Camp Gives Lucy a Place to Belong
Twelve-year-old Lucy dreams of becoming a camp counselor someday—an idea that began at Camp Agape in Oregon. Her mom, Jennifer, says that camp changed her child's life.
They first learned about Angel Tree Camping®, a program of Prison Fellowship®, from faculty at Lucy's elementary school. Through scholarships and partnerships, the program makes Christian camp possible for children with a parent behind bars.
Before she ever saw the lush beauty of an Oregon campground, Lucy had seen things no child should, including a parent’s arrest. The family lost their home when Lucy’s dad went to prison. They had no relatives nearby to help. For a time, they lived out of their car, then at a shelter. Now they're in a house of their own again.
Because of Angel Tree Camping, camp is Lucy's home away from home.
HOW INCARCERATION AFFECTS A FAMILY
The emotional impact of incarceration can seem unbearable, especially for a child. As a result, Lucy became timid and struggled to make friends. Once a model student, she began misbehaving in school. Then Jennifer started to worry that her daughter might go down "a wrong path."
"It was horrible, the change," says Jennifer. "… She was missing her father like crazy. She'd cry all the time. She was always sad."
When Jennifer dropped her off camp for the first time, Lucy was a nervous second grader. Jennifer worried knowing her daughter had a hard time interacting with people. And she was leaving Lucy with folks she didn't know.
Yet Lucy found her place among a people who loved Jesus. Caring counselors and campers showed Lucy that she belonged, from day one. Meanwhile she made friends trying new activities like archery and go-karting. Every day, they read the Bible together and learned about Jesus while enjoying His creation.
Meeting other children of incarcerated parents helped her realize that she wasn't alone. By the week's end, Lucy was already looking forward to coming back to camp the next year.
"She walked out of there a totally different person," Jennifer recalls. "She had her head held high, and she was excited—she wasn't this quiet, shy girl anymore."
WHERE HOPE GROWS
Today, Lucy loves to ask people if they know the meaning of "agape" from the camp's name. She'll say, "It means 'God's love!'"
Lucy's experience at camp replaced her fears with joy and hope. Today she does well in school and loves going to church. And every summer, she is eager to pack for her summer excursion again. "Her going to camp has brought God back into our family," says Jennifer, who has also started attending church regularly.
Lucy still keeps in touch with the friends she made at camp, too. Jennifer loves to see those relationships grow: "They are like a little family."
Both Jennifer and Lucy can't wait to give back to camp however they can, so other families may experience the same hope. Children with a parent in prison, like Lucy, are overcomers—and even when life isn't fair, Jennifer says, "They’re troopers, and they're making it through."
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