I had an incredible week this week. This week I truly learned what it means to live as an example of Jesus, through the children in my republic. I never thought I would come to this camp and learn such important things from children.
This week I had a group of 8 year old girls at West End Community church in Nashville. I had one girl named Silver, who was a complete joy to have in my republic. She was a quiet leader in our republic, constantly put others before herself, and praised Jesus confidentiality during worship. Through Silver’s actions and words, I could see Jesus inside of her without a doubt, and that reminded me that, that is how I should be living. She taught me that I should be living my life to serve and love others just as Christ loved me, and that I should act and speak in a way that exudes Christ into the world. It was truly incredible to be around Silver and the other girls in my republic who loved Christ and others so well.
I also gained a lot of patience this week, and learned how to find the root of “bad” behavior that I might have been quick to judge before. I have developed ways to give special attention to these children, and to help them talk through the reasons they may be acting out. A little girl in my republic named Brooke, was so very sweet, but wouldn’t always obey the rules. I realized I needed to give her the special attention she was asking for, in order for her to behave better.
This week overall was a huge learning experience for me, and I got to see Christ working in my life through this ministry more and more.
My second week working at Barefoot Republic Camp was very different from the first week. This week took a bit more patience and hard work, but in the end made for an incredible week with a new group of 9 year old girls. This week there was a few girls in my republic who had been best friends since birth, and weren’t reaching out to the others to make new friends and include everyone. This was difficult at first, but we ended up playing games with the girls to naturally get them to know each other better, and create an inclusive environment in our republic. These activities were hard for the girls at first, as they had the tendency to stay with their other friends as that was more comfortable for them, but they ended in creating a more loving and inclusive environment in my republic.
I also realized this week, the great influence I had on each girl just by sharing the devotions or speaking wise words into their lives. There were a couple girls who didn’t know the bible and about Jesus, and I was honored to be able to speak truth into their hearts about who God is. We had many incredible discussions during family devotional time and they asked many questions about baptism, Jesus’ life, and other topics in the bible stories we would read each day.
This group of girls taught me about patience and the importance of asking questions and paying attention to small details in the bible, that I would maybe normally not see. I had an incredible second week and can’t wait to start another!
This past week was one of the best weeks of my life. It was the most eye-opening experience to see how other people have it in their lives, and strengthened my compassion towards others and patience.
When we had training as a staff we went over the roots of bad behavior in a child. We talked about how bad behavior in a child comes from a possible damaged family dynamic or some sort of hurt they have experienced. I had the privilege this week to lead vocal performance and a boy that I had in that group was very difficult, didn’t want to participate, and would sing other songs while the rest of the class was singing. I saw a tremendous growth in my patience through having this boy in my class, which is one of the overall goals I have for the summer.
I also had the privilege of being a republic leader, which is the leader of a small group of kids. This role also means I lead devotions every day to my republic during lunch, which I so enjoyed, because I got to speak truth into the girls in my republic and have amazing discussions with them. I was the leader of Republic 7 and had girls who were 9-11 years old. These girls were incredible. We had so many amazing conversations and I was able to answer their questions and talk to them about the concept of salvation.
While my experience with all the girls was amazing, one little girl in particular, named Sophie really stood out, even on the first day. She was quiet and reserved; she didn’t talk to anyone, she didn’t want to participate in any team building exercises or activities through the day, she didn’t even want to eat. The second day of camp, we were walking to the bathrooms and Sophie told me about her life. She was a refugee from Columbia, who moved here three years ago, and her mom and brothers were still in her home country. She told me about how she lives with her grandparents here, but misses her mom and brothers tremendously. It was her first week of camp…ever. My heart felt for her and I hugged her tight. Suddenly, all her behavior made sense, I could never imagine how difficult life has been for her. Throughout the rest of the week I got to watch Sophie blossom into a fun-loving girl who loved her fellow campers so well and became so passionate about archery at the farm. Sophie was probably the highlight of my week; I’ve never met anyone as strong and brave as her.