Julie is seventeen years old — in some ways so young, and in some so tragically old. Neglect and abuse do that to a child. They stunt the child’s growth in the things that are vital for healthy living…nutritious food…education…life skills…coping skills…the ability to trust. When the people who are supposed to love you most mistreat you, fail to protect you, and, worst of all, don’t love you and make you feel wanted and needed, the child that lives in each one of us feels scared and vulnerable and alone. When those basic needs are not met, a hole forms in our souls that is difficult to close.
On the other hand, Julie has seen things that even adults should never see. She is an old soul. She has grown up knowing that the only person she can count on is Julie. That is too much responsibility for a child, and it has aged her before her time.
Things began to change when Julie came to Agape Villages. But it was a hard adjustment for her. She was seventeen, and she hadn’t found adults to be all that trustworthy. She hadn’t been able to count on anybody for anything, and she wasn’t about to risk changing that.
Then Julie went to camp. Sierra Bible Camp, near Lake Almanor in Northern California. A whole week of being out of her comfort zone…away from texting, talking and surfing the internet…away from her music and her friends and her problems. A whole week of being out in nature, seeing the world from a different point of view. A whole week of interacting with godly counselors and staff, making new friends, sharing new experiences. She came home to her foster mother, and Julie was different.
She had a different attitude about being in foster care, and about the woman who had chosen to be her foster mother. Usually, our boys and girls attend one session of camp, along with the kids of a particular congregation. This particular year, an additional congregation extended an invitation to attend camp with them, and Julie, completely enthralled with that first week, begged to go a second time. We said yes, and we are glad we did.
Julie is seventeen years old, and though she has had terribly tough years in her past, many of the toughest things lie ahead of her. We will have Julie for a couple more years, and we are committed to helping her continue to grow and find a path to success and fulfillment.