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I can still recall the way the sun would set after a long day at church camp. Everyone would be exhausted physically and emotionally after endless hours playing and ministering.

The sun would fall behind the hills and you knew that tomorrow would be another day full of ministry and salvations. For many Christians, summer camp is where they first met Jesus. Although we have so many great memories from those past years, summer church camp has been changing.

Recently, I spent a week speaking at a church camp in Arkansas, and during that week, I would spend my mornings visiting and getting to know the students. The conversations began to take on a common theme.

Almost every kid I spoke to came from a broken family. Some of the students came from good Christian homes, but for the most part, all I heard was one heartbreaking tale after another.

One middle school girl began to tell me how her father had signed over custody and wanted nothing to do with her. Another young lady told me how her family constantly shamed her because of her weight.

Several students even told me how they had been contemplating suicide before coming to camp because their home life was such a disaster. These conversations used to be the exception, but now they have become the norm.

I spoke with the camp leader, and he confirmed what I had been hearing. He told me they used to have a problem with kids getting homesick, but now their biggest issue is kids not wanting to leave.

Oftentimes, kids will try to hide in the cabins when it is time to go home because they are so afraid to leave. Camp is the only place where they have received love and three meals a day.

Church camp has become a safe haven during the summer for those who have found themselves in horrible situations at home. In spite of the increasing need for these kinds of healthy escapes, funding for camps is decreasing around the U.S. Each year camps have to make things work on smaller budgets and fewer volunteers.

When you are considering what to do for your vacation next summer, I encourage you to consider giving a week to pouring into students who really need your help. If we want to make the future a better place it begins by loving on those who feel trapped and abandoned at home.

In spite of how tough it is to grow up in today’s environment, God still does mighty work in the hearts of those students and gives hope to the hopeless.