Author Archives: deniser

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Breaking the Cycle with Clubs and Mentors

There is a continuous cycle of change and upheaval in the lives and relationships surrounding foster children, which has a lasting impact on them. Here at Royal Family KIDS Club and Mentoring, we have the opportunity to break that cycle.

Nine-year-old Matthew,* one of the first boys matched within the Club and Mentor program, was removed from his home just one month into club. He had assaulted his baby brother and was moved to a hospital program two hours away. His mentor—encouraged by his club team and determined to keep the promise to be “Royal friends until the last day of Club”—faithfully drove out to see him. The mentor was Matthew’s only visitor, the only friend who came just to play games and talk with a troubled child.

The next year, Matthew was able to move back home with support from Royal Family and church volunteers. This might not have been possible without the consistent visits from his faithful mentor.

 

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God’s Beauty in the Details

“That first experience as a camp director was a big step on my journey from a self-centered life to a Jesus-centered life. I remember meeting Eric at that first camp. Eric was a nine-year-old foster child. I was sitting next to him during the birthday celebration for all of the kids. Gifts were handed out to each child. Eric had placed his gift box next to him and was slowly and carefully peeling back the seal on the envelope that was attached to the top of the gift. He pulled out the card and stared at the front of it for a long time. He then slowly opened the card and stared at the inside of the card. When he closed it and began staring at the front cover again, I grew anxious. 

“Eric,” I said, “Don’t you want to open your present?” 

He never once took his eyes off that card. He just said, “This is a birthday card. I have never had a birthday card before.”” 

– Richard Tizzano

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Anything is possible!

“Our first year, I asked one of our campers, Danny, if he liked having camp on a college campus. He exclaimed, “Yes, I love it! It’s really pretty and it makes me want to go here.” 

I told him that he definitely could attend this college one day, but Danny said he couldn’t because his foster parents told him he was about to flunk out of fifth grade and would be flipping burgers for the rest of his life. For the rest of the week, we really worked to build up Danny’s self-esteem. A few weeks later, a couple from our camp became his foster parents. He immediately went from getting D’s and F’s to receiving A’s and B’s. It was clear that in order to succeed, Danny simply needed people in his life who truly loved and supported him. Today Danny is married and is a US Marine in the Special Forces. He visited us at one of our RFK trainings a few years ago to see everyone and thank them. God is doing wonderful things in his life”

-Rhonda Montgomery

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“I’ve never had a birthday party.”

“While my wife and I were walking from the swimming pool to the cafeteria, I was complaining and moaning about it being at such an exhausting camp. I was really upset because my birthday was coming up that Thursday, while we were at camp (I would turn 26).

Robin was trying to console me and confront my attitude when Jason spoke up behind me: “Hey, it’s my birthday this week, too!”

Without realizing it, a group of children had been following us. I was so embarrassed. Did you know that children listen to adult conversations? I found out that they do. I spun around and got down on his level to ask about his favorite birthday gift or party (a common question I ask kids). His answer stripped away what little I had left of my worldview.

“I’ve never had a birthday party.”

I didn’t have any words. I was stunned. I grew up in a very chaotic childhood, and yet even we had birthday celebrations. What kind of world do I live in where children are not celebrated, are not told how precious they are, are not recognized at all? Oh, so this is the world of abandonment, abuse, and neglect.

Injustice consumed my thoughts, and I had a choice to make. I could play the “oh, that’s sad” game and go on my way, or I could choose to make a difference to this one. I went down to the nearest store and bought a watch for Jason. I asked my wife how I should go about giving it to him. She replied back with a much more complicated question.

“What about the other children? How many of them haven’t had a birthday celebration?”

I was trying to do my one “God deed” and take care of Jason, and along comes a mom who thinks about all the children. I thought Jason’s story was an anomaly, an outlier. We asked and found out that none of the children had birthday celebrations, and two of the little girls didn’t even know the date they were born.

What’s wrong with us? We can procreate, but we can’t celebrate? We can make children, but can’t nurture them? Not on my watch; not while they are in our care. We had birthday celebrations for every camper. We sang the song, we ate the cake, and we had presents for each one of them. They tore into the gifts while the adults stood by and cried a mixture of joy and shame.

