Teiona’s Story: Worth the Wait
By Donny Irving
I love Family Camp because it brings everyone together. We get to tell late-night campfire stories and make meals and read the Bible with kids’ moms, dads, aunts and grannies. One family in particular reminded me why Family Camp is so important, and why sticking around for someone is worth the wait.
Teiona, a mother of two little girls, had signed up to go to Family Camp. but when we went to pick them up, she told me they could no longer come. When I asked why, she gave a list of excuses: no swimsuit, no camp stuff, unable to be ready in time. I assured her that whatever she needed, we would get -- and we would wait as long as possible to make sure she could join us. Sure enough, she joined a few other families on our shuttle bus (albeit a few hours later!).
That evening, the families enjoyed a campfire, hot dogs and s’mores before heading to their cabins for the night. But the next morning, when I greeted Teiona, I noticed she was crying.
She told me she had had a long night and said, “this camp thing isn’t for me, I want to go home.”
I asked if she’d be willing to give it a day. If she wanted to leave later, we would give her a ride.
She agreed. And after a day’s worth of fun-filled adventures with her daughters -- slip-n-slides, chapel services, ziplining, boating, tubing, swimming and table games -- when I asked if she wanted to go home, she told me, “I actually want to give it another night!”
“I actually want to give it another night!”
After another day of camp adventures with the other families, Teiona and her daughters joined the Community Kids crew in visiting Grand Rapids’ Apostolic Faith Church’s chapel service held at the camp. At the church’s service, church members shared testimonies, songs and a gospel-centered message that focused on God’s goodness and Holiness. The church ended with an alter call. Several of our Community Kids and I went up to pray, and I noticed Teiona and her daughters had also gone up.
For the second time that week, she was crying. Not because of her fears of camp, but this time because she was opening up for the Holy Spirit to work in her heart and in her life. After the service, I asked a sister from the church to connect with her, and Teiona said she would like to try out the church.
Teiona was supposed to go home after the chapel service, but she asked to stay yet another night. I said, “yes!”
Each family’s cabin had a Bible and a Keys for Kids devotional booklet. That next morning, Teiona asked to have some devotionals. She had already read through the entire three months worth of devotions in the book!
I asked how she’d managed to read so many devotions in just a couple of nights. She told me she read them each night when she’d had trouble sleeping (partly in fear of racoons and bears).
After breakfast, the families shared testimonies of their camp experiences. Teiona shared how glad she was that we’d ignored her excuses. She shared how camp was so impactful, but it would be hard to go back to the realities of her neighborhood.
That’s a common testimony at the end of camp for many kids and families. Camp doesn’t change everything, but we have seen it begin a change in a person’s heart, which can then lead them to change the trajectory of their lives.
When a parent, kid and mentor can all go to the altar at the same time, we believe the impact can be far greater. We are praising God for stories like Teiona’s, and are praying she can find a community of believers who can come alongside her wherever she is at.