Hi I am Michelle Alden and I have been a part of Royal Family Kid’s Camp for 10 years. I have been a camp buddy here at our local camp and at camps in Australia and New Zealand. I have been lifeguard, zipline/safety personal, and just about every job imaginable. I am currently finishing my masters in family counseling with hopes of working specifically with adopting families and abused kids. I am passionate about helping people to better understand children who have been neglected, abused and abandoned.

 Tom and I are Co-directors of Royal Family Kids Camp-a camp for children in foster care here in our community. Tonight I wanted to take some time and talk to you about the camp and more importantly, the children-- whose lives are touched and we believe changed because we take the opportunity to show we care.

The children….

 I don’t know what comes to your mind when you hear the word ORPHAN. I know that for most of us, we probably think of children in other countries. Maybe the word orphan conjures up images of dark skinned children, hungry, masses huddled together- wide-eyed and terrified of what each day or night brings. 

Maybe you have been to an orphanage and seen the excitement the children have when they get a sticker or a small toy…maybe you have seen their faces, dirty and marred by physical abuse or neglect. Perhaps in your travels or from your TV set you have seen their pleading eyes begging for help, for your compassion.

 I hear over and over from those that have seen these children that they never forget the faces and that it changed their own lives going to the orphanage in Russia, or China or Ethiopia.

The scriptures tell us that it is pure and undefiled religion before God to visit /care for the oprhans in their trouble.

So…what does that mean to us in Boise Idaho? Where are our orphans? What would it look to visit them in their trouble?

Recently I have been told that here, in America and especially in Idaho, we don’t have true orphans.

Really?

So what is an orphan?

The dictionary tells us that an orphan is one who has lost both parents. To be orphaned is to be deprived of parents, lacking support or care or supervision.  Hmmm…

To tell you the truth, before I went to Royal Family Kids Camp, I rarely thought about oprhans at all. AND I had been orphaned as a child, lived in foster care for a time, separated from my brothers, my sister, my mother, grandparents.

But it wasn’t until I saw the faces of those children riding into camp, faces pressed against the window of the bus… looking for their buddy—the one  holding a sign with their name, that I really came to grips with my past, how God had placed ME in a family.  Then I  was compelled to care about their future. And my life in that moment was changed-forever.

 Because you see, I have seen their eyes, terrified at what will happen next, mixed with doubt, fear and years of mistrust. I saw my brother hurt for years because he never knew if anyone cared at all.  I have heard their cries.  I have witnessed a child huddled under his bed, afraid to sleep because of the terror of the night. And I have watched their joy at simple little gifts, decorated rooms, the  opportunity to play in the water, run in a field or build their own bug box.  I know what it means to them to have a birthday party or a sign with their name on it, to have pictures of themselves that they keep for years and years.

 I love being a part of their journey,  as they slowly began to realize that they matter. And it is worth EVERY dollar it takes to treat them like royalty so that they can experience the lavish love of God.

When I think about orphans, I know that they are not half way around the world. They are in your neighborhood, at your school, in your churches.  They are that little boy who steals your kid’s lunch or won’t sit still when you are teaching Sunday school.

 And if he had traveled to you a thousand miles and his family told you he was still learning our culture, was afraid to be touched or worried about being hungry, you would probably would be less inclined to think of him or her as “bad kid” or that troubled kid down street … But the fact is, our orphans are in the home next door to us.

 If you stop and look, if you listen to their hopes and dreams, you realize what we have at camp have come to know-- that they are just as needy of love, acceptance and people to step in and visit them in their trouble as any other orphan. 

So what do we do?

What does it mean to visit the orphans?

At Camp we have a the unique opportunity to completely be there for them for a week, to give them hope for a life time, and we take seriously and we have seen God bless our small and humble offerings time and time again. And if we know nothing else, we know that GOD CARES ABOUT THESE KIDS and He is willing to USE  US to show them.

 And so I ask you--How does He want to use you?

I think it starts with looking, being willing to open your eyes and see them. We don’t have an orphan problem in our community because we don’t see it.  Max Lacado wrote: Look at the hurting until you hurt with them. No hurrying past, no turning away. Look at the face until you see the person.

So tonight and I hope beyond tonight, that you allow yourself to look.

 Look at their pictures, look into the eyes of that child who is driving you nuts, but you know has no one really caring for her,  look at the real needs, look at their faces until you see the person, until you know what God is telling you to do.

 Because it is personal, and these are our children and it is our responsibility to at the very least to do something for in answer to their cry.