At camp, Angel found a safe place, good friends, and caring counselors.
When parents go to prison, their absence is felt in many ways. For many prisoners' kids, some of the basic rites of childhood are out of the question. Their caregivers are often stretched thin trying to provide for the family, and there's just not enough time or money for things like summer camp.
Angel is one of those kids. Her father is in prison. "Sometimes you feel like you're missing something," she says. "Like, you search for something that you know you might not have."
The 15-year-old just spent a week at Frontier Camp in Grapeland, Texas. It was only her second year at the camp, but her time there has already had profound effects on her life.
A SAFE PLACE
Camp can be life-changing for children of incarcerated parents. It gives the child an opportunity to have fun, fellowship with their peers, build relationships with caring camp counselors, and experience the love of God in the great outdoors.
"I think it's a safe place, period," Angel says. "Just to be you and have fun, and I don't think we really ... nobody really has secrets or problems at the moment. Like, we're really close. … I know that I can come [talk] to most of these people."
Angel's friends and counselors have helped her through mental, emotional, and physical problems she’s experienced. "They taught me that I shouldn't have to hold in things. That I should be able to come to people and trust them in what I come to them with," she recalls.
DEEPENING KIDS' FAITH
The camping experience also gives prisoners' kids the opportunity to strengthen their relationship with God. At camp many children will make a first-time decision to trust in Christ or deepen their commitment to Him. And the growth that begins at camp is reinforced and nurtured when your church provides follow-up support for the kids after they return.
Angel has seen that growth in her life. "I do go to church every Sunday and everything; I'm part of the choir at church … so I go to church a lot. But I didn't know Him as I do now," she says.
"I feel like I'm more mature. … I guess because when you get older you start to realize that life's short. You shouldn't just waste it on what you know is not real and [spend] it on something that is real and can help you in the future. Like my beliefs."
Angel will be 16 next summer, which means she'll be too old to be a camper. But that's OK. She won’t miss out on the fun of camp: she plans to return next year as a counselor.
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