We had three amazing summer camps this summer at our Humboldt Park and two Little Village locations! Each summer New Life Centers offers fifteen weeks of summer camp between these locations for our kindergarten through 8th grade students. Our students and their communities were challenged in their faith as they learned together. Two of our students from Little Village gave us a very tangible demonstration of God’s power at work transforming lives and meeting us in our broken places.
Alex & Cesar, fourth grade campers, weren’t getting along very well at this year’s away camp. Actually, that’s an understatement. On day two of camp, Alex & Cesar started throwing punches at each other during breakfast. Their team leaders brought them to the directors to sort things out. As they sat at the breakfast table, each one began to tell his side of the story. “He called me —-” “He came over & started hitting me.” Their emotions ranged from angry and sullen to sad and despairing. They talked and the directors listened, and then asked them what would need to happen to make things right.
The children decided they should apologize. Each told the other, “I’m sorry”. The directors suggested they might want to give each other space since it seemed that they got on each other’s nerves. After all, that’s what we tell kids, right? “Just leave each other alone & you’ll both be better off.” But, as Ms. Emily was sitting there with these two, she wasn’t convinced that it was enough. These boys were on the same team at camp and even if they weren’t, didn’t Jesus call us to something more than avoiding those who hurt us? Didn’t He call us to forgiveness and to reconciliation? So, she dared the question: “What do you guys think it would look like for you to be friends?”
To her surprise, it didn’t take them long to answer: “We could tell each other jokes.” “We could play together”. The directors affirmed these ideas, but wondered if there would be any real difference in their interactions? They didn’t need to worry. A small miracle unfolded before their eyes: Alex said he was thirsty. In response, Cesar picked up the water pitcher, poured a glass of water & passed it to Alex. Then they started talking. And joking. And laughing. By the time they got to Bible time, they were enjoying each other so much the directors thought they would have to separate them just to get them to pay attention. Two guys who that morning were hurting each other with their words and their fists were now relishing each other’s company & having the time of their lives.