Kari and I took a bus load of kids to Riverside yesterday. These kids are a cross-sample of our Wed night tutoring program and one young guy from our 1 pm service here at the church. They were crazy excited to go - some had gone last year, but majority had not. The last one to pick up was our guy Moiwa. He is the little brother of a girl in our 7-8 program, and his family is a faithful part of the 1 pm Mizo service. He is 9, little, and usually pretty full of energy. We came back to the Z after picking up the rest of the kids to get him, as he was part of the wedding that was happening yesterday as well. Long story short, we got him ready, he said good bye to mom and dad, and away we went.
Moiwa sat behind Kari in the van, silent. He hugged his bag close, and looked like he was on the verge of tears the whole ride up. While checking in, he stood beside me or Kari, touching us the whole time. She put her arm around him, he locked in and leaned on her. He grabbed my hand walking out of the dining hall, with both of his. Sweaty little hands gripping mine. We both were on the verge of tears now, preparing ourselves to move these kiddos into their cabins, especially heartsick at the thought of leaving Moiwa. Fast forward, the kids are in and settled, and he started to open up. A few more smiles, a little more energy...we hung around until they went to dinner with their cabins. From the side, we saw Moiwa walk out with his group - already chatting with another kid, hot on the heels of Chad Cook (Zion kid!) who will take great care of him this week. Deep breath, and away we come to our own children.
What got me was in Moiwa, I saw Brady. 9, skinny, lots of energy, and yet tender on the inside. I know the fear that he feels at the outset of something new; I cannot fathom what must have been going thru Moiwa's head as we brought him to a place he has never been, full of new faces, and left. My daddy instincts kicked in pretty hard - it was tough to leave him and the other 11 who are there this week. At the same, what an amazing thing for him to go, without his buddies, to spend the week learning about and leaning into Jesus. To be surrounded by 200+ other kids who want the same. To be loved on by a kid that grew up at his church, too, and to see vibrant faith in the lives of the adults who have given their summer and their lives to serve Christ by serving others at the camp. I am excited to see what comes, and praying for this week to be huge for the kids.
Especially for Moiwa.