Oh, the children have taught us plenty. I can say that they have wrecked my world, and now I see them all in shades of royal purple. I’m a “lifer” because I am no longer ignoring our responsibility and calling to the least of these, our modern-day orphans. All we wanted to do was run a camp for hurting children. Then all we wanted to be was world changers. Now, we understand the importance of just changing the world of one.”

– Glenn Garvin (VP of Camps, Clubs, and Mentors)

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A Heart No Longer Hardened

““We already work in full time ministry,” I remember thinking, “Why do we need to spend more time leading mission trips?” Our senior pastor at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, California, had just announced that that year everyone on staff was going to lead a mission trip. Something about being outward focused or some other trendy church lingo idea drove the decision. All I knew was that as a lowly staffer my workload just increased because of our leadership’s ideals.

So I did what any apathetic church worker would do: look for the mission trip that would take me the least out of my comfort zone. I found an opportunity to go to Mexico to build houses. It was just my speed. Go, work hard, and get the job done while avoiding any significant people connections. Who knows, if the group had the right personality, every night after work we could go out for tacos and margaritas. At least we would get to have a little fun.

I signed up with the mission team to go to Mexico. My job at the church was communications so I was prepping all the materials that advertised the fifty or so missions opportunities our congregation had to sign up for that summer. As I was preparing the listing for press, I read one that said, “Be a counselor for abused and neglected kids ages 7–11 at summer camp.”

Go to that camp, God told me in my heart, as I was reading it.

No way, I told Him, You know that half of the church with the nursery and playrooms and kids’ stuff? I don’t work there.

Go to that camp, God repeated.

But you don’t understand, I protested, I am not called to minister to kids.

For some reason at the time, this protest seemed logical. Still, it is never wise to ignore a prompting of the Almighty—and I had an out. I knew that it was too late for the mission team to switch me and my wife (who was also on staff) from the Mexico trip to the summer camp counselor gig.

“No problem,” the mission administrator told me.

“What do you mean, ‘no problem’?” I asked her, because it definitely was a problem for me. I was supposed to call to arrange a switch and she was supposed to say no, not yes. The only reason I called was to clear my conscience. I expected the bureaucracy would prevent me from following this prompting of the spirit. For some reason it seemed logical at the time.

The next thing I knew, my wife and I were sitting down with Mike Kenyon, our mission’s pastor, and Kathy Smith, the director of Royal Family KIDS Camp from St. Andrews Church in Newport Beach, California. A sixth-grade teacher who was shorter than many of her students, Kathy had a kindly disposition and could bring a chaotic room to attention without ever raising her voice. St. Andrews was an aging congregation and their camp needed the fresh infusion of youth our church could provide, hence the partnership was formed.

Kathy explained to my wife and me that since we were “leaders” from our church, we would not be counselors. Instead, we would run some sort of tea party for small groups as an activity. I felt huge sense of relief. My wife would interact with the children. I would take care of logistics. The kids come, we do the activity, and then we send the kids back with their counselors. When we didn’t have activities we could hang out in the adult-only staff lounge, or so I gathered from Kathy’s description of camp. That was an experience I could manage—not too far out of my comfort zone at all. It might even be fun.

But there was one other thing to do as a leader: Kathy asked me to be a chaperone on the boys’ bus to camp. There were three of us chaperones and about fifty boys, and I remember noting as I walked to the back of the bus that the last time I had interacted with a ten-year-old was when I myself was ten. When I said I wasn’t called to minister to kids, I wasn’t kidding. There was next to no kid interaction in my world. Also, as I worked my way back on the bus, I noticed these kids weren’t the kids that ran around the halls on Sunday after church. They looked different. They dressed different. They used words that kids from good Christian families didn’t use.

At the back of the bus one kid stuck out, Jose*. He was smaller than the other kids, but he made up for it in toughness and charm. In a group of kids he was always the center of attention. In other circumstances I would have described him as a natural leader. But in this situation the word I used to describe him was bully.

He was that special kind of bully who would be nice to you at first and then turn on you for his amusement. He knew how to inflict pain, usually emotional, in a way that he wouldn’t get in trouble for. He was smart enough to follow the letter of the law, but always found a way to bend the rules as much as possible. Because he was clever, likable, and wore the popular gangster-style clothes, the other kids would rarely shun him even though he often tormented them.

