Joshua’s Place’s mission is to “… help families overcome the barriers in their life that cause instability.” It starts with not seeing people as “poor” or “not poor” but individuals on the same journey of life that we travel. We recognize that there is a mutual brokenness that is brought to every relationship. I believe the core of our mutual brokenness starts with the two of the deepest questions any of us could ask: “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” There are no shortage of voices trying to answer these questions for us but many, if not most, fall short. The pursuit of these truths marks the seasons of our life and begin at a very young age.
This year marked our sixth year for Summer Camp in the Village. It’s one of the marquis outreaches for Joshua’s Place because it lasts for three months, involves dozens of volunteers and serves more than a hundred families. It’s a lot of work, but a labor of love. This year’s kickoff week theme was Gadgets and Gizmos. Uniquely Wired, Wonderfully Made. Each day the kid’s groups; worshiped, danced, ate, learned, served, played and had one big project. They built a robot.
On Monday, they received their task and were cautioned to not start construction until they had first decided on a purpose. After deciding purpose, they then carefully designed their creation and then went to work assembling the necessary parts to make up the final masterpiece. It was fun to watch the creativity and the team work necessary to accomplish a mission. By Friday each group had a completed machine that represented the design that began a few days earlier.
By now you’ve probably picked up on the dual symbolism of this project. It was certainly our desire for the kids to have fun, learn how to work together in a group and accomplish a mission. We also, used this project to show them how God, our creator, “built” each of us. The daily lessons reinforced the truth of their unique value and reminded them that they have a purpose. It’s a message we all need to hear, especially those that life and culture have wounded.
At the risk of objectifying any story, I can tell you broadly that, some of these kids come from tough situations. Many have lost loved ones to overdose or incarceration, many live with someone other than their biological parents, many live in an environment that has been unable to reinforce the design and purpose they have in life. Having been in this community for several years now, we’ve watched these kids grow and know well the barriers some face. We know there is no ‘one’ human solution that will rid our community of poverty, drugs and broken lives. But we do the know the ‘One’ that designed each of us so we continue to tell that story in word and deed.
The kickoff week ended with the kids showing off their projects and performing for their families and neighbors. We got to see their robot creations. Without our prompting, each group had built a robot that was purposed to serve others in some capacity. We didn’t mandate this. We assumed the boys would make a robot that existed to play Xbox. Their designs affirmed to us that they understood a deeper purpose we all have. To love God AND to love others.
In the presentation, there was a moment that defined the reason we do our camp, and frankly why Joshua’s Place exists. It happened just after Ms. Susan described the upcoming free lunch program and Discovery Classes but just before two camp counselors got a pie in the face from the group that won the penny wars. (The kids raised over $300 to purchase vitamins for kids in Guatemala City.) It came in the form of a six-year-old girl we’ll call “Amanda”.
Amanda and her three sisters live with her grandmother. I know Amanda well because I preached her mother’s funeral after she passed suddenly under very difficult circumstances. Amanda was a baby at the time and happened to be there at the time of her mother’s death. Despite this tragedy, Amanda is blessed to have a caring grandmother to live with that provides her stability in the face of what has been a tragic start to her young life. Amanda gave us this defining moment when she stood up and clearly recited the week’s memory verse that comes from Matthew 5:16; “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” To those that didn’t know Amanda’s story it was a cute first grader that worked hard on a memory verse. For me, it was emotional reminder that our work touches deeply and reaches broadly.
Speaking candidly, the work we do at Joshua’s Place can be taxing. Our commitment to being “with” families and not just doing “to” or “for” means we see tough stories, up close. At times. it’s just too much as I see the effects that life has had on those we serve, especially the children. When we get weary we remind ourselves that the outcomes are not under our control. Our job is to love, serve, speak truth and be friends. We’re hope peddlers that bring God’s love in word and deed. We are at peace in the knowledge that God knows Amanda better than any of us…he designed her. Our reward, this week, is knowing we got to participate in His work of revealing His purpose for her.
This article was originally posted on Kevin Peyton’s personal blog.