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BLIND CAMP: I Am Always There For You!

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BY BRIAN WAHL

Each of the statements below have full stories behind them in and of themselves. This summer at blind camp we took the opportunity to put together comments, observations, and experiences from a week with some amazing people.

There is the question of how is blind camp making a difference?

This year we have some telling tales of how the Holy Spirit is moving in staff and camper alike.

Part I will provide short insights into the daily life at blind camp. Part II will report on what it is like as a counsellor at blind camp.

We hope these stories will touch your heart to support financially this tremendous ministry to the blind of our province.

“I got up at 6 am to be here for Blind Camp.” “I left on the 7 am ferry to come to camp.” “I traveled all night by bus from Prince George.”

The atmosphere in the Youth Camp lodge was electric early Sunday afternoon as 30 campers excitedly shared their travel stories. All the blind campers were early for registration. One parent disclosed, “Brittany talks all year about summer camp. She tells everyone her experiences. One of Brittany’s hobbies is going to horse shows. A couple of years ago Brittany’s favorite horse show was during summer camp. Brittany decided to forgo the show and spend the time at camp. This is her place.”

When asked about the activities they enjoy, the blind campers say, “We enjoy it all”. They like getting in the pool and jumping around, huddling together and simply talking as they splash.

They like the crafts where each get to make pots that are placed in the kiln and then painted. Horseshoes are pulled out, hay rides and walks are offered and archery is set up.

During one amusing moment in archery, the blind campers were standing patiently waiting as Aaron and Nick, two of our camp staff, were looking for a lost arrow. “You are taking a long time. What are you, blind?” one of the campers called out. All the others laughed hilariously at their own joke.

On the final evening during the talent show one of the campers was waiting for the sound system to come on with a song she had requested. When the staff didn’t quite hear what song was requested first, the camper called out, “What are you, deaf?” And the staff replied, “I think I am at the wrong camp!”

Tepi loves the water. Completely unafraid, she has knee-boarded regularly at the lake. Several campers say, “I want to ride in the boat when Tepi is in the water. I love to hear her scream with delight.”

This year Tepi tried waterskiing. Attempting to give her the best chance possible, Derek, one of the lifeguards, jumped into the water beside her to help steady the skies.

That night in the cafeteria Tepi related the story with arms waving. “Every time I tried to get up my skies went wild and I landed back under the water. I thought they were not pulling me fast enough. When I say ‘hit it’ I mean for them to pull me fast.” “Were you afraid at all?” the question was asked. “Oh, no,” Tepi answered. “I was only worried about Derek because the whole time his teeth were chattering!” Not anxious at all about herself, she was concerned for the staff member.

Bev had a caretaker that came to camp with her. It was Laurel’s first time at camp. “Wow,” she told Selene, the program director, “you guys really out a lot of effort into the play even for the blind campers. Good acting and I am amazed at the programming.”

Campers this year spoke of the calm feeling they got when in the woods on a horse. Michael, another camper, went specifically to the horse corral and just sat there. “I just want to sit and hear the birds sing,” he reflected.

The cafeteria is a place of social atmosphere and enjoyable food. Over and over the campers exclaimed to the kitchen staff about the wonderful food.

Amber and Justin, two of the cooks, expressed that “even the picky eaters still showed appreciation.”

Ben has been coming to blind camp for 9+ years. Partially sighted, Ben is a big help. “This is My Place!” Ben speaks out. “Whenever I am in trouble I think of camp and what I have learned here.”

Often blind camp is talked about in other settings. At the hospital, a volunteer member was speaking with a patient on the joys of blind camp. The patient was so impressed he gave $100 donation.

Requesting that it go for camper fun, the money went towards the piñata, the maracas, the napkins and play dough for the tables at the banquet night. “I can’t be there, but I want to be a part of the good that you do,” the patient reflected.

Each of the campers come with stories of heartache and sorrow, joys and resilience. Earl told Kalyna about how his father died when he was quite young. His mother was unable to cope with a blind son and left for a time. Earl was placed in a home and in the first grade he met Ken.

Ken and Earl are best friends for life. Both suffer from epilepsy and both look out for each other. When one is stressed or needs help, the other is calling for a counsellor.

On the last night of the play, the camp staff share the story of Jesus and His death on the cross. Ken was struggling with the fact that Jesus died for him.

Brenden, a theology student and camp staff member, felt he was in the right place at the right time as Ken shared his story with tears and emotion. “Why did Jesus come? Why am I blind? Why did Jesus go on the cross for me?”

Ken’s questions spilled out. “Is Jesus really my friend?”

Amazingly, it was Earl who demonstrated even more than Brendan could say. “It’s like me, Ken,” Earl said, rubbing Ken’s back. “I am your friend. I am always here for you. Jesus is like that.” “Then I have peace,” Ken replied, smiling through his tears. “Though I’ve never known the color red, I feel inside that Jesus died for me.”

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