In my heart I despised Jose. I knew this kid was rotten to the core. I wanted nothing to do with him. And I was all too happy when the bus trip was over and I no longer had to deal with this conniving brat. Now I could go hide from kids at my activity for the week and make the most of the situation. But it wasn’t to be.

Not long after I got off the bus, director Kathy came up to me with a problem. Apparently, more boys had come to camp than was expected. They needed a couple more male counselors, and Kathy asked if I would mind switching from activities to be a counselor.

My inside and outside reaction to this change of fortune could not have been any different. Outside, I consented saying I would do anything “for the kids,” a mantra we often use when making personal sacrifices for our campers. But inside I shook my fist at God like a modern-day Jonah. I went from interacting with kids four hours a day to being responsible for the well-being of two kids, Tyler* and Miguel*, twenty-three hours a day (counselors get a one-hour break!). I wouldn’t be bunking with support staff; now I would be in a cabin dealing with the whining and fighting and mess of ten- and eleven-year-old campers.

I found I wasn’t a very good counselor. I often dozed off during our cabin activity time while the kids in my cabin ran wild. Also, for some reason, I kept calling Miguel by the name Victor. This is especially bad because we wore name tags all the time. But Tyler and Miguel were easy kids. Neither of them talked too much, and they only got into a fight once when Tyler smashed a rubber exercise ball with a handle on it into Miguel’s face. Without much prodding, I was able to get Tyler to apologize. In retrospect, I realize Kathy probably gave me easier kids on purpose because I was a rookie.

My real breakthrough came a couple days into camp. I was already worn out, exhausted, and ready to quit. I had no idea why I was there, and I was sure that my “suffering” was pointless. That summer in California was particularly hot (with no A/C at the camp, anywhere) so even though counselors could take a short break at pool time if needed, I found myself getting in with the kids so I could beat the heat.

For some reason I can’t remember, I found myself talking to Jose, the little miscreant I had to deal with on the bus. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but I do remember Jose expressing he wasn’t happy about being at camp. He was sitting on the edge of the pool and I was standing in the water, so that my eyes were close to the level of his legs dangling in.

There wasn’t much to him. I remember thinking how scrawny he looked, especially when he wasn’t wearing his hoodie and baggy pants. I noticed some odd marks on his legs, and I almost casually asked him what they were. But the question caught in my throat.

Cigarette burns.

There were dozens of them. In that moment God revealed my foolishness. I had put Jose into a neat little box that made it easy to write him off with words like conniving and brat and rotten. But I had no idea of who this kid really was. I had never experienced anything like the torture he had experienced at the hands of people who should have been protecting him. I had no reference to begin to understand how that kind of pain at that age twisted his understanding of right and wrong and even reality.

“I want you to love these kids without condition,” God told me in my heart. “Love them because they are my children. That is reason enough.”

With that request, God broke me. The tears I could not hold back went unnoticed because my face was already wet from being in the pool.

At the talent show, Jose and some of his followers did a rap. He looked angry, but as soon as he broke into his lyrics, we were thrilled:

I love camp.

The food is delicious.

The counselors are awesome.

Archery is the best.

 

And so on. I had no idea he was enjoying camp so much. I didn’t realize the walls that these kids-God’s kids—put up are a defense mechanism for survival in dark situations designed to destroy their lives and souls. And yet so many of the kids that come to camp are extremely resilient (Jose included), and like seeds they will grow when they receive water and light.

Jose came back to camp for several years, and there are two more stories that come to mind. Once when he had caused a particularly problematic disturbance, I had a chance to pull him aside. I told him he was a gifted leader. Kids would follow him. He had the choice to use his leadership for good or bad. It was his choice. He was stewing quite a bit, but I think he heard me.

The other story I only know secondhand. We had a superhero theme that year, and Jose fashioned himself as the Dark Knight. One morning at five o’clock, he was missing from his cabin and later found in costume patrolling the grounds. He was protecting his fellow campers.

As for Tyler and Miguel, I struggled to connect with them other than being a caregiver. They were both eleven years old, so they “graduated” that year and were not allowed to return. At our camp we do a late-night graduating ceremony for those kids who aged out. At this ceremony we eat treats and counselors say encouraging things to their campers.

I explained to the group that I had struggled to call Miguel the right name, often calling him Victor. Then I explained that perhaps the reason that I called him Victor is because he was going to be victorious.

