Beau is an Angel Tree Camping® volunteer who spent four years stationed in Hawaii for the military. For three of those years he served as a mentor at Camp Agape, a summer camp founded as a ministry to prisoners' children. Beau has since taken the model of Camp Agape to start a camp in Arkansas. We asked him to share his experiences with us.
What does a typical day at camp look like?
Every morning the kids to do their devotionals, and they use the SOAP method: Scripture, Application, Observation, Prayer. It's pretty amazing what the kids come up with, and how it applies to their life, especially in the situations they're in. They share these with each other at chapel, where we also try to get chapel speakers who are former prisoners, or grown-up children of incarcerated parents. The campers can see their parent in that person, or see themselves in that child—someone else who's been through their situation and come out on the other side.
As the day goes on, there are tons of activities. For instance, in Hawaii, it's surfing; in Arkansas, it's horseback riding or archery. We have three meals a day, and chapel again in the evening.
What is it like serving children with incarcerated parents?
How have you seen a week at camp change a child's life?
I went into this thinking, OK, they have one parent in prison, and the other parent is good to go. But that's often not the case. Their other parent or guardian often has issues too. You can usually tell which kids don't have that structure, or that love, in their life. And sometimes you get to see them come alive at camp.
Did anything surprise you about volunteering at camp?
We lay out these rules—we love one another, we respect one another, we support each other, we have fun. What is amazing to me is how few issues we have with these kids [getting along with each other]. They're coming from challenging backgrounds. You expect to have issues. But when you bring them into this circle of love, they aren't usually fighting or stealing. In fact, we blend the age groups in the cabins, and we ask the older ones to help the younger ones—remember your things, tie your shoes, don’t be late. It creates this family environment.
How would you encourage more people to volunteer?
I think a lot of people, especially in America, get into this habit of paying [money] as their service. They give financially; they tithe. But the Lord calls for our talents too. I would encourage people to get out and do something if they can. You don't have to go far. There are kids right here who need your help. When you can give them a hand, and you get to see what the Lord is doing in their lives, it's an unbelievable feeling of reward.