Sunday, October 24, 2010

Young Adult Memories: Mischief, home, and disguises

This is week three of “My Young Adult Years,” guest hosted by Ginny Marie over at Lemon Drop PieEach Monday or Tuesday, I will be posting on my Young Adult Life edition of Mommy's Piggy Tales.

 We were surrounded by poverty, crime, bigotry, drugs, and kids who were desperate for real love, attention, and a way out. If we chose to dwell on what surrounded us, it would consume us and we would enable the repressed spirit that resided there. Last week I shared my heart in Inner-city, The Pit, and Irreversible impressions   It has been terribly hard to just choose a few memories, but here are a few more.

"Camps are dedicated to providing safe and structured environments where young people can grow academically, socially, emotionally and spiritually. It is the building of a city... One Child at a time."  Urban Promise

Retreat in the Pocono Mountains - 1st year
The neighborhood kids could hardly help themselves. A group of strangers had descended on their block and they not only talked funny, but they didn't have a clue. 
  • The first week, a few of the elementary boys broke into our battered blue van and decided to steal it. Lack of experience on their part caused it to roll backward down the drive, across the street and into the neighbor's fence. 
  • During camp, the kids tried to escape and run away, and after hours, they tried to break into the building we stayed at.  
  • Once, we came home one early evening to find two kids having sex out back under that stairs - the girl was 6 and the boy was 12.  Another late one evening, after our weekly Philly meeting, we found some of the kids had smeared dog poop on EVERY doorknob. 
  • We were graciously given head lice, which we didn't discover until we were in standing on Broadway in NY City. 
  • One of the older kids brought a golf club onto the grounds and was swinging it (after hours) and hit another child in the mouth. We were sure we were going to be sued over that one. 
From Montica:  The thing I remember most about it (Camp Hope) was Raul. A little 8 year old boy who threw rocks at me but I would not give up on him. He told me he knew nothing about this Jesus I was talking about. We sat on the stoop of a home near the church and I told him about Jesus. I heard later he graduated from school and was helping at the church. 
Ewww!  It was SO gross down there.
Our building had three distinct floors that we shared with the cockroaches: Basement had the kitchen, small stage, and eating area. Mont and I spent almost 2 days cleaning it the 2nd year we returned.  That's what we got for returning a week earlier than everyone.  Second floor had two classrooms, which we used for a boys and girls sleeping quarters with a large closet separating the rooms, plus a questionable toilet. Creaking wooden stairs led to the Third floor which was open with a larger stage, baptistry, and a bathroom with a shower. Can you imagine 12 of us sharing 1 shower? Getting up early to beat everyone else to a cold 5 minute shower was the key. Sometimes we would be sitting on the stairs, half asleep, waiting for someone to get out.  Nightly we would gather upstairs to discuss the day, handle any conflicts, laugh, prepare for the next day, and have devotions.  It was that time that we looked forward to, but it was a time to relax and really talk about real issues and struggles in our personal lives. It was where we bonded.  Sometimes Robert or Frank would bring their guitars and we would sing or just listen, sometimes we cried, sometimes we laughed, but always we listened. The fire escape off that floor led to condemned stairs, just right for catching a breeze in the evenings, watching a hot-air balloon float across the sky, or just waiting for God to speak.
 A teacher's major contribution may pop out anonymously in the life of some ex-student's grandchild.  A teacher, finally, has nothing to go on but faith, a student nothing to offer in return but testimony.  Wendell Berry
Nurse Nadine cares for "baby" Jeff.
Teen Helpers: In efforts to encourage and mentor the teens in that area, we had Teen Helpers at each station and age group.  We tried to do special things with them - taking them to the beach, including them in camp responsibilities, and fun events planned just for them.  It was a learning process for all of us that was not always without some tension, but usually with some fun.  Once, we planned a mall search  with them, but we were met with unexpected resistance.  Each of us dressed in disguise and the helpers were supposed to find us, obtain our signature, and the one who found the most won.  Some were easy, but Jeff and Nadine was the most difficult to find. Yes, Jeff is the one in the baby buggy, complete with pacifier and all! The saddest part of all, is that we were asked to leave because we had kids with us who was not white.
Thank you so much for stopping by and taking their journey with me. If you'd like to check out Camp Hope, it has since grown, and is now called UrbanPromise.  Last year they were featured on Extreme Makeover, Home Edition. Where it started from and where it is now amazes me and I'm thrilled that God has taken this ministry from a meager 12 people to an organization of mega proportions it is today. 
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If you would like to read more Piggy Tales from other ladies, hope on Over to Mommy's Piggy Tales.   If you would like to join in and start recording your own Piggy Tales, contact Jana at Mommy's Piggy Tales to find out how  (jannajoy25 (at) If for some reason you missed any of my previous posts, you can find them here.


Eos Mom said...

Sounds like really hard work, but rewarding. And how wonderful it must be to see that the organization has grown so much since you were a part of it! Great stories!


Camp Hope ~ sounds like the perfect name.


Ginny Marie said...

If I had been in your shoes, I don't know how I would have been able to handle some of those situations! It sounds like you were meant to be there. Thank you for writing more of your memories.