as the week progressed. Paige was an AMAZING Missionary, and seriously worked hard during Term 7. She had Anna in 2014, and she agreed to have her again, and I find that to be extraordinary. I'm also praying Paige is in an easier cabin next year, she's been in the toughest cabin two years in a row. Not that she couldn't handle it, because she totally could, but because she should be able to have a different camp experience. *grin*

Anna was, by far, the lowest functioning camper I've ever had. That doesn't mean that I think she's less than the others, because Anna can love people very well and can make a person smile A LOT. At the same time, Anna was non-verbal (for the most part), sucked her thumb, and would randomly hit people without any warning. She also required a bib (new one for me at camp) because of her eating difficulties. Her preferred activity was laying down and rocking. She was (I believe) 14 years old, functioning at a 33 month level. I'd say it was a little lower, but suffice to say she required support to do EVERYTHING. She wore a brief, required help feeding, bathing, etc. As the week went on, I kind of paired myself with Anna any moment I could because our staffers were with Ashleigh and Becca the most. Paige NEVER complained, I just put myself beside her every moment I could to provide support. She told me at the end of the week what a blessing I was, and I felt it was actually the opposite. Paige did SO MUCH and I felt like a proud parent at the end of the week. Seriously. She amazed me.

Paige is also one of a triplet, and her sister had Alyssa, the camper. Ohmygosh I love Alyssa! She came up to me every time she saw me. We even had our picture taken together on the FB page. It was amazing. I love that girl!

Ronni wasn't in my cabin, but I enjoyed every moment I had with her. I love how she says, "Shannah!" At one point we were in the music room together (cabins combined due to rain, I believe) and I LOVED every second of it. Seriously awesome!

Term 7 was also full of AMAZING Missionaries. I'll be honest, typically there's at least one that needs extra encouragement, but ALL OF THEM did so well I'd be proud to recommend them for staff. They all put their campers first, and their needs second. They also helped each other so well that sometimes they didn't have to ask each other for help. It was INCREDIBLE.

It was also the closest, most fun, cabin of Missionaries I've had. Due to several circumstances beyond our control, we wound up one night doing family time (a meeting after campers go to bed to process and support each other emotionally and spiritually) without staff for about 30 minutes. I don't think I've EVER laughed so much during family time. At one point, they raced to the streetlight and back. They were about to teach me dance moves when staff showed up. I will admit, we had the hardest cabin I've ever been in (camper-wise), and the young ladies rose to the occasion. Those ladies will forever be special to me, as I felt like a VERY PROUD Cabin Mom to each of them.

On the last night, they surprised me with notes from each of them. I smiled and knew all week what a special cabin that was because I've spent SEVERAL weeks out at camp over the years and that sort of cabin doesn't always happen. They (campers, missionaries, and staffers) were all uniquely placed in that cabin, and it's a group I will never forget. We were truly blessed that week. It was hard, fun, and full of laughter. Something that stands out to me now is that they (we) didn't focus on the hard parts, but rather the fun parts each night during family time. Which is normal for camp. We still did happies and crappies. However, we were required to do crappies first and happies second. It was so uplifting and AMAZING. *grin*

I consider that one of the cabins that I will remember forever. A cabin like that isn't that common.

I loved it!

The Next post will be on Term 8. I was taught about what love is truly about this past week.

Stay tuned.

For those of you in that cabin, it was an amazing week and I will forever love you, in a Mom way. *grin*


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