Monday, December 19, 2011

A light to children who only know darkness #Shine

Have you ever looked into eyes that seem hollow, dark and overwhelmingly sad? Have you seen that look in the eyes of a child? I have, replayed over and over again at our camps for kids in foster care. These are the eyes of a child that has experienced abuse, many times by the hands of someone that is supposed to love them more than anyone else. This is a look of rejection, fear, loneliness, anxiety and hopelessness.

How do you break through a heart that has been shut down, one that refuses to trust because everyone in their life has let them down? Truth is, we can’t do it. It’s an impossible task. However, there is One that’s been there, One that knows how it feels to be rejected and beaten by those that were supposed to love Him the most. He is the only One that can truly empathize with these kids. It’s Christ, and He is the One that is a Father to the Fatherless (Psalm 68:5-6) and calls us to minister to the orphan and the widow (James 1:27).
 It is our desire as a ministry to start a relationship with each child through a camp setting. We have fun together, and lay a foundation for them to know that they are loved, valued and special. No, they are not worthless, bad or unwanted. The God of the Universe created them; He knows the number of hairs on their head and had a plan for their life even before they were born … an awesome plan designed just for them

We continue as they age out of our Royal Family Kids’ Camp at the age of 12 to teach them, through Xtreme Life, the skills they need in order to be successful in their interpersonal relationships. We teach them what their particular gifts and abilities are and how to use them effectively. All the while, we continue to teach them that God is always with them and loves them unconditionally. Our goal, especially through our mentoring program, One 4 Life, is to give them the support they need so they will not feel alone and will have someone that they can count on throughout their life.

Ultimately, we desire to be light in the darkness. For most of these kids, this darkness is all they have ever known in their short lives. We want to shine the light of Jesus so these kids will know that there is hope, that they don’t have to stay in darkness, that there is more to life than hurt, pain, and sadness and that they don’t have to repeat the cycle of abuse that they have experienced. And in the end, we pray that our lives and the lives of each one of these precious kids, will result in praise to our God.

 “To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:3

Letting our lights shine begins first with a relationship with Jesus Christ--He is the source of the very light He wants us to shine into the darkness. Do you know Him? 

If you know this Jesus, then you are already full of the very Light this world most needs to see--not just a light to look at, but a light that helps others see--who they are, where they're going, what is happening around them... How can we be intentional to become even more effective "lamps" to make the Light of the world known and seen in our lives?

For the past 14 years, Tasha Whitener has served children in various ministries and programs.  She was on staff at First Baptist Woodstock in the Children’s Ministry for 11 years, which included serving as Director of ongoing programs such as Sunday school, Awana and Special Events. She also served as a CPS case worker with the Department of Family and Children’s Services in Georgia. Since 2008, she has been the Director of the Woodstock Royal Family Kids’ Camp (a week-long camp for abused and neglected children ages 7-11). She is currently the Founder and Executive Director of KidS3, Inc., a non-profit organization that serves children/youth in foster care.

Ministry Description
KidS3 was founded in 2009 by Tasha and her husband, Doug, to build on the foundation of Royal Family Kids’ Camp. They saw the need to continue their work with these kids as they graduate from RFKC and equip them with the skills and support that are necessary for their success as they progress through their teenage years. This is accomplished through week-long and weekend overnight camps, a mentoring program, and community events. During these programs, they are taught their value and self-worth, character and team-building, budgeting, job skills and work ethic, leadership training and are then engaged in service projects according to their area of interest. All of the children/youth they serve are in foster care, group homes or state approved care and range from 7 to 18 years old. Our passion is to connect these youth with a mentor/advocate that will remain a consistent factor in their lives during their time with KidS3 and beyond. It is critical that these youth have the support and life skills they need as they “age-out” of the system and enter into adulthood.

Ultimately, their vision is to establish a strong support system and effective services for youth in state care that will result in the development of men & women of character and integrity, equipped with the necessary job skills in their area of interest and giftedness, engaged in service to the community, and fulfilling God’s purpose for their life.

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