I did not really know what to expect from 12 strangers between 15 & 16 years old. I wanted to step in and do something crazy. Like steal something from each of their suitcases and wear it to dinner. Or casually collect all their blow-dryers, flat irons, and curling irons and hide them and then play dumb. Or better yet take every make up bag and hide those for the week and again play dumb. None of which I did. I did the only thing I know how to do and that is to be a mom. To love each one of them as they are.
By the first afternoon they kept their distance from this middle ages stranger and if I were them I would have done the same. By the evening they came in a little closer. By the end of the first night, after sharing in an anonymous way, some of their struggles in life most of them came in very close. I decided the first night to lay low during "lights out". I am not thier mother, and have not even earned the right into their space let alone any form of authority such as "lights out" or "stop talking". Whispers turned into to full blown laughing out loud. As the clock ticked past midnight the girls had my middle name down and officially named me Mama Jo. Half past midnight the Head Leader of camp walked into our cabin to slow down the roar. I worked in Young Life with the Head Leader over 25 years ago. She looked at these girls and then at me and put on her serious face, which even I knew was NOT her serious face. Like two parents trying not to bust up laughing we managed to settle the girls in for the night.
The next day was a challenge for me. All still strangers. But what was written on those 3x5 cards the night before spoke volumes to the precious hearts of each one. I knew not whose card belonged to whom. All I could do was take one card at a time and pray. God knew whose card I would be holding with each prayer. The girls new that if they wanted to talk with me about what was on those cards, they could come to me anytime during this week and pick their card out of the pile and then one by one they came to me. Each precious time, one on one time I would sit under a tree and hear her story unfold. Praying alongside each story. Asking if she would be willing to share her story during cabin time. Each night each girl sharing and opening up her heart. For most the very first time opening up in the way that they did.
And as the hours passed Mama Jo was invited into their day. Being sensitive to fade in and out. Invited into to hear their stories. Invited into the secrets of camp that girls share with their moms. Only mom is back home so now sharing with Mama Jo. I got to be a mama to twelve very amazing young women. Very strong women. I told them often that they are a tough group and they would laugh at me. Each one so very different, yet so very strong in their own way. To sit among your peers and share your story is a strong and brave thing to do, and yet each one would do just that. Each one JUMPING into each activity. Sometimes telling me that they would not participate in the next cabin event, and then rallying together as a team and together we conquered the Ropes Course. Some crying, me crying as I saw the fear and struggle to cross those cables in the sky. One falling and not wanting to continue. She got up and finished. The Canyon Cars, The Scary Swing and every girl in every event. I loved their energy, and then the fact that they loved hanging by the pool to buy me a few hours of rest for this middle aged Mama Jo.
I asked myself what could I possibly have in common with these girls. What? Nothing really. Just the simple fact that being a mom and loving them right where they are at. Isn't that how Jesus is. Meeting people along the way. Asking questions and learning about their life. That is who I want to be in this world. To those who God brings into my life. This past week it was teenage girls. Girls who needed a Mama Jo to walk this week with them. Who will walk next week and the weeks to come as they learn and discover what it means to be in a relationship with Jesus. Many of these girls accepted Jesus into their hearts a couple of nights ago. Many begin to walk with Him, a new life in Him and guess who is going to keep walking with them too? Mama Jo.