Back about 10 years ago I spent my summer as a camp counselor at Timber-lee, a Christian camp in East Troy, Wisconsin. Each Sunday afternoon I was given a fresh set of campers that I could pour my blood, sweat, and tears into until Saturday when their parents picked them up.
Most of my 13 weeks there blended together. There wasn't a lot of difference and very little stuck out. But I think my entire summer was highlighted in one week by a very special camper. This very real story is an example that big gifts can often come in unexpected packaging.
Having a handicapped kid in your cabin stunk at camp because almost everything we did was competitive and it meant that because of Timmy we would always lose. We were the last to finish, the last to line up, the last to eat, the last to clean-up… if you’re a 5-6th grade boy life is about winning and losing for a week was annoying.
I don’t know why, but the camp directors gave Timmy to me when in fact my cabin was the furthest from everything. Timmy had braces on his leg and walked, even ran, pretty good. But negotiating hills and the rough trails was hard. At the end of the first day the 2 trips to the main camp had left his legs very raw. With a long week ahead I knew that each day may have 15-20 trips to the cabin and back and this wasn’t going to work.
So I quietly arranged for me and Timmy to use a golf cart instead of walking with our cabin back and forth. But this guy taught me something Monday morning when I told him about this… he wouldn’t accept it. He wanted to be just like each of the other kids and walk.
All day we walked. He tried to keep up but it just took a while. Timmy wouldn’t quit no matter what. He wanted to do everything. He kept telling me that God had given him this disease and he wasn’t going to let it ruin his week at camp. He had a great and infectious attitude. He really convinced me that he could do anything he wanted to. Each night Timmy pretty much took over devotions and our prayer time… and the kids in the cabin really started looking up to him.
Well, on Sunday when I was told I was getting Timmy they told me that he could do everything except climb the climbing tower. I knew that on Thursday I was going to take the other 8 kids to the wall and that Timmy was going to have to watch while all of his friends climbed and that it would break his heart. So, I went and asked JoAnn one of those “asking isn’t stealing questions.” To my surprise, she told me “yes” even though we had to call his parents first.
The next morning I told my cabin that we were going climbing… all of us. Later that morning I witnessed one of the bravest moments of my life. This kid, who hobbled more than walked, who had zero control of his ankles and could barely move his knees on command stared up at a 40 foot wall and said “belle on.” For the next half hour I stood there and cheered, cried, and encouraged Timmy to climb the wall. He’d get one foot in a hold… use all of his strength to will his other leg into another hold and reach forward. Bit by bit he pulled himself to the top. About ¾ of the way through it I was sure he’d quit. You could see he was defeated. His whole upper body started to shiver from exhaustion and I began to change from cheering to reassuring him that it was OK to quit. He looked down at me and said, “I will not quit. I will not give up, I am going to the top!” I have no idea how he made it up those last 10 feet… but it was amazing. He was so tired that he began to cry and get mad… by this time all of the other campers from our cabin were just staring at his attempt… and JoAnn and the camp director had made their way out.
You could hear Timmy praying on the wall through his tears. “God, help me get up this wall. God give me strength. God, please let me get to the top.” But he made it. He got to the top. That one moment was the highlight of my summer.
All because I had the guts to ask permission. Timmy got to do what he was told he couldn’t do.
Imagine if you could… if you could do that with God… you could ask him anything and He’d have an asking isn’t stealing attitude? What if God listened to your prayers and actually thought one of your ideas was good enough to act on?