Last week my role as a volunteer camp pastor and kitchen help at Camp Moose Lake in southeast Manitoba immersed me in the realities of life and worship of adults with mental delays. Many of the campers come year after year, and regard camp week as the highlight of their lives. This week will also remain a highlight in mine. Here are a few vignettes that show why.
- Lester and I posted daily menus on the bulletin board. He prided himself on doing this job well and would sometimes guess at spelling words before I would coach him. When the director wrote up one day’s menu herself, he told her how much that hurt his feelings. It was his job and he was doing his best at it. She erased the writing, and Lester resumed ‘his’ job with dedication and pride.
- Carol cried each evening when we sang “The Lord loves me”, because it reminded her of her deceased mother and grandmother, who used to sing it to her. Discussing this led to simple but deep sharing about how we still connect with deceased loved ones. Carol often saw them and experienced their love for her through dreams. The last time we sang the song, I sat with her and expressed my hope that she’d feel them singing along with her. Wondrously, she made it through the song without tears. She turned to me with a big smile and said, “I did, I did hear them singing with me.”
- LB loved copying things into her notebook at the table while others engaged in more active group activities. During the Bible class on peace in our relationships, the cabin groups were to pray with each other, but LB was not about to move to join her group, nor were they going to come to her table. So I asked if I could pray for her. She nodded and I prayed a simple blessing on her, after which she blessed me by responding,, “Love that woman!”
- Tyler was depressed when his one and only friend became angry enough with him to ignore him at camp. But as the Bible leader read Derek Munson’s picture book, Enemy Pie, Tyler crept back to the group from the place where he’d been sulking to listen. The book’s message of reconciliation resonated with Tyler and his friend, and before the reading was complete, the two sat side by side again.
- My non-verbal friend Shaun loved carrying his Bible around and pointing out Jesus and children on its cover. Often he opened it to “read”– upside-down or otherwise. When Shaun’s counsellor used it to read a beatitude to the wider group, Shaun beamed. After receiving his Bible back, he kept it open at that page and stroked it lovingly. It truly was a living word for him.
This group of variously abled adults loved singing the children’s song, “If I were a butterfly” with all the actions. I was touched by their exuberance on the final line of the chorus; “but I just thank you Father for making me, me!”
Would I be so thankful for being me if my life was lived out within their limits?
Thank you Father, for helping to appreciate all that I am and all that I have been given. Thank you for my encounters with these inspiring campers, and for the acceptance and appreciation I felt from the gifted crew of young adults who counselled them.