“I believe Miguel is a bright kid with a bright, victorious future. And he will always be a Victor in my heart,” I explained. It sounds hokey now, but at the time I think it meant a lot to Miguel.

The buses rolled away from camp. I was again on the bus as a chaperone. These kids were facing the fact that camp doesn’t go on forever and that many of them would be going back into a system that struggles to give them any sort of true home. Some, like Jose, were tough. But other boys wept aloud. I had little with which to comfort these kids. In the end, I moved from seat to seat putting my arm around them and just being there.

When the buses got back to the church, they unloaded the kids and their luggage. One by one, caregivers picked up the kids. Soon they were all gone. I haven’t seen or heard from Tyler and Miguel since then. But God stirs my heart from time to time with memories from that week, and I think of them and pray for them. It took a long while to process that week. To say it changed me sounds cliché. But let me try to capture what it meant in my life.

First, I encountered God at camp like never before. Many Christians at varying levels of spiritual maturity struggle on a daily basis trying to determine God’s will for their lives. I have a lot to say on this, but at camp this question never entered my mind. For that one week there was no anxiety over what God wanted me to do. I wasn’t wondering what music should I listen to, or if I gave enough money to church or if I should watch football or read my Bible. The freedom this gave my spirit was incredible. In fact, it made my “real” life feel fake and my camp experience feel real.

Second, and almost opposite, it caused me to question God in very real ways. Sure we all know there is evil in the world, but RFK camp forces you to see its ugliness up close. Why would He allow Jose to be painfully burned by cigarettes? Why would He let His children be forgotten, abused, molested, humiliated, and crushed to the point that they couldn’t accept the love they needed even if they were offered it? I don’t have easy answers for these questions, but I have made peace with God over these issues. Through this struggle, my faith in Christ has been refined and it has brought me close to Him. For some, I know, this is a bridge too far. But there is no lukewarm here.

Finally, and perhaps most dangerously, I was no longer ignorant of these forgotten children. Or, to put it another way, now I would have to harden my heart against them and, perhaps, God, if I did not in some way alter my life so I could help bring God’s love and care to these orphans.”

Jacob Roebuck Camp Counselor – Director of Feature Film “CAMP”

*To protect camper confidentiality, names have been changed.

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Camp Photo Contest – Winners Revealed!

Royal Family KIDS Blog Post: Photo Contest

 

The results are in for Royal Family KIDS’ first annual summer camp photo contest!

This summer, there were 219 camps who hosted foster kids in their communities creating positive memories and sharing the love of Christ. Each of these camps had an opportunity to send in their favorite pictures displaying these precious moments. We had over 300 submissions so thank you to every one who participated!! 

Here are the top 20:

Gold Winners:

1. Costa Mesa, CA: Camp #12

Costa Mesa, CA (12)

 2. Saginaw, MI: Camp #295

Winner 2-Cleveland, TN (54)

3. Cypress, CA: Camp #83

WInner 3-Cypress, CA (83) 2

4. Enterprise, AL: Camp #108

Winner 4-Enterprise, AL (108) 7

5. Hanford, CA: Camp #36

Winner 5-Hanford, CA (36) 2

Silver Winners:

6. Sandy, UT: Camp #113

7. Strongsville, OH: Camp #317

8. Woodstock, GA: Camp #206

9. Dublin, OH: Camp #103

10. Cuyahoga, OH: Camp #133

11. Corona, CA: Camp #294

12. Brooklyn, NJ: Camp #60

13. Plover, WI: Camp #279

14. Geneva, IL: Camp #127

15. Lewiston, ID: Camp #273

Bronze Winners:

16. Grants Pass, OK: Camp #174

17. Moline, IL: Camp #305

18. Saginaw, MI: Camp #295

19. Omaha, NE: Camp #138

20. Plover, WI: Camp #279

Congratulations to this year’s winners! Be on the lookout for your winning photos to be featured in upcoming newsletters and social media posts!


“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” -Psalm 150:6

 

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Beauty For Ashes

“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of

mourning, praise instead of despair. For the Lord has planted them like strong and

graceful oaks for His own glory” (Isaiah 61:3).

Isn’t it true that our Father can take difficulties in our lives and orchestrate triumph

and great glory for His name?

