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six homes in nine years

I’m about to eat a Snickers Bar.  Now, normally, I wouldn’t go much out of my way to buy a Snickers Bar.  I’m not a candy-bar-kind-of-guy.

But this Snickers Bar came attached to a note.  It read:

“Dear Ken Hensley.  You are the best.  You have been the best for 3 years.  I hope I am coming back.  Genavasie.”

Genavasie is one of our campers at Opportunity Camp.  After she delivered the candy bar, she hung around and we talked for about 15 minutes.  We covered a range of topics: her brother (who came last year but is getting in trouble), her new foster home, and her mom.  We talked about the Bible stories I tell everyday in assembly.  She apologized for not being able to speak well; I told her she was doing fine.

Her story breaks my heart.  Here is the short version:

  • 12 years old.
  • 9 years in 6 different foster homes.  Most recent change was the day before camp.  Her older brother created too much trouble for their last foster parents; Genevasie didn’t want to leave but the county made her.
  • 2 years spent with her grandmother (from one to two).
  • 1 year spent with her mother (from birth to one).

This is her third year at camp and she loves this place.  In her own words, “Everyone is always so kind.”  I thought to myself, “You should see me back home.  I’m not always so kind.” She asked me if she could come back as a counselor when she was too old to be a camper.  “Let’s take this a year at a time.  We have many campers who come back to staff camp.”

There are many kids like Genevasie here at Opportunity Camp; there are even more who are not here.

Genevasie didn’t ask me for special treatment.  She didn’t ask for anything.  She just camped out on the steps and started talking.  As long as I kept listening, she kept talking.  Truth be told, it was a most simple gift to offer — time and attention.

I always leave Opportunity Camp convicted because I rarely offer kids like Genevasie these most simple of gifts.  Instead, I get busy with life, with deadlines, meetings, sermons, and appointments.  I’m not intentional about carving out time for “other people’s kids” because I feel like I don’t spend enough time with my own kids.

Maybe it’s good to live with this tension.  To feel the tension.  I’m afraid that when I no longer feel the tension, I will no longer feel anything.  And that’s not where I’d like to be.