Every Thursday morning during Summer Camp, our sixty-five campers would gather and sit in rapt attention for a “Real Talk.” During our Thursday “Real Talks,” a few of our teenage StreetLeaders would authentically share experiences from their childhood around weighty issues like family, faith, and grades.
One Thursday, the “Real Talk” topic was self-value. During this “Real Talk,” three StreetLeaders—Stephon, Kimani, and J-Jay—shared about their struggles with the idea that they were valuable and worthy, about people who had impacted their view of themselves, and about the role faith has played in their journey of discovering their self-value.
We all hoped our campers would begin to catch the idea that everyone is deeply loved and valued by God. But we wondered—were such big concepts sinking into such young minds?
The following afternoon, our StreetLeaders, college interns, and adult staff gathered to share their highs and lows from the week.
Julie, one of our college interns, quickly spoke up.
Julie is one of those individuals whose joy, compassion, and resilience brighten every room she enters. Julie also has cerebral palsy, which causes her to walk a bit slower and with a bit more of a limp than others.
After the previous day’s “Real Talk,” Melissa, a second-grade camper who dreams of becoming a teacher, had skipped up to Julie and innocently asked,
“Why do you walk differently than us?”
Julie patiently explained that God had created her with a unique set of strengths but that not everyone understood that.
Melissa thought for a moment and responded,
“But Miss Julie—you still love and value yourself, don’t you? Like the self-value we talked about. You know, that God loves you no matter what!”
Julie took a breath as she retold the story. She appeared to rediscover her own unshakable strength and beauty in that moment.
“Sometimes it’s necessary to reteach a thing it’s loveliness,” poet Galway Kinnell writes. And when this happens, our capacity to give and receive love expands.
A few weeks after this, someone asked Ismael, one of our StreetLeaders, how his faith has grown during his time at UrbanPromise. He responded,
“Here we learn about God’s unconditional love for us, and then we practice showing that love to our campers.”
And as campers like Melissa experience the unconditional, transforming love of God through their relationships with StreetLeaders like Ismael, they practice that love in their interactions with their friends, family, and even interns.
This is how community restoration begins to take place in God’s kingdom—through a community of individuals so rooted in God’s unconditional love that such love begins to manifest itself one little moment at a time. And these little moments grow—like small mustard seeds—into something bigger until a community suddenly becomes a source of rest and protection for all who belong.
This summer at UrbanPromise was full of little moments like the ones between Julie, Melissa, and Ismael. Although you were not at Summer Camp with us each day, thank you so much for making these little moments of transformation and restoration possible through your generosity.
As we turn toward the start of our AfterSchool Program and as you begin a new school year with your families, may we all—like Ismael and Melissa and Julie—grow in our understanding of God’s unconditional love for us so we might practice showing that love to the people in our lives.
Grace and peace,