Twenty-five years ago, the Lord blessed Darren and Melinda Edwards with a baby

boy. The two parents were devastated to learn that their newborn had Down syndrome,

guaranteeing a lifetime of taking care of this young one. At the time they couldn’t foresee

the beauty of God’s plan for them.

This couple already had a love for the Lord and His work. Through the years, He

used Tom, that sweet baby boy, to make their hearts tender and compassionate for less-

fortunate children. God was laying the groundwork for Darren and Melinda’s lifework.

At just the right time, the young-children’s minister at their church attended a

conference and heard about a camp for abused and neglected children. He was moved to

pray for someone to make the commitment to start and direct such a camp for the North

Central Texas area. He knew it was a task only the Lord could make happen. While his

heart still burned for this cause, he happened to run into Darren and Melinda on a

Wednesday night as they worked in the children’s ministry at church. He asked Melinda

and she said she was willing if Darren said yes. She had previous experience with church

camps and camping in general with her family.

Darren, busy with work and raising a family, was a harder case. He just couldn’t

imagine adding anything else to his already full plate. The children’s minister asked

several times that night as he wasn’t ready to give up. With Melinda onboard, he was

only encouraged to keep talking to Darren. His persistence paid off. Darren finally agreed

to watch a video, and he took the book written buy the founders. Darren later admitted

doing this so the minister would stop asking.

After his children were bathed and tucked in for the night, Darren sat down and

fulfilled his promise. As the video ended, he knew in his heart this was something God

was asking of him. He told Melinda, “We’ve got to do this.”

So Darren and Melinda got in touch with the national office to sign up for director’s

training. However, all training camps were over for the year. That meant waiting another

year. Darren told Melinda this will really be a “fleece” of confirmation—confirmation

that this was meant for them to do if they still desired to go to training a year later.

In 1998, Darren and Melinda and three others from their church attended a training

camp in California. By Wednesday night after training and fellowship had ended, their

group stayed up past midnight discussing who back home could fill all the staff positions

for camp in 1999. The group was determined to have camp that year. The biggest

obstacle now was finding a camp facility and funding.

After returning home from the training, Darren spoke to an elder committee, the

mission’s group, and several ministers about starting a camp in 1999. The elders

approved a budget for the first camp. Now it was on to finding a camp facility. Darren

and Melinda looked up close to twenty camp facilities. They called each place to find out

if they could do camp there in 1999. There were several rejections in the form of no

weeks available, can’t guarantee a closed camp, or the group was not big enough for

closed camp. However, there were two camps that agreed to meet with them to discuss

the possibility. One camp was forty-five minutes away, and the other was two-and-a-half

hours. We first visited the closer one and left knowing we could rent a closed camp for a

week in late July of 1999. We had two weeks to accept or lose the week. We were not

thrilled with the setup of the facility but thought if we had to use it, we could make it

work. Next, we traveled to the facility that was farther away. Upon arrival, the woman

showing us around mentioned that she was unsure if she had a week available as she was

waiting to hear back from an annual renter. That visit started on a sour note, but we took

the tour of the facility and along the way began to pour out how wonderful camp is for

abused and neglected children. We shared some stories that had been shared with us at

training. The woman was so moved that she decided to make room for us and tell the

other client to come another week. God worked a miracle that day. We really did not

know what we were doing other than sharing information and the need of these children.

Two days later we received a contract in the mail for a week in June. Two weeks later,

we learned that the first facility had declared bankruptcy. God really had his hand in what

we were doing.

The first camp in 1999 was so exciting! We were taking seventy-two children (there

were six no-shows) and 80 volunteers. Camp training suggested a first camp of forty

children. Camp was crazy; none of the volunteers really knew what they were doing. We

were just following the manual, sometimes to a fault. By a fault, we mean we followed

the exact schedule and timing as indicated in the manual, which meant organized games

were in the hottest part of the afternoon in east Texas.

As a director of camp you hope you never have to send a camper home, but we had

to the very first year. It was so hard on the leadership team to make that decision and then

fight the doubts of our action the rest of the week. The silver lining is that the boy came

back the next year and had a great camp. God was once again working where we

couldn’t.

Another story from the early years concerns a boy who had been sexually molested

by his dad, uncles, and cousins. He came to camp and wanted to do nothing we had

planned. He was very untrusting, as expected, and had very low self-esteem. We spent

time with him where he wanted to that year, but the next year he came off the bus and ran

up to me asking if he could be the emcee for the variety show at the end of the week.

