This title may be a bit jarring for some readers. It's highly probable that parents have never considered what could or might happen to a disabled child at Bible camp. Of course many parents may not even consider sending a child depending on the extent of the disability, but it may not be so simple. I want to caution you: If you think the church will take as good care of your child as you would, I hope you're willing to live and die on that promise.
When I was fourteen, I was going to a Baptist church. I was very involved with the youth group and I felt a sense of belonging I'd never felt in a church, or really anywhere before. It was a really good feeling. The youth would eventually that summer be leaving to go on a nearly weeklong get away in another state, on a large university campus where they would meet with congregations from many other states, who would descend on the school for five days of revival. I was thrilled to be going.
But at the end of May, I was involved in a pretty serious accident. I fractured my jaw. Then I had to have surgery to wire it shut. For six weeks, I could only receive nourishment through a straw, which precluded nearly everything but soup and shakes. Now, this isn't entirely bad, because my mom regularly made me oreo milkshakes with the best ingredients. But let's say I was already a small kid and I lost a lot of weight during those six weeks. I looked like the liberated of Treblinka, or Buchenwald. I felt terrible. Having already committed to going, I had to reevaluate the situation and decide if I was still up for the journey. I had a choice to make, whether I would go on with the trip as previously planned or would I stay home and watch cartoons and drink milkshakes.
Feeling the pull of adventure, I decided, probably against wisdom to go ahead and go. It was suggested that there would be some type of facilities at the campus where I could prepare my meals and eat (the other kids would get to eat in the cafeteria quite delicious food). I was also told that if I needed to be taken home because I was having trouble with the entirety of the circumstances, my mom would pick me up, and don't be afraid to call, because this was a difficult situation.
We arrived at the campus. I was hoping to immediately be apprised of what those facilities were and mentally prepare myself for what my process would consist of, because it would be different from the other kids. Basically, the short version of it - There was no microwave in the dormitory room, shared with one other male student. There were not really the tools I needed - can opener, microwave, blender, silverware - available for me when I needed to cook myself a meal and there unfortunately were not any adults that took much interest in my situation.
Now, my solution might have been, Can we explain to the cooks that there is a student with a medical situation to where he may need his food handled in a special way? Or that we can provide the cans, can you just heat up this soup and sort of accommodate that condition? That would be one. I realize I'm being a little selfish here. However, maybe a more reasonable solution is, Can we get the kid a can opener, a blender, and a microwave in his dormitory that he can use at any time he needs to eat, and also permission to leave a study or a revival if his medical condition would be benefited by eating?
Those are reasonable middle-ground solutions to accommodate a very specific medical problem a child is suffering through.
There was not really anything like that. I was kind of just left to figure all this stuff out on my own. I was helpless in other words.
I would submit that over those five-odd days at the Bible camp, my medical condition did not improve. But I stayed all five days because I had made my mind up that there was a higher purpose in the experience of the youth camp, of the friendships I had developed with those young people, of having a faith experience. It was a bit like a fast, you could say.
And that was all very true.
But what I want people to know when they send their kids away to these events is not so simple. The short answer of it is no matter how close you are to the church leaders, no matter how well you think you know them (within reason of course, some of you may have family in leadership that you would trust with your life), when you send yours kids so far from home where it's not so simple as just a short drive to be with them, you're essentially sending your kids with a stranger. Or you should consider it as such. These people just biologically cannot feel the same way about your children as they feel about theirs. Forget all this lovey-dovey God talk, "the children!" as they would say. Nobody really believes that. We can talk about faith and God and the Bible and all these lovely ideas. What it comes down to is when your child is surrounded by fundamentalists and he or she gets sick, the chance that they hold hands and say prayers while your child dies before they get to a doctor is likely. The chances that they do nothing if your child gets sick from some infected tap water or has a reaction to the chocolate mousse - They're not going to be there. You're going to be there. You're the parent and you love your child. But what are they going to do when your child is sick, not well?
Alright, Johnny. You just go ahead and go nighty-night now. You close your little eyes and say a little prayer to baby Jesus and before you know it it will be morning and you'll be all better. Nighty-night Johnny, Johnny can it will you, we're playing cards in the other room! Go ahead and leave us alone now, Johnny.
They'll come in in the morning and Johnny is comatose, maybe he'll even be swollen up like Violet in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when she ate the experimental candy. And Johnny will never wake up.
Or maybe you'll have the other problem. You'll send your little girl to one of these camps and she's violated by a pervert while away.
Go ahead and laugh. They'll say I've twisted the mission, I've twisted the meaning of Bible camp, and brought lies and accusations upon it.
No I haven't. I've only told you the truth. They can smile, shake hands, pass around the offering bucket (I guarantee even if they don't smile and shake hands they'll still pass around the offering bucket), but these people don't really care about your kids.
I know you, any of you, would take a bullet for your child. You'd jump out in front of a car to save your child. Will the pastor do that? "Well, if I jump out in front of the car, then the kiddies won't have their pastor! Oh, and then if a ravenous wolf takes over the flock, Oh! then who will the kiddies have to look after them? Nice knowing you, Johnny!"
Or even worse. "Ha, Johnny! You little devil. Now we won't have to deal with your little devilish ways of deceit! Ha! Sayonara, Johnny!"
And then Johnny is left as roadkill on the side of the road.
Okay, I didn't need to be graphic just to make my point, but the people don't care about your kids. They're there for the same reason the kids are - Free cafeteria food, a five night stay in dormitory accommodations, a university swimming pool, and every other level of fun that that entails. It's a cheap getaway, just a fun little ditty. That's all.