This June First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in St. Joseph, Missouri celebrates a 25-year partnership with the organization Royal Family Kids, a national faith-based outreach to children who have experienced abuse and neglect. As part of this program, each summer First Christian organizes and hosts a week-long camp for 20-30 local at-risk children. The focus of the camp is simply to provide the children a week away from the chaos and fears of their daily lives and to share the good news that "God loves you unconditionally and completely!" The event is free for the kids and funds are raised through the church budget, donations, and the support of the local community and beyond.
At camp, the children are guided throughout the week by their adult "big camper" with the ratio of one adult to every two children. This big camper is responsible for the care of those two children the entire week as they swim, sing, fish, boat, create crafts, play, and learn about God's love. Each evening includes activities such as musical performances by local groups, a carnival, campfires and a hayride. A highlight of the week is the camp-wide birthday party (many of these children come from home situations where they've never had their own party) where each child receives special gifts including a bible, toys, sports equipment and an mp3 player loaded with all the camp songs to take home with them. In addition, the local Rotary Club presents each child with a new pair of shoes (again, a luxury many of these children have never experienced).
At the end of the week, the children go back to foster care, shelters, or to their families, often to difficult home situations. But the hope is that they also carry with them the understanding that, despite life's challenges, God is with them and loves them. Though First Christian sponsors this camp and much of the church membership is involved in one way or another, the event also relies on the help and support of dozens of other persons from the wider community, working together to bring some light into the darkness of children who have experienced abuse.
If your church is interested in starting a Royal Family Kids Camp in your community, you are encouraged to contact Rev. Brian Kirk at First Christian to hear more of their 25-year journey or visit the Royal Family Kids official website. (http://rfk.org/)
Brian Kirk, Lead Pastor
First Christian Church
St. Joseph, MO 64501
Story and photos by Rev. Brian Kirk.