What a change! He did emcee the show, and he was active in everything planned at

camp. God is so good!

We changed the time for organized games in 2001. So there was someone, Darren,

not being flexible, a definite no-no for camp. The camp for 2000 had more than one

hundred children and volunteers, and it has been that way ever since.

After camp in 2003, a core group of volunteers came to us and said we needed to do

more. We asked what else we should do. They told us that we needed to do something for

the children that had aged out of camp. Following Paul Harvey’s saying, we wanted to

know the “rest of the story” with the children we had served at camp. Darren went to

meet with a group of church elders, and he was told that the church would help us set up

a nonprofit organization and we could move out from under the church umbrella. But we

would need to find our own insurance, which turned to be a non-issue as God led us

through that decision.

And so, in December 2003, Our Father’s Children was formed. We had the first

Onward and Upward retreat for 12–15 year olds in February 2004. There were thirty-nine

teens and thirty-four volunteers. We developed a curriculum based on character traits of

godly men and women with drama, small groups, and an application session format. We

grew in numbers over the next year and now average somewhere between sixty-four and

eighty teens, with appropriate numbers of volunteers. The two-to-one teen-to-counselor

ratio is maintained at these retreats, which happen in February and September.

Toward the end of 2004, Darren and Melinda met with the chairman of the board and

discussed the strain on their family. They felt the solution was to hire Melinda as the sole

employee of OFC. The chairman agreed and over the last two weeks of 2004, enough

funding was received from new donors to cover Melinda’s salary for 2005. Melinda left

her teaching job in January that year to begin our lifework.

After camp in 2005, a group of twenty volunteers came to us and asked if we could

lead a second camp with more volunteers from their church. Darren and Melinda agreed

that it was needed based on numbers of foster children in our area. But it also meant

another meeting with the board, because Darren could not take two weeks off from his

job to lead camp. Prayer and discussion ensued about Darren becoming an employee of

OFC. The decision was made to back Darren leaving his job with one caveat: Darren

would have to complete a ministry curriculum offered by Ministry Ventures out of

Atlanta and go to a seminar provided by Henri Moreau offered by the founders of RFKC,

Wayne and Diane Tesch. Darren once again felt led by God and truly at peace. He gave

his notice to leave his job and begin full-time work on his lifework.

So in 2006, there were two camps for 6–11 year olds, one in June and one in July.

The July camp started with seventy-five children and eighty-four volunteers. The July

camp now serves more than one hundred children with more than one hundred

volunteers. Darren and Melinda’s lives were further enriched and blessed by all the new

volunteers and children who attended that first July camp.

Toward the end of 2006, we were approached by another group of volunteers who

wanted to be with the teens aging out of the Onward and Upward retreats. Upon prayer

and meeting with some of this group, we decided to start Summit Retreats for 16–18 year

olds. The curriculum would be focus on life skills, such as money management, goal

setting, and support systems. There would be a one-to-one teen-to-counselor ratio, and

we would meet in May and October each year.

In our camp in 2010, we met a young man who had some limitations caused by

having his feet held on a hot plate after being knocked unconscious by his mom’s

boyfriend. Half of each foot had to be amputated, after which he endured two years of

therapy and follow-up surgeries. He was so cute, and had an infectious smile and a great

attitude. He had trouble moving through camp, especially during organized game time.

His feet hurt. One of our nurses got involved and, after looking at the socks he wore,

decided to take action. She suggested we purchase the softest and thickest socks we could

find at the local Walmart. We did and she took them to him. His reaction was tears of joy,

being thrilled that we cared so much for him! But isn’t that the Royal Family way?

In 2012, a mentoring club was started for the 6–11 year old age group. It meets every

month school is in session and follows a mentee-mentor structure. Organized group

meetings are held each month, and then the mentors spend two to six hours outside of the

group meeting with their mentee. The club started with twenty-five children that first

year, and hopefully forty children will be involved in 2014.

Also in the fall of 2012, the OFC board agreed to purchase a fifty-acre site that has

some buildings and infrastructure. The facility was purchased on October 5, 2012. OFC

has been a capital campaign to raise $3 million with $1.63 million raised to date. OFC

named the facility Camp Akiva. “Akiva” means to protect or shelter in Hebrew. The OFC

leadership and board thought that was a great name for a place for the children we serve.

