This amazing blog post was taken from heidijoan.wordpress.com. She wrote a letter to her new niece, Anna Leigh, about the incredible experiences that she will one day experience at Camp Barnabas. We love this:
Anna Leigh. Sweet Anna Leigh. You have no idea how much your blessing of an existence in our family is. It makes total sense you were placed where you were. And we have a very special spot that is fit just for you.
You came from a family that has devoted a part of their lives to working at this really cool Camp for special children just like you. When I was just 6 years old, your Dad and Aunt Tricia started working there during the summers. It had just opened! And later your Momma started working there, too! I would miss them so much. So much so, your Grandparents would take me down once a week on dance night in the old lodge, so I could visit them. And I think they were equally inspired to witness a new world of love, compassion, and wonder in our own backyard. We would watch your Dad and Aunt Tricia dance their hearts out with their campers, feed them, and take care of any and every need that came up. I knew I would work there one day, too.
And I did, with your Uncle Jake!
We got married there. Your parents met there. Each one of us in the family quite literally found ourselves and found God there. It is the most special place in the world to us. Our 2nd home.
And I think it’s going to be your 2nd home one day, too.
One day, your parents may tell you they’re taking you to Camp Barnabas for a week. I know the thought of that may freak you out. A week without Mom and Dad! No one knows your bedtime routine, what you do and don’t eat, etc like they do. And trust me, it will be hard for Mom and Dad to see you go, too. But here’s the thing, you should go! Anna, you’re going to meet your lifelong, best friends there. You’re going to learn how to do all of these new activities there and most importantly, you’re going to learn about God. And the latest dance moves.
If you decide to go, when you first pull up to Camp through the gates you will be greeted by about 200 screaming college kids that look like a combination of being homeless and being on dru…err…special medicine. I know, I used to be one of them, along with everyone else in the family. Don’t worry, they won’t hurt you. They’re just so excited for you to be there! Yeah, they’re at Camp for you, Anna! They gave up vacations, lazy summer days, and road trips to see you! You’ll get out of the car and they’ll give you a great big high-five, or even pick you up and spin you around. Then, they’ll have you run down this long tunnel of people clapping for you Anna! They’ll be shouting your name, giving you hugs, and have the biggest smiles on their faces as you run down. And if the noise bothers you, they’ll celebrate quietly by giving spirit hands.
You’ll walk into the cabin (G2 by the way because that was my cabin every year I worked there) and meet all your new friends. You’ll meet these new people and realize you fit right in. For maybe the first time in your life, you won’t feel different. You may meet an awkward teenage girl that comes up to you and says she’s going to be hanging out with you for the week. She’s probably going to be your counselor and new best friend. But if you notice she is only talking to her friends or the boy in her youth group, just tell me and I’ll handle it.
Oh yeah, can I be your Cabin Mom? I’ll just be in the background. I’ll do your laundry and just be the Mom that hangs out with your Cabin all week. Unless that totally embarrasses you, then I understand. The Cabin Mom is there so you can have the Camp experience, but have an almost Mom there to feel more safe.
Every night, there will be a dance or game. During the day you will get to learn how to fish, canoeing, archery, riflery, and swim in the most amazing pool if you want. The slide in the middle is the fastest. All of these activities I would love to help teach you. But if you want your new counselor or friends to teach you, that’s okay. I’m there for you, girl!
I also think you will find in the mornings when you go down with your cabin to Inspiration Point where you will meet the rest of Camp, will be one of your favorite parts of your day. The outlook is Missouri’s most beautiful outlook that is kept secret. The orange sky lighting up the fields, while the dew rises off the grass with the sounds of Shoal Creek directly below, there is nothing like a Missouri morning at Camp Barnabas. You won’t only see God in the outdoors then. You will feel Him on your skin, hear Him in the gentle breeze, you will smell the sweet dew, and as you close your eyes your new friend will grab a hold of your hand. It’s real, Anna. That’s what Heaven is like in case you were wondering.
If you want to hear a good story, ask your Dad about dressing up in a cow costume with some other counselors back in ’97 and running out in that field. They danced along with the real cows and boy, the campers had never seen such a sight!
I also suggest the Ropes Course, which your Uncle Jake may be there to help out. He knows the course like the back of his hand. But as always, only do what you’re comfortable with. It never hurts to stretch and see what you can do, but it’s your choice Anna.
And you’ll never pick the wrong choice at Camp Barnabas. Never.
Most of all Anna, you’re going to find a 2nd family, a 2nd home here. And it’s not just yours, it’s your whole family’s 2nd home, too. You will find these traits like you’ve never seen before.
Love, Joy, Compassion, Grace, Adventure, Curiosity, Challenge, Acceptance, and Wonder like never found before. The outside world sometimes has trouble offering virtues, such as these. But not Camp Barnabas. Never.
Little Anna, I only find it fitting to dedicate this verse to you. You’ll have it memorized by the end of the week at Camp because we sing it every night.
“For the Lord your God is with you
He is Mighty to Save
He will take Great Delight in you,
He will cover you with His Love
And He will Rejoice OVER YOU IN SONG.”
If you’d rather go to Camp your first time without Uncle Jake or me, that’s okay. Your Mom will probably be your Nurse and your Dad will be ‘around.’
You are so special to us and I think you are the best thing that could have happened to our family.
And don’t forget, you have a 2nd home.
Camp Barnabas exists to help you turn your question “Why was I born with a extra chromosome?” into “Why isn’t everyone else born with a extra chromosome?” Camp Barnabas is definitely about you meeting with Jesus in a freeing way you may have never felt before through Devos, Dance parties, and Friends. But it is also about people like us meeting with Jesus directly through you. The Campers are our Teachers. Like Jesus said, ‘…and the last will become first’ come to life here. Camp Barnabas keeps us grounded in Christ with the finer things in life. You are an example to us. Never forget.
And in the words of my first camper I ever had at the age of 15,
“I am the Queen of Down Syndrome!”
Own it, Anna.