Four hours ago, I arrived home from Camp Agape. I’ve taken the time to store and rearrange all our supplies for next year.  I’ve removed the batteries our of the walkie-talkies and cleaned out the bleach bottles.  I’m tired, dirty and sweaty, but I wanted to put down my thoughts as they are fresh in my heart.  Camp Agape is an extension of The Special Gathering, a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our mission is to evangelize and disciple people with developmental disabilities.  We aren’t a camping ministry, like some of companion ministries are.  Yet, we take four days out of each year to get away on a spiritual retreat with our members.

On days like this, I am painfully aware that there are times that I forget the wonder of what we do.  The tasks become too hard or even worse, mundane and lackluster.  The problems overwhelm the spirit.  The concerns for safety rob your sleep.  But spending days with our member always refreshes the joy.

Camp Agape is the most amazing, miserable, joyful, sorrowful time in the year.  ( think I said that before but it is worth repeating.) The Twins–as they have become known in our Melbourne program–are 22 years old.  Clara and Ariel were never taken to church or allowed to go anywhere except school for the first 21 years of their life. 

They were removed from their parents’ home after they graduated from high school.  The Twins were put into the care of foster parents.  The wife gave up her position as an special education school teacher to be able to have them live in her home.  She and her husband have become their true mother and father.

The Twins are extremely physically involved and require one-on-one care.  Therefore, they are automatically disqualified from attending Camp Agape.  We is not geared to give that level of personal care. 

However, our volunteers rebelled and insisted that The Twins should go and they would pick up the slack.  First Church of God of Vero provided a grant for a  personal caregiver.  Early Friday morning, The Twins were packed and ready for Camp Agape because of the love and concern of the church community.  This would be their first vacation in a lifetime and a great adventure. 

Our weekend was blessed because of Clara’s ear-to-ear grins.  We cherished Ariel’s smiles like fine jewels.  We almost got tired of hearing their continuing thank yous.  Their caregiver, Mary Buchman, was amazing, going far beyond the call of duty.  She wanted them to have four-days they would never forget.  I believe it happened. 

Even greater, The Twins helped to provide us with a weekend that we would never forget. I know that anyone who encountered them will never forget their Four Days of Joy.  They did the crafts and hugged the cheap rubbery banners to their hearts.  The banners proclaimed, “Jesus loves Clara” and “Jesus loves Ariel.”  They sat quietly at the picnic tables and felt the wind blowing their hair.  They giggled gleefully their heads bobbing as we scurried them to their cabin while the rains chased at their heels.  They memorized the names of all the people who fought for a turn to push them from place to place. 

Their caregiver fought unsuccessfully to block all the sun from their delicate skin.  The pink hue on their noses and smiling cheeks make them look perky and alive.  It was their first taste of the sun tickling their skin.  It made Clara laugh. 

For the first time, I saw Ariel, the quiet twin, laugh.  Until this weekend, her smiles were infrequent.  But the smiles came at meal time and during chapel.  She came up twice to hug me.  Perhaps for the first time in her life, Ariel left her baby doll who was “sleeping in her bed” as The Twins headed for chapel on Sunday morning. 

Oh, yes, the wonder is back and you remember why you do what you do.

What are some of the things that remind you of the wonder of ministering to this exciting population?