New buildings are going up and some existing buildings have been refurbished. New

infrastructure such as new electrical lines and water lines have also been completed.

When completed, Camp Akiva will sleep 360 and have five possible meeting sites. Camp

Akiva will be rented to youth groups and businesses when not being used by OFC.

More than seventeen years have passed since that night when a minister was

persistent. The camps for 6–11 year olds have changed the lives of more than 3,500

hurting children. More than 3,800 people have served in various volunteer roles, many of

them returning repeatedly.

The next leap of faith will come when all activities are moved to the facility entirely

owned by Our Father’s Children in 2015.

Darren continues to dream about how OFC can do more for the children of abuse and

neglect: “Holiday homecomings” for the children-turned-young-adults who have stayed

in touch and need a place to go and a family to share holidays; a third week of summer

camp for children from the counties around the new camp facility; family retreats in

which both foster parents and children are ministered to and loved with a common goal to

do what is best for the children. There are so many possibilities. Our prayer is that God

will continue to bless and grow what He started so many years ago.

“Now glory be to God! By His mighty power at work within us, He is able to

accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope” (Ephesians 3:20).

 

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at the cross

I can talk to God!

One evening a counselor was reading the Bible with his camper (8) and asked the camper if he would like to talk to God.
“I can talk to God? I didn’t know that!”
“Yes, talking to God is called praying. I can show you how if you’d like,” the counselor replied.
“I would like that,” said the camper.
The counselor said a short prayer and then led the boy through a prayer of his own, letting the camper repeat after him.
“Will you write the prayer down for me so I can pray again sometime?” the camper asked when they were done.
“Of course I can. I can do it tomorrow.”
“Can you do it tonight? Please?”
The counselor wrote out the prayer on an index card during night relief that night and gave it to his camper in the morning. The camper then said the prayer, using the card, for our lunch the following day.
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“God gave me my life for a reason.”

“I was first placed in foster care while in kindergarten. I was very young then, but this is one of my earliest memories. My parents were going through rough times. My father was an alcoholic and had trouble maintaining a job. He was usually getting arrested by the police. My mom tried too, but she was a drug addict. I went in and out of foster homes from the ages of 5 to 8. During those years, I was mad that I had to move around so many times and live with so many strangers.  In my mind, I always knew that somehow I would go back home to my parents. The last time I was taken away from my parents, my dad had asked me if I thought calling the social worker was the best thing to do, and I agreed. The police came and took us away to the police station, where a social worker picked us up and separated the four of us.  Being the oldest, I was usually placed alone so that my brothers and sister could be placed together in the same home.

I felt lonely during those years, but I knew that sooner or later, I would reunite with my family. When I found out my dad had died and my mother had fled home to Mexico, abandoning us, my heart sank.  Even in my young nine-year-old mind, I was beginning to grasp the big picture. We would be stuck in foster care indefinitely. I was a tough kid by this point.  I sucked it up and maintained as best I could in every home I was placed; 13 foster homes in all.  My last foster dad adopted me when I was 13. He gave me and my second oldest brother, Randy, a good home.  I still maintain a good relationship with my adopted dad.  He encouraged me to think ahead about my future and what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to join the army. He agreed it was a good idea to serve my country and set up a foundation of success for my life.

I first came to RFKC in 1993 through St. Andrews church in Newport Beach. I was nine years old at this time. I had lived in a group home in Anaheim Hills from 1992-1996.  My first impression of RFKC was it being full of very nice people who honestly cared a lot about us.  I had no role models at this time in my life as all the staff members in the group home where women. I grew attached to uncle Ken and aunt Kerry. They were in their mid 20s when I met them.  I thought Ken was an awesome guy, and I liked hanging out with him at camp. He was the “uncle” for my first and second years at camp. He finally became my counselor in my third and last year at camp.

Every year I wished I could go back to camp and live there forever. I used to go to bed thinking about it as my happy place. I even thought that the camp counselors lived there all year long!  Ken began to visit me every week and took me to church on Sundays at St. Andrews. We maintained our relationship even through the many moves in my life.  I still go over to his house and visit him and his wife Kerry and their three kids. He has been a big brother to me for most of my life, and we will probably be friends for a very long time. I still look to him for guidance.

