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It was 3:30 in the morning, and I was driving the back roads of Rolla, Missouri. I turned my car into what I could only describe as a small “western frontier” town. A couple of sleepy watch dogs greeted me as I knocked on Ben and Grace Smith’s front door. 
 
Just a few hours later, after being shown where I was going to sleep, and receiving my “staff” shirt, I found myself sitting in the Camp David conference Room, ready to meet thirty-five campers who all had the same thing in common; each one had parent in prison. 
 
Camp David of the Ozarks was founded by Ben and Grace Smith in 2001, with a mission to serve the children of inmates and their families. Many of these young people have never had a chance to go to camp before; others do not know what it’s like to have a safe place to share their thoughts and feelings, or learn what a real relationship with Jesus is like; much like the children enrolled in My Club. 
 
When Grace asked me to come to Camp David to serve with them, I jumped at the opportunity. 
 
I sat with groups of girls during the morning sessions, leading the “What About It?” class. Our conversation moved from light, “getting to know you” topics to very serious and life-altering questions. 
 
Nothing was off the table. We discussed drug use, gang violence, dating, and fears of failure. These young campers are well aware of what the world thinks of their locked-up parents. They know their community has them under a microscope, judging them, waiting for them to fail and follow in their parents’ footsteps. 
 
“My grandma says my Daddy is garbage. Does this make me trash too?” one camper asked. My heart broke for them, but as the days passed, I began to see the love of Jesus making an impact. 
Afternoons, I taught the campers how to make scones, and introduced them to proper dining etiquette. We had shaving cream battles, talent shows, and worked on crafts. 
 
The highlight of the week was the Princess Party, when everyone dressed in evening gowns, sat down to a fancy dinner and danced the night away. As I helped one girl curl her hair, she told me this was the one time of the year she felt beautiful. Her glowing smile reflected her inner beauty. 
 
The hardest part was the goodbyes. I wished I could keep them all. I wished they didn’t have to go back to those hard places. But I wished more than anything else there were more places like Camp David. 
 
I am still in touch with many of the campers. They call me “Auntie,” and send me pictures of the sconces they’ve made for their loved ones. Some still ask me the hard questions. They also want to know whether I am coming back next year. 
 
My Camp David experience was something I will never forget. The joy of working alongside another family serving families was a meeting of kindred spirits. Our two ministries have caught a new vision -  how Christian Formation Ministries and Camp David of the Ozarks will partner in the future. 
 
It is a dream bigger than anything I could imagine, and larger than I can do by myself. 
 
When you support CFM, you support partnerships like the one we’ve established with Camp David. These opportunities expand our reach beyond Southern Indiana and give us influence on a national level. It brings us closer to the vision God has given us; restoring families affected by incarceration and addiction. 
You can be part of this restoration through your prayers and financial support. 
 
My Club meetings resume in August. The program is growing by the day and the members are excited to come back. As we continue our current programming, the Lord is opening doors to new ventures. We cannot do this without you, and so, I ask for your help so we do not have to delay serving children who have an immediate and ongoing need for safety, security, and above all, love, acceptance, and encouragement. 
 
It costs us $75.00 a month to change the life of one child. Please commit to giving that amount every month, or whatever amount the Lord leads you to give. 
We are thankful for your support, and covet your prayers. 


 


Comments

08/31/2016 5:10pm

I like your mission to serve children and families of inmates. This post inspired me to volunteer on charity works too. Being an inmate's son or daughter must be very hard so camps like this one is very helpful. I think that if God gave you a blessed life then you must share that blessings to those who are in need. Good job!

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10/20/2016 11:48pm

Thanks a lot for your report from that capm! Great place! Now I'm thinking about visiting it too ;)

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11/06/2016 3:28am

I want to visit this camp next summer. Is it possible? Can I contact you?

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11/21/2016 1:05am

Great information, you have a wonderful blog and an excellent article.

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12/08/2016 8:38pm

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12/18/2016 10:58pm

Thank you for sharing this inspiring story with us. Having a visitor like you in the camp is a big blessing to the campers. I know God leads you to them to touch their hearts and souls. God made you as a bridge between them and Him. Please don't stop inspiring people.

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01/08/2017 9:06am

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01/16/2017 5:19am

nice work.

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01/17/2017 10:45pm

Thanks a lot for your report from that capm! Great place! Now I'm thinking about visiting it too ;)

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Nice to share this awesome song....

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01/22/2017 3:32am

One of the best types of vacations you can take with your family is to go on a camping trip. When you spend time with each other in nature, you can end up having more appreciation for each other and also for the world. Camping is also an inexpensive way to have an affordable vacation for the entire family. By getting away from modern conveniences you have a chance to experience living in a different way. Before you head out into the wild, be sure you stock up with the right camping equipment, and that includes having the right family camping tent.

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I support you and I believe it will be a great project. Good luck!

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01/26/2017 8:41pm

Thank you this great article. This will be a beautiful family day, if we go in this camp. Hope this will be much fun to camp there in the future.
I'll definitely go there with my family. Hope to see you there.

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