Sorry for the radio silence around here the past few weeks, but I have a good reason I promise! Last minute I had the opportunity to head to Rockbridge for a week to photograph the first ever Young Lives camp at that property! About 5 years ago I was able to go up to Lake Champion, a Young Life property in New York, and photograph their camp week and had the best time, but it just has never worked out with my schedule to be able to go back, until now! All throughout college I was at Rockbridge multiple times ever year, and I had forgotten how much it sort of feels like a 2nd home! I have such fond memories from my time at Rockbridge and it was so sweet to be able to go spend a week here remembering all of it.
YoungLives is a branch of YoungLife that is devoted to reaching teen moms. So for the week they get to go experience camp just like any other teenager would and bring their little ones along with them! There is a team of childcare volunteers who come for the week, and it worked out to where we almost had a one to one ratio of childcare workers and babies! The moms are able to drop their baby off twice a day so they can go to club and participate in the morning and evening camp activities, and then they have free time during the day to go to the pool, do the ropes course, the zip line, or the blob… if they’re brave enough :)
Even more than being impressed with the gorgeous scenery, the ridiculously delicious food, or the crazy camp activities, these girls seemed completely blown away by the group of high school and college students who were there to serve them for the month. Yes you read that right, the Work Crew (high school) and Summer Staff (college) are volunteers (read: do not get paid) who come and serve for a month of their summer. They are the ones cooking the food for the girls, serving their meals, cleaning their bathrooms, doing their laundry, sending them through the ropes course, running the snack bar, doing the landscaping, and basically just making camp function. These young mamas seemed SO blown away that their peers would give up an entire MONTH of their summer to come and serve them, expecting nothing in return.
One of the sweetest parts of the week for me was being able to see these girls move throughout their week, and to see their walls begin to break down with each day. I’ve never met a group of more incredible, guarded girls in my life, and understandably so! Some of these girls have stories that would break your heart, and have experienced more in their 16 years than some people will in a lifetime. They walked off of the bus on the first day with a mix of uncertainty, hesitation, and resistance on their faces, and to see those same girls leave after 6 days full of joy and knowing they had been loved and served WELL all week was amazing to see. Every single part of YoungLife camp is done with excellence to make sure that their leaders and the camp speaker are really set up for success. That these girls would be able to truly experience love and to see that they are valued maybe for the first time in their lives. It was such a gift to be able to see the Lord working all week, and I would really encourage you to check out the Young Lives website HERE or to email me for more information about this ministry and how you can get involved! (ps- a little fun fact, if you click on that link the first photo that pops up is one that I took the last time I did this! :) )
Since there were SO many pieces to the week, I’m going to share my photos over 3 different posts! This one is full of photos of the girls activities and what they got to experience throughout their time at Rockbridge. Happy viewing, friends!
Rockbridge is SUCH a gorgeous property, and we couldn’t have asked for nicer weather all week.
Like I mentioned some of these girls were so hesitant when they got off of the bus. Several wouldn’t even look up to make eye contact with the Work Crew that were there cheering for them, and they definitely didn’t return the high fives. You will see at the end of this post how much can change over just 6 days, but this was a VERY typical reaction of these young mamas as they walked into camp for the first time: they had activities planned for them every day, and the girls opened up and got more excited about them with each day: flinging water balloons at your leader is always enough to put a smile on a girls face :) these incredible women are the leaders and mentors that brought the girls to camp and I was completely blown away by their energy, enthusiasm, and heart for their girls. Here they are all lined up, ready to be attacked with water balloons and flour bombs, and don’t they look so excited about it?? :) what can i say, the camp life is pretty tough! :) the girls could play games and win tickets, and with those tickets you could get funnel cake, cotton candy, or you could pie your leader or send them to the dunk tank… lets just say I didn’t see a ton of cotton candy or funnel cake walking around that night :) ooooh the mud wars… if i’m being honest, i found myself being REALLY glad this wasn’t a camp activity back when I was a leader ;) armed with more water balloons and flour bombs, and ready to attack :)late night pool party, complete with Summer Staff there ready to cheer them on and dish out more high fives :)and here’s the main reason we’re all here, CLUB! Twice a day the girls would have club where they would sing songs, play crazy games, and hear from either the Summer Staff or their amazing camp speaker Sophia Cox. In the morning, the girls got to hear from 4 Summer Staffers who would get up and share their real life story. Some of them shared how by the worlds standards they had made every mistake in the book, others were the “good kid” at their school, but how they realized that each of them was living life unfulfilled and disconnected to God. How each of them had this thing called “sin” in their life that blocks them from a relationship with God, BUT how because of what Jesus did on the cross to take care of that sin once and for all, how they did ultimately choose to have a relationship with God and how He had changed their life since then. While the girls loved hearing from their camp speaker, I think it was so cool for them to be able to hear from their peers as well. but oooooh how they LOVED Sophia. One girl at the end of the week said to me “I just really love her, like I want to keep her! Think she would let me take a picture with her?” and on the last day I saw that picture happen :) They also got to see different funny skits throughout the week from the Program Team, just one more way they are able to make these girls laugh and put a smile on their face :)Every night Sophia would have the opportunity to get up and talk to these girls about who Jesus was and what He came to do. She explained that we all as humans have 4 basic needs: to feel safe and secure, to feel significant and valued, to be loved unconditionally, and to be connected to God. Unfortunately most of us spend our lives on the opposite side, feeling unsafe, insignificant, unloved, and disconnected from God. She had the opportunity to share that because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, that the door is officially open to us to have a relationship with God through Jesus and move to the other side, but often we are still tied down by things in our past that keep us from moving forward. That relationship, that regret, that mistake, that habit, that forgiveness we don’t want to offer… we think that we’re supposed to fix or get rid of those things BEFORE we can walk through the door, when in reality Jesus is asking us to bring those things TO Him.do you see all of those girls standing up in the crowd? They decided this week to walk through that door, and begin a relationship with Christ! Hallelujah! Then these young mamas had a really cool opportunity. In Psalm 107 it says “let the redeemed of the Lord SAY SO…” so they were able to stand up, walk THROUGH the door, and in front of their peers and their leaders SAY that the Lord had redeemed them that week. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room, I lost it as soon as they stood up from their seats before they even got on stage! there were plenty of hugs and tears to go around after that:remember those girls that walked off the bus guarded, hesitant, and insecure who wouldn’t even look up at Work Crew on the first day? well those same girls walked OUT the door looking like this: Stay tuned for part 2 next! :)
The mud pics. SO great.
Oh my goodness Jessie I love this post!!!! Your pictures are priceless and I love how you captured every moment of camp! You are so right about seeing the change in those girls through out the week and you really captured that well. I seriously can not wait to look at your next two posts! What an awesome opportunity you had to photograph these beautiful ladies at YoungLives!