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
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
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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
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
“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
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
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
Melissa Sims is a director of children’s ministry in Dacula,