My First Exposure to Camp Promise
The date was Tuesday, July 1, 2008 and this was my first exposure to Camp Promise and to special needs ministry in general. It may sound maudlin, but I can honestly say that on that Tuesday, after several days of training, when the campers descended upon Big Sky, my life was changed. It being my first experience with Camp Promise, I stood back and mostly observed the ministry occurring during those two weeks. I watched counselors drag themselves into breakfast after being up most of the night with campers that were not able to sleep. I watched how Mr. T affectionately whacked campers with noodles down at the waterfront. I saw how the staff fell in love with all of the personalities, quirks, eccentricities and idiosyncrasies of the spectrum of special needs campers. In Matthew 25, Jesus, speaking of the final judgment, says, “truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
“truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
This is a more profound statement than it appears. Jesus explicitly states that when a believer welcomes a stranger, visits someone in prison or aids someone who is sick, etc., they are ministering to Jesus Himself. When I think of the “least of these,” I immediately think of those with special needs.
The Great Need
According to the National Organization on Disability, nearly one fifth of all Americans, more than 54 million men, women and children, have a physical, sensory or intellectual disability. I would like you take a minute and think of the ministries you know that are meant for those with disabilities. You can probably come up with one or two, thanks to an increasing awareness of this void in our country, but it is still remarkable how few Christian ministries there are who reach out to those with special needs. After you are done thinking about this, go ahead and try to find the closest Christian special needs camp to Northwest Montana. Having done this, I can tell you that you will not find anything within about 600 miles or so.
One of our goals for 2017 is to make people aware of both the importance of special needs ministry and the necessity of it. We are in the midst of a fundraising campaign for a new facility, a facility which, among other things, will allow us to expand our ministry to those with special needs. While this may not sound that exciting to you, it is huge for us, because we have all seen how important and legitimate this ministry is. As we blog, make videos, etc., our main goal is awareness. To be honest, yes, through this process, we hope that people will give to our campaign, but that is not what is driving us. Our motivation comes directly from the change that we see in the hearts of “the least of these,” and the fact that they talk about summer camp all year long. Our drive stems from our limitation to two weeks of Camp Promise in a facility where it is a full time job simply to push a wheelchair around. Please join us in our crusade for awareness and, if the Lord moves you to do so, help us as we try to expand our ministry.
The Hope of Heaven
I mentioned earlier that my life was changed in 2008. The change was not profound; in fact, I don’t think I was even aware of the change. It was simply a change in perspective. It is inexplicable to me and perhaps I am alone in this, but being in the presence of those with handicaps causes me to examine what truly is important in this world. Many of the campers who attend Camp Promise will never marry or be able to live independently. Most do not cling to riches or relationships.
For many campers, the one hope they have is the hope of heaven, where they will be whole in every way.
For many campers, the one hope they have is the hope of heaven, where they will be whole in every way. I have always maintained that special needs campers have a deeper understanding of spiritual things than you or I will ever be capable of. However, on this earth they require our help – to love them, care for them and provide a place for them to experience summer camp just like every other kid. Please join us as we attempt this feat for the glory of God!