by Steve McLean
A biographical article I wrote for the Grace Fellowship church newsletter: GRACE NOTES
|In 1979 I began using my writing for God as an Editor in Chief and writer for the Grace Fellowship church newsletter named: GRACE NOTES. I had become a member of Grace Fellowship, which is a non-denominational church group meeting in Mansfield, Ohio, the year before. In the summer of 1979, I enjoyed the blessing and fun of working as one of the camp counselors for a new church camp that Grace Fellowship sponsored and presented for handicapped children and teens in our area of Ohio. This camp was named Kingdom Kampers, and I served as one of the Arts and Crafts counselors. Both I and my fellow Arts and Crafts counselor, Jeannie Alley, were physically-challenged ourselves, so we could relate to all of the young, physically-challenged campers who came to enjoy this unique new Christian camp in a special way. Grace Fellowship meets in the countryside outside of Mansfield in a beautiful setting that features a lodge building with apartments and rooms of various sizes upstairs and downstairs, including a large kitchen, situated beside a scenic pond. These country church grounds and the lodge building were given the name: Grace Haven Farm. And this was where Grace Fellowship located its Kingdom Kampers. After camp was over for that first summer I wrote the following article about it for our church newsletter, so that our church members who weren't involved in the daily activities of Kingdom Kampers could learn about all of the blessings the campers and counselors shared during camp. Enjoy reading about them now too!!!
THE KINGDOM KAMPERS STORY
July 30th - August 10th (1979), Grace Haven Farm became a summer church camp for the handicapped, with the anointed name: Kingdom Kampers!
The fun and blessings experienced during these two weeks were truly unique. The first week of camp was designated for our teenage Kampers, the second week for the younger ones.
The Kamper staff and counselors had a pot-luck and orientation meeting the Sunday before the official start of camp. We learned the names and special needs of each Kamper. Some of the Kampers needed someone to feed them at mealtimes, so we used our potluck as a time of experiencing their need as we chose partners and were fed by each other.
One of those who needed to be fed was an amazing Kamper by the name of Andy. He was almost totally paralyzed and communicated by the movement of his eyes and an alphabet board. Andy and a certain food item provided one of the most humorous incidents of camp. Most of the Grace Fellowship singles know that Head Counselors Robin Rothaar and Debbie Ankney are fond of peatnut-butter on their pancakes. One morning at breakfast, Robin was feeding Andy. When she began spreading peanut-butter on her pancakes, Andy just couldn't believe it! Peanut-butter on pancakes!!! Uckkk!!! He could barely stand to look at her as she savored each bite of this incredible concoction! Later on, during Arts and Crafts, Andy learned that one of the projects for that session was making Peanut-butter Pine Cone Bird Feeders. This gave Andy a clever idea for playing a joke on Robin, which he eagerly conveyed to his Arts and Crafts counselors via his alphabet board. At the conclusion of the next meal, Robin was told that a certain Kamper had a present for her, but she had to guess what it was first. Robin was let to the center of the room, where a blindfold was placed over her eyes. Head Counselor Connie Black held the present over Robin's head while she made several incorrect guesses. Finally, the peanut-butter covered pine cone feeder was lowered a little closer, and the "bird", Robin, smelled the peanut-butter! The blind-fold was removed and everybody laughed, Andy and Robin, the hardest! There were many such laughs during the two weeks, loving and learning, that we shared with the Kingdom Kampers.
We shared some very special serious moments too. Elder Mark Hamilton presented a devotional lesson every morning during the first week. As a result of this teaching, one of the Kampers found the Lord. We were all blessed when James Thompson shared with us that he had invited the Lord "into my heart forever" on the last day of camp. James offered to come back the second week to help us out with the younger Kampers. We took him up on his offer and were delighted with his eagerness in fulfilling each task he was given.
There are many more thrills and blessings to share about our first summer of Kingdom Kampers, but these will have to wait for the next issue of GRACE NOTES, because space does not allow for more about camp in this issue.