RFKC was a place full of good people who wanted to make a difference in young kids lives. Before camp, I had never gone to church before, and did not know anything about God. I was given my first Bible and taught Bible stories. I know this camp made a huge impact on my life.

Every day my camp counselor and my roommate got up early and go hiking with the other boy’s cabins. It was such a relief to get away from my group home with all the yelling and screaming going on there every day. Our first camp was situated passed Six Flags Magic Mountain in a huge campground. It had hiking trails in the Hills, big flat grassy fields, a basketball court, and my favorite, the big pool. It was hard to say goodbye at the end of the week and know that we were going back to our foster homes.

This summer will be my fifth year as a camp counselor. I have never met so many good people in my life. Everyone volunteered vacation time to come to camp. I thought that since RFKC had made such a huge impact in my life, I should help keep that tradition going strong. I had never known Jesus until camp, and now I am helping kids learn about Him for the first time as well. It is a good feeling knowing that unconditional love has been introduced to them.

I love hanging out with the kids and other counselors and staff members. Everyone is so friendly, and is there to have a really good time. I still wish I could live there all year long!

Someone once asked me if I could go back in time and be back again with my real parents, would I do it? I thought about it seriously, and replied that I would not give up my current life to start all over at eight years old. I have met so many good people, had so many good experiences with my friends, coworkers, and family that I cannot dream of giving away all my good memories. God gave me my life for a reason.

The only week I get off every year I spend entirely in having the privilege of being a camp counselor. I get to help spread the love of Jesus to kids who really need Him in their lives. I try to tell them to hold their heads high, because someday they too will have the opportunity to become a person who makes a difference in the lives of others.  There is no better feeling in the world than to see a young abused kid happy again. To give him or her hope for a better future is indescribable!

For many years now, Royal Family Kids has been spreading across the country and the world, reaching out to foster kids, and giving them the experience of getting to know who Jesus is. It is a great organization full of very caring people. I hope to continue being a camp counselor for as long as I can. I love going to camp and being a kid again. I hope that you enjoyed my story and can spread the good news about our camp.”

Alex (former camper)

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God Loves Me

“Welcome to RFK! As I’m sure you know, the hardest part about camp – at least for me – is trying to sum up or pick the highlights of the week. There are SO MANY stories that I could share, but I think one of the most powerful is this one.
We had a returning camper we’ll call “Brian” who was coming for his last year. He and his siblings came for the first time two years ago. Last year, his younger brother was too sickly to come, so it was just him and his sister. His sister graduated last year. This year his brother was again too sickly so that just left him.  Last year – unbeknownst to Brian –  his counselor moved to California after camp, but promised that he would return for camp in order to be there for Brian’s last year. Brian was all set to come to camp. In Brian’s home, his parents are physically and verbally abusive to each other.
On Monday morning, when the kids were arriving for camp, Brian’s mother emailed Jean and told her that Brian got an infection on his lip and would be unable to attend camp. No one really believed that that was the issue and my wife was emailing Brian’s mom, back and forth, encouraging her to allow him to come to camp.  Jean told Brian’s mom that Aaron, his counselor, flew in from California just for him. That meant so much to Brian. Unfortunately, it was too late for him to get ready.  We agreed that on Tuesday,  Aaron, one of the camp social workers, and another staff member would drive down in order to pick Brian up and bring him to camp.
Brian’s first two years of camp were very quiet. He didn’t say much at all. He enjoyed the activities, and he liked Aaron, but that was about it. This year, things were different!!  For one thing, he came to camp wearing his camper shirt from last year, along with a necklace he made in the art center. Also, from the minute that he got into the car, he was talking non-stop to Aaron. He said, “If you flew all the way from California for camp, I know God must love me.” Now the rest of his conversation wasn’t as comforting. He poured out his heart about what has been going on in his home. He was speaking quietly because he didn’t want anyone but Aaron to hear, but the Social Worker and the other staff member (our prayer warrior) heard everything as well – without showing that they heard. It gave insight into how the prayer warrior could pray and what the social worker(s) should look out for.
This was the year that Brian graduated. But we believe that over the last three years God has been planting seeds in the lives of Brian and his entire family. His mother, though going through unimaginable turmoil, is quietly blessed by the week’s worth of positive memories in the lives of her children.
Brian’s is just one of many stories…”
A story from James, Director of pre-teens in NY.
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