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John blessed by a renewed life

October 14, 2013

By J. Blake Ragsdale

John’s life seemed ideal on the surface. The bright, blue-eyed boy aced his school assignments. His parents, John, Jr. and Kelly, provided a caring, Christian home for him and younger brother Will. Church was always a big part of their family life, and John made a decision to follow Christ early.

But behind John’s blue eyes, a battle brewed.

“John struggled to relate to his peers,” says Kelly. “It caused him to have a faulty perception of the world around him. John would walk into a room and think to himself, ‘No one here likes me and they may try to hurt me.’

“He would respond defensively and, if he felt cornered, he would retaliate.”

It was a challenge that John faced too many years of his young life. His mom and dad tried helping John but to no avail.

As John wrestled with his ongoing challenges, he was suddenly faced with tragedy. When he was nine, his father grew ill and passed away. The effects were devastating. Kelly lost a husband. Her sons lost a father. And John, who was already struggling, lost his way.

“Things weren’t perfect before,” John reveals. “After what happened with my dad, things started to really go downhill.”

John held the pain deep inside himself in places where Kelly could not reach. “He needed something I could not provide.”

Cameron Boys Camp in Moore County offered John what he needed – a residential, Christ-centered environment that could carefully chisel away at the barriers around John’s heart.

“Camp gave me a sense of what God wanted me to be,” John says.

As a part of the Frontiersman group, John lived in a wooded campsite with other boys his age and male adult counselors known as Chiefs.

“John had a hard time verbalizing his feelings at first,” Chief Mark Manning explains. “He had such sadness and hurt from losing his dad. He was angry at God.”

Incredibly, with the help of Manning and chiefs like him, John’s walls crumbled. He opened up about his pain for the first time.

“We let John know that we serve a big God and He can handle his anger,” Manning says. “John was able to find comfort from the ‘heavenly’ Father – the Father of the fatherless.”

“My chiefs helped me a lot whether it was with canoeing or something big like my dad,” John says. “They used scripture a lot. I stopped being angry at God. I started to trust Him more.”

John began to soar becoming a leader in his group. He shared his personal experiences with the other boys – peers he once had difficulty relating to – in order to help them overcome their own challenges.

“Chiefs are able to invest in the boys and help them with the issues that are hurting them,” Manning says. “We can be that father figure for them.”

John’s life and walk with God have been renewed. The 11-year-old successfully returned home in July. He began his first year of middle school in August, and now when he arrives home at the end of the day, the struggles and pain that once followed him have been replaced with joy and peace.

“John comes home and he’s as happy as a clam,” Kelly says. “I always knew that happy child was there buried underneath all those coverings; now I get to see him.”

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