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Heart Matters: Three Sisters

We were leaving for church camp that morning, and we were behind schedule. I rushed to make final preparations. And though I hurried here and there, I was still touched as teary-eyed children and worried parents said loving goodbyes with hugs and kisses. When we finally had all the kids loaded, we realized the three sisters weren't there. They were waiting for us outside their apartment.

The sisters were in our bus ministry, and they were among several children we invited to summer camp on scholarships. They lived in one of the worst areas in our community, surrounded by drugs and violence.

Two volunteers drove to collect the girls and found them holding their camp gear-plastic grocery bags with a couple of outfits. The sisters' mother watched silently from the porch as her daughters climbed into the car and rode away.

That first night, my summer intern and I purchased things the girls needed-soap, shampoo, sheets, pillows, towels, clothing, and swimsuits. We returned to find the sisters asleep on bare mattresses. We woke them, made their beds, and sent them back to sleep.

During the next four days, the three sisters soaked in all the love and attention they could get. And on the last day, I watched the oldest sister as she piled food on her plate in the cafeteria.

"So are you ready to go home today?" I asked.

She looked at her plate and then back at me, her big brown eyes filling with tears. "I wish I could stay here forever," she said.

My heart sank.

Back at the church, parents ran through the parking lot to hug their children; but no one waited for the three sisters. Kids excitedly chattered away about the fun experiences they'd had all week. The three sisters stood quietly by the bus, holding their brand-new duffle bags and pillows. I asked the girls if I could take them home. No one waited to greet them there, either.

A year passed, and once again summer camp preparations were underway. This time, we remembered the three sisters before our departure day. Our church librarian, Janice, volunteered to prepare care packages just for the girls. I saw the sisters during Sunday school the weekend before camp, and I hugged them and said I'd pick them up the next morning.

I drove to the girls' apartment that morning with suitcases in the back of my SUV. The suitcases had personalized luggage tags, and inside each were brand-new clothes, pajamas, bathing suits, towels, sheets, blankets, toiletries, flip-flops, sunscreen, sunglasses, hair accessories, and a Bible. Janice had neatly organized and lovingly packed and labeled all the items with the girls' names. She'd even packed encouraging notes and special treats for her "adopted" girls.

I'll never forget the expressions of joy on the girls' faces as they looked through their camp suitcases. And I'll never forget what it felt like to transfer God's love -- the love of the most caring, gentle, wonderful parent in the world -- to these three sisters.

Melissa Sims is a director of children's ministry in Dacula, Georgia.

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