As we drove away from camp last Wednesday, I was reviewing the day with Jennifer, one of our summer interns. I was trying to encourage myself. It had been a very challenging day for me and the “yellow room” leaders. As I drove, she became a captive audience as I explained (mostly to myself) that I couldn’t let this difficult day change my attitude about what God has called Jesus Project to accomplish.
To encourage myself, I started to recount a story about a family of four boys who had attended camp for several years. They had recently moved out of the neighborhood and no longer attended. (Three of them are pictured above. Far left: Ivan, Ivory & far right: Kendell). I explained to Jennifer that most days, either Rachel or I would spend part of the afternoon outside talking with one or more of them because of their behavior. We were either trying to calm them down, trying to keep one of them from hitting other campers or working them through their anger. Some days the talks didn’t go well and we would load them into the car and take them home, but other days we would see breakthroughs. While talking with Jennifer, I started remembering their good days, their beautiful smiles, the joy of seeing them having fun, and the excitement when they were retelling the Bible stories.
Ivan (pictured on the left in the photo) loved to sing. One day he asked if we could sing “Every Praise.” I hadn’t heard it before, but we quickly found it and we began singing it. Every day he would flash a big toothy grin and sing at the top of his lungs. On days that we skipped singing the song, it would make Ivan very feisty. It quickly became one of our favorites. We even had him lead the song at the Back 2 School Outreach in front of about 300 people. God used those memories to help me last week. He reminded me that what we do isn’t easy, but it is so important. Recalling those boys’ good days in the midst of bad ones helped me catch my breath and get ready for the week ahead.
On Friday, I was sitting at breakfast with our team, debriefing and planning, when my phone rang. It was Pastor Josh Holland and the news wasn’t good. He told me 12-year-old Ivan had a severe asthma attack and had passed away. Fist-swinging, song singing, big smile Ivan has finished his race. Again, we found ourselves struggling to breathe. His mom, family, JPM family and friends are finding comfort in Christ. I am so grateful for every day we spent with Ivan…days when he was angry, days when we helped him with his dry, bleeding skin caused by his asthma and medication, days when we tutored him and days when he would lead us and with all his might sing, “Every praise is to our God!” And once again, Ivan helps us catch our breath.
Ivan’s memory is now a sobering reminder of how important God’s work is in Hollygrove. The real-life issues Ivan faced are just like those most of our children face daily. They are staggering: poverty, drugs, missing parents. Ivan had all of these struggles and asthma.
Each day we have over 50 children, similar to Ivan, in our camp. They learn the Bible, eat lunch and snacks, do crafts and sing songs. They need your help. This work costs a great deal. It costs us spiritually, emotionally and it costs money.
Could you help carry part of the load? How?
Pray for wisdom for us on how to best minister to each child.
Pray for the children, for their safety and salvation.
Support us financially http://bit.ly/4Ivan
Thank you for your love and support of Jesus Project Ministries and the people in the community of Hollygrove.
We are eternally grateful,
Debra and Rachel