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Children’s Homes ministers to children, parents through Camp of Championscomment (0)

July 14, 2011

By Courtney Searcy

I can’t believe I’m doing this,” the little girl said as she splashed around in the lake. “I can’t believe I’m not scared.”

Sarah Tindle teared up when she heard those words coming from Emma, her typically fearful 8-year-old foster child.

Emma was one of 512 children, parents and Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries (ABCH) staff members who attended ABCH’s 17th annual Camp of Champions, held June 22–24 at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega.

During the day, foster and house parents attended training sessions, while children got the full camp experience — swimming, hiking and more.

The children also learned Bible stories and memory verses during sessions based on LifeWay Christian Resources’ TeamKID: Kids in Discipleship curriculum. In the evening, they had free time to explore all of the camp’s activities with their parents.

 “A lot of the children have zero good memories of fun like this,” said Riley Green, camp director and ABCH vice president of administration.

The campers know Green as “Ranger Riley.” He mans the snack area during the day and watches as they come and pick out whatever they want from the assortment of candy, chips and drinks. Some of his favorite memories are of watching their surprise when they find out that the treats are free.

Tindle said her children “blossom” when they attend the camp. She recalled a time when Tim, 15, attended a different camp and was timid and kept to himself. But she barely saw him at this year’s Camp of Champions, because he was having such a good time with friends.

When they left, Tim told her, “The coolest thing about camp is that nobody judges me. Either they’re like me or their family is like ours.”

Children and parents alike find an instant community at the camp. While a family of eight like the Tindles draws attention at a restaurant or in the community, it’s not so unusual at the camp.

“It’s so wonderful. It’s the one place that you can count on that you’re going to be accepted and loved,” Tindle said.

Paul Miller, ABCH president/CEO, pointed out that foster parenting is a challenging role that takes a lot of time and energy.

“They are the ones who are really in the trenches,” Miller said of foster parents. “Anything we can do to help the children and help them, that’s what we want to do.”

The camp is made possible for families due to donations from individuals, Alabama Baptist churches, associations and others.

On the first night, Miller was honored, as he is retiring after spending his entire professional career — nearly 40 years — working with ABCH in some capacity.

This year, three children made professions of faith. The camp’s theme was “Linked 2 God,” based on Romans 8:38–39.

“We wanted them to know that no matter what trials you go through, nothing can separate you because you are linked to God, and you can have confidence that you won’t lose that connection,” Green said.

On the last day, the children said goodbye to the once-a-year opportunity to eat ice cream with both lunch and dinner and the parents to a few days without cooking meals or doing dishes — all of them refreshed from the time they had shared.

“It’s the one time of year when we all come together as one. … It’s a great gathering of like-minded folks,” Green said.

As they pulled away from the camp, one child told his grandmother something that likely echoed the sentiments of every camper: “Meme, drive slowly so the memories will stay alive.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — Some names changed for security reasons.

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