It’s only ten minutes until lunchtime. Sixteen-year-old Hannah smells the mouth-watering aroma of cube steak, potatoes and fried squash being prepared by the cook staff when suddenly Chief Tina bursts through the back door of the Chuckwagon.
“We caught a glass lizard!” she exclaims.
Hannah hurries to join the rest of her group, the Pioneers, as they examine the greenish reptile. The discovery becomes an impromptu learning experience. The girls note the texture of the lizard’s underbelly and the ear holes by its head. Hannah is fascinated.
“One of my favorite things at camp is seeing the animal life,” she says.
When Hannah first arrived at Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) Camp Duncan for Girls in December 2017, the thought of being around wildlife or living outside was intimidating.
“I was scared to sleep outside,” she admits. “Now, I love hearing coyotes howling and sleeping in our tents when it’s raining. It’s amazing to hear the rain hitting the tarp; it helps me fall asleep.”
Hannah and her family agreed that Camp Duncan in Aberdeen would be the right place to find the help they needed to overcome their challenges. Her parents’ divorce was difficult for Hannah. Family dynamics were strained, and Hannah was struggling in her relationship with her father and stepmother. Hannah even tried running away.
“Before camp, I had problems with authority and being truthful,” Hannah explains. “I thought my dad and stepmom were just being strict, but I realize now they were just trying to be the best parents they could be.”
The structure at Camp Duncan and the relationships with her Chiefs, who serve as counselors, have been instrumental to Hannah’s growth.
“Chiefs are group leaders, they’re like parents, they help us with academics,” she says. “They are everything we need.”
As time passed, the Camp staff and her chiefs perceived that Hannah needed something they could not give her –– a relationship with God. When the time is right, Camp Duncan director Paul Daley presents the Gospel to each camper.
“One day, Chief Paul asked me if I wanted to talk about it. That’s when I got saved,” Hannah says smiling. “It was March 3, 2018.”
Participating in Bible studies and church services are a foundational part of life at Camp. The difference is campers don’t hold their services in a traditional church building. Instead, their chapel resides in a wooded nook not far from their campsite. They sit on pews carved out of logs, felled from the forest that surrounds them.
“I’m more hungry to read the Bible and to know more about God,” Hannah asserts. “I’m beginning to understand some of the Bible, too, because I pray about it a lot.”
Hannah says their regular Bible studies help the girls become closer as a group.
“A study that stuck out to me talked about not letting the sun go down on your anger,” she explains. “In our group, we’ve noticed that if we go to bed without getting things right with each other, we wake up in a bad spirit. It helps us to wake up feeling positive –– feeling great.”
One of the biggest changes Hannah has seen in herself, that has also not gone unnoticed by her group, is her ever-present smile.
“They say I’m always positive and always smiling,” she says. “It makes me feel awesome to hear them say this because I used to not be this happy. It helps me know I’ve come a long way.”
Hannah’s relationships with her family have also greatly improved.
“Chief Courtney helped me talk out my feelings about my stepmom and my past hurts,” she confides. “When I go home for visits, she gives me goals and things to talk about with my stepmom. Now when I go home, I come back really excited!”
As Hannah began to communicate more and more, the rapport with her stepmother blossomed. “Our relationship is amazing now. I can talk with her about anything. I’m focusing on opening up with my dad, too. On my last visit, he told me he was happy that we’re talking.”
Hannah is at Camp Duncan for the foreseeable future as she and her family continue to work together. Her smile is all the evidence needed to show how excited she is about life today and the hope she has discovered at Camp.
“If I never came to Camp, I would still be doing the same things,” Hannah says, and then beams. “I accepted Christ at Camp, and now I’m a changed person.”
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