Recently, I was on a two day writing retreat at Camp Berachah in the Auburn-Black Diamond area of Washington State. My plan was to enter the final edits of my son Gabe’s book titled My Message is C.L.E.A.R., and enjoy some quiet time all by myself. When I arrived, I was given a tour of the grounds.
As I walked the path past the cabins, the pool, the dining hall and the sanctuary, my mind was flooded with memories of the week Gabe attended his first summer church camp at this facility. That was eleven years ago, but it felt like yesterday as emotions I hadn’t felt in years rose in my heart.
That summer of his fifth grade year, he had a wonderful experience at camp, but it was one of the times Gabe was reminded of his limitations. We had not been prepared for the disappointments he experienced when he couldn’t climb on the climbing wall. He was sad when he was unable to participate in the obstacle course. Many of the games we played in the gymnasium were too difficult for him. We had to figure out how I would help him in the boy’s bathroom without embarrassing him or the other campers.
I remembered trying to encourage him at the end of each day while I helped him get ready for bed. We brainstormed alternative ways to participate with the other campers so he didn’t feel left out. For most of the activities we found a way for him to join in, but there were some things he just couldn’t do. Gabe was discouraged and sad. I prayed with him asking God to help us figure things out.
I didn’t want him to feel my own sadness so I maintained a positive attitude whenever I was with him. At night, however, I cried myself to sleep in discouragement and disappointment at the realization of how different Gabe’s abilities were compared to the other kids. It was a very hard time for me but I didn’t want anyone to know I was struggling. I simply stuffed my pain, put a smile on my face, and moved through the days.
Even with these disappointments, there were treasured moments of seeing God at work that entire week. Gabe felt close to God as he made new friends. At most meals, a whole group of girls asked him to eat with them at their table. The camp counselors did a good job trying to accommodate our unique needs.
I call these moments when I sense God at work “kisses on the cheek from God.” These are reminders that He is with us even in the hard times.
One of my favorite memories was when the worship team led the campers in a beautiful song that encouraged them to give their struggles to God and to “come just as you are.” I watched Gabe get out of his wheelchair and walk to the front of the church. A group of new friends surrounded him with prayer as he set his discouragement on the altar before God. It was a sweet moment, and felt a little bit like heaven to see these young people ministering to my broken-hearted son.
By the end of this week of camp, Gabe sensed God’s plan for him to share his story with other kids to encourage them in their own disappointments. Even as a young fifth grade boy, He knew God would use his story to help others. Two years later, he joined a school assembly program and started sharing his story.
You can imagine the emotion welling up in my heart as I sat in my room at the camp, all these years later, finalizing his book in the very place where God met Gabe and ministered to his broken heart.
After entering the edits on the book, I took another walk around the campus and allowed God to minister to all the sadness I had stuffed so many years ago. I listened to worship music on my I-pod and let the tears flow.
It was such a sweet moment to see how God had taken all of us full circle in the process of laying our burdens at His feet. Now as Gabe speaks to thousands of people and as we near the date this book will be released, we can see that God had a plan all along to take Gabe’s disappointments and turn them for good.
I’m thankful for the healing that took place.