I am working at Camp David of the Ozarks for the week as a Camp Granny for the 8th summer in a row. This is, without a doubt, one of the most joyous God-drenched places on earth and most folks don’t even know it exists! Camp David is a Christian camp for the children of Missouri prisoners. If a child has a mother or father in jail or prison, they can come to this five day camp that offers crafts, horseback riding, skits, puppet shows, swimming, singing, sleeping in cabins, prayer, Bible study, field games, nature study, a campfire night and fishing—all the things we knew as kids at church camp plus a whole lot more. And it’s all free, no charge to the kids or their families. The two most important things they’ve been teaching here for the past 12 years is how much each child is loved, by Jesus and all the people here and that their lives are their own, that they can choose the kind of life they want to lead. And to that end, after 12 years, they have many of their campers returning as camp counselors and support staff. That, however, does not even begin to tell the story of this incredible place.
Ben and Grace Smith are the director and co-director of Camp David and have been from its first year when they welcomed 18 campers. For the past several years, they have served over 200 campers each summer, boys and girls, in separate weeks, ages 8 through 16. In addition to the campers, there are support staff, like a mini-camp within the camp, young people, both former campers and Christian youth, many homeschoolers or missionaries’ children, who help cook, wash dishes, cut grass, care for the young children of the staff, and help out in a dozen other ways to keep the place, running. There are camp ministry folks who supervise the counselors, who are high school and college aged volunteers, who work for a pittance all summer long to lend their support to this program. And it is all run on donations and fund-raising that takes place all year long to make it happen again and again each summer.
And then there are folks like me, Grannies and Aunties, who come, some for weeks at a time or others like me, just for a week or so, and write letters to campers, read bedtime stories, help with crafts and any other tasks that need done at the moment, from taking a camper with a sprained ankle to the ER, to helping bait a hook or take a fish off the line for a first time fishermen to helping a young lady on Princess Dinner night, dress up in a formal with high heels and make-up and get her picture taken, just like a real prom queen.
It is impossible to say who is the most impressive here, the directors who do this, year after year, along with their five children, ages 6 through 19, who work just as hard as their parents all summer long, helping children who come out of situations, the horrors of which they can only imagine; the college students who serve in this ministry, young people already on fire for God and busy putting that desire to such a positive use even at their young age; the youngsters who have come through the camp themselves and now return to lend a helping hand to others whose families are also fractured by crime, drugs and dysfunction. And then people, like me who come to do what little we can and which often seems to be little more than the chance to rub shoulders for a few days with these saints in the making. I’ve been in law enforcement and rehab work for over 20 years now and I’ve never seen a better anti-crime fighting program than this.
Jesus walked this earth 2000 years ago and he taught us by example that LIFE is all about relationships. He rounded up 12 pretty rag tag types, taught them everything he could get into their thick heads in three years and then told them to go out there and teach it to everyone they met. THAT is still going on in a little place right here in the Ozarks called Camp David. If you would like to know more about Camp David of the Ozarks or contribute to their mission, just check them out on the Internet. I guarantee you will be impressed!