Strong & Courageous 2008

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Leaving for China – June 23, 2008

One of the things we did last summer at camp was to have the kids dress up for a camp glamour picture. We have a large picture of Snow White that some of the kids stand in front of when they take their picture. One of the translators asked an orphan if they knew who Snow White was. The orpan replied, “yes, she is my mom. And she is coming back for me.”

For some, Snow White on TV is the closest they ever get to having a mom. They see what others have in this life and the only way they can get a family is by creating an imaginary world where people love them. But Snow White will never come because imaginary people cannot love. They cannot give them a hug or go down a waterslide. They cannot make a craft or throw a ball with them.

But those things happen at camp. And the best part? Getting to see children light up as they enjoy a week full of love and laughter. We look forward to updating you from China. A huge thank you to all of you who are making this summer possible!

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Beijing Pre-Camp Update: Plan B – July, 21, 2008

Hello from Xin Zheng, China! About one week ago we had some news that none of us saw coming. We found out that our Beijing camp would need to move because the government was shutting down the hotel we were staying in. I still don’t’ understand exactly what happened. But everything was CRAZY in Beijing with the Olympics coming. Anyway, we had four days to be out of the hotel. The month of preparation for the Beijing camp were gone in just a few seconds. And we still had over 400 people coming! We began putting the word out and ended up really connecting with an orphanage that has about 600 orphans. We found a university that was stilling to host our camp and within two days we were off to explore. We got the approval from the school and the rest of the team to leave Beijing and take the train to our new camp. When we were unloading the truck with ALL of our random camp items, one of the translators said, “you brought everything but the kitchen sink… but I saw you brought one of those too!”. The kids and volunteers and craziness arrive at the train station tonight. We’ll let you know how the week goes!

Weekend Update – July 27, 2008

This afternoon when we told each other our life stories, we learned so much about the girls’ lives… things that hurt to know. Things like the fact that most of the girls were orphaned because their parents killed each other. When they started telling, it was like a water fountain broke loose… they were almost sobbing so hard they couldn’t talk. How can you comfort an eleven-year-old girl who lost her parents only four years before? We listened and told them that we were so sorry, but that we loved them so much. We held hands. We cried. We’re so thankful that our Father can see their little broken hearts and He cares for them so much more than we ever could.

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Difficult Week 2 in China – Aug. 4, 2008

We just finished another week of camp. This week was really hard. We had several kids with severe special needs that we were almost unable to handle. With the added stress on volunteers and staff, it just felt like everything was a downward spiral.

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But by mid-week the tide began to change. We got diapers for one of the kids, moved one of the girls into a room with just staff, and overall learned how to care for them. Our volunteers and staff were incredible as they were pushed to new limits. When it came time to say goodbye there were many changed hearts.

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One highlight was a boy that we nicknamed Strong. He had Down Syndrome and just kept us smiling the whole week. In a staff meeting we were talking about the verse, “he who is the least will be the greatest”. I (David) was thinking about Strong and how he is a beautiful person, so loving and caring and full of joy although I’m sure he has been frequently treated as the least. Someday I hope to serve under him in heaven.

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From the kids:

I am a boy with few words. I lost my parents when I was young. I never feel the warmth of a family at the orphanage. Though the time we stay together is very short, I have felt the love and warmth. I felt very happy. At least, home you have every day.” Tom

“You know that we are from the orphanage and we grow up there. So thus, we have no home actually. To be honest, this is the first time I have the feeling of family.” Qi

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More Unknowns – Nanchang Update – Aug. 11, 2008

Wow, another busy week in China with unknowns around every corner. The Olympics started and everything is just CRAZY! At the beginning of the week we heard that we might have to cancel the rest of summer camp. But each day has led to another day full of smiles and hugs and permission to continue. There is just one more week to go at our camp in Xin Zheng. Here are a few highlights from our other camp in Nanchang.

Week 1: Our first week in Nanchang was amazing. Swimming, making memory books, dancing, singing, and eating together were all highlights for the kids. We even had an impromptu water fight out by the hotel lake (with only on small casualty who briefly fell into the water). We also enjoyed a firework show on the last night of camp. Yet simply hanging out and playing during free-time were our favorite times together.

From the kids:

“I do enjoy this camp because it has brought so much happiness to me. There are so many joyful thing that I want to mention them to you. I cannot control myself smiling when I am thinking about there things.” Dream

“Thank you for bringing me happiness. It makes me warm and feel loved. I think I am actually a happy girl.” Haylee

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Week 2: Week two of camp was a week of many reunions. It was so fun for the volunteers and staff to see the faces of familiar children from past year of camp get off the buses on Monday morning. Just imagine the feeling of seeing someone you love only once a year! The week was full of laughter, joy and new memories with old friends.

From the kids:

“This week is my most unforgettable time of my life, ever! The happiest! Every time you gave me kisses I always remember them because kisses from you have opened my heart.” Kelly

“The experience I got from this camp makes me feel the love of family. There are so many family groups here, which reminds me what love is.” Sarah

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Week 3: Our numbers just about doubled when the third week of camp in Nanchang hit. We were blessed with volunteers to Canada, Australia and the States. It was amazing to see how so many people form so many cultures camp together for a single purpose. The atmosphere felt like our intimate camp family only grew to a huge family. Many new friendships were made and, because of that, saying goodbye at the end of the week was difficult. We know that the whole team will hold this week in their hearts and hopefully reunions will happen next year at camp when we meet again.

From the kids:

“You make me feel like you are my mother, and the I want to call you Mum. I’m sure it is very happy to be your child. This week is the happiest time of my life.” Sam

“Thank you for spending five days with me. I have not been so happy for a long time.” Kip

“When I go home, I will miss you everyday. By the way, how old are you and why are your eyes blue? And your hair on your arms is really funny. They are long very much.” Nicole

“I will study harder in middle school. I am proud to you and you will be proud of me ten years later. You helped me when I was young and I will return to you ten years later.” Shelly

From the volunteers:

“This is Jonny. He’s a little slow, but he remembers one phrase very clearly. And he doesn’t talk a whole lot, but he repeats this phrase several times into my translator’s ear tonight when we asked him if he could remember any about his childhood. It was the last thing his mom ever said to him. ‘Wait here, and I’ll come back for you.’” Tom

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“Many things about our time together made me smile. Holding your hands as we walked to places made me feel so food inside. When we dance, my heart danced.” Brian

“I don’t care that he hugs me all the time. I just found out he lost his parents this year.” Chris

From the translators:

“I learned to love anyone you have a chance to love whenever you can.” Rich

“I learned that great kids can come from a background that isn’t so great.” Michelle

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Olympic News – Aug. 20, 2008

Some exciting news! This week NBC will be filming our Beijing Olympics Summer Camp. The kids will have a chance to see the games first hand as well as meet some famous Olympians!

Last year several of these kids were just amazed to see running water inside their room. While at camp they asked up, “Are we in America?”, even though their home was just a few hours away. It is so fun to give when they have so little. We look forward to sharing their story with the world!

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Going to the Olympics – Aug. 22, 2008

Yesterday was the capstone of the whole summer. We took five orphans to the Olympics on Thursday and Friday to finish our Olympic Summer camp in Beijing. An amazing end to an amazing summer!

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