Royal Family Kids Camp (RFKC) of Kern County concluded on Friday June 24th as staff, counselors and children arrived home from one-week of an incredible camp. The annual camp is for foster children ages six through eleven and it is operated by local volunteers as an outreach of Canyon Hills Assembly of God in Bakersfield, California.
Coming home from a week at RFKC is like returning from a mission trip across the globe. I have had the same emotions, mental and physical fatigue upon returning from a week at RFKC as I have from multiple trips to our African orphan home. The spiritual highs and lows also accompany the return to the “normal life” but there is one thing that remains strong and that is hope.
Hope has no expiration date. In fact, neither does love or faith. These three components of a successful life are what makes RFKC stand above many experiences I have had. RFKC is geared to produce faith, hope and love in children that have lacked all three. The fact that these children are living in a “system” that attempts to replace family is a signal that their hope has been crushed, their love left untapped and their faith dormant. RFKC, through the amazing volunteers that serve, encourages each child that someone loves them, that faith is strong enough to weather any storm and that hope is alive!
One of the closing moments of our week with the wonderful children of RFKC is an altar ceremony. During the closing ceremony, we bury two thoughts recorded on paper from each camper. One thought is something they want to take home from camp and the other is something they want to leave at camp. We then bury the notes and each person places a rock upon the earth thereby sealing the memory and the event. This is a very emotional time for each staff/counselor and child as it is the end of an amazing week full of love, grace and powerful relationship building. At each ceremony we have conducted over the past fifteen years, I am amazed at the depth of what is written. Below are some samples:
“I want to leave that I was raped by my families friend” – 10-year-old girl.
” I want to leave that my dad is in prison” – 8-year-old boy.
“I want to leave my sadness in foster care” – 10-year-old boy.
“I want to leave leaving my family” – 7-year-old boy.
“I want to take all my new friends home” – 7-year-old boy.
“I wan to take back the way God loves me” – 9-year-old girl.
“I want to take home the great times we had this week” – 11-year-old boy.
These are just a few of the comments that portray the despair and the hope the children experience. Hope has no expiration date means that each of these incredible children have the authority and permission to believe that life can and will get better. It was a privilege and honor to extend hope to children in seemingly hopeless situations. It worked!
As we came down the mountain and back to the “normal life”, I noted the extreme sense of urgency and commitment that brought hope to the children. The staff and counselors worked tirelessly and with passion to share God’s love, hope and faith. This happened as children were told Bible stories, ate great meals, went on hikes, enjoyed tea parties, rode horses, or simply shared their thoughts and heart with a safe and new friend. RFKC works and it works because God’s people give of their time, talent and treasure to share hope.
Hope has no expiration date means that the children will never forget RFKC. In fact, we know this to be true because of Monica. Monica is a former foster youth in one of Covenant Community Services, Inc. transitional housing programs. Monica came to the Covenant office months ago and saw the handprints on the wall from children of RFKC. She became emotional and stated, “I went to your camp!” We immediately went to look through our pictures and found that she did attend RFKC but it was in another city. Nonetheless, her memory proved our theory correct … hope lives here! Hoppe has no expiration date.
Monica was one of five former foster children that served at the 2011 RFKC of Kern County. She served as a counselor to two little foster girls that she loved, encouraged and shared hope with just as someone had done with her over 11 years ago. Hope truly has no expiration date.
RFKC is a one week camping experience designed to spark hope. Now, we must pick up the banner of hope and fly it daily for these wonderful and needy children. This happens as we continue to serve and create opportunities for safe and faith-filled people to serve the fatherless or the modern-day foster child. You can start today by praying for the youth and children in foster care and follow-up by serving.
Covenant Community Services, Inc. (Covenant) has many opportunities to serve foster children. We have over 10 programs that provide unique and aggressive hope-filled services and supports that communicate God’s love, acceptance and hope. There are services that reach children and young adults 0-24 years old. You can become a foster parent, provide child care, mentor for one hour per week, serve in a horse program and so much more. We need your help. The children and youth of Kern County need your help.
Remember, hope has no expiration date but someone has to share hope to transform a life!