I will never forget nearly four years ago when my life was forever changed. I was introduced to a world that would open my eyes to a new reality, one that is so often neglected by our society. I was introduced to warriors. These particular warriors are people who have been fighting unseen battles for a large part of their lives. And for some, their entire lives. These warriors have already experienced a long, hard road, and many of them continue to have a long one ahead. These individuals are suffering pain most of us will never know. They are encountering battles daily, wondering if the injustice they are experiencing will ever end? But they are resilient. They carry on. They go out each day and fight. These warriors embrace battles and obstacles with a hope that one day life will present something better.
A purple heart is an award of valor for a man or woman who has made a choice to serve and protect our nation, and through such became injured and therefore unable to continue the mission. Some of these men or women come home and are reintroduced into civilian life. Sadly, others never make it home and their families instead are awarded a purple heart to signify their loved one was lost in a valiant selfless act. These are true warriors and heroes.
These are not the ones that come to mind when I think of a purple heart, however. What comes to mind is children—beautiful, amazing children. A special kind of child who has fought a different type of battle. These children have witnessed and experienced atrocities that many of us cannot imagine. Nighttime terrifies them. Typical daily activities for many of these children triggers fear. These are children who are in the foster care system, many of which have been abused and neglected. Some just have to live with knowing that they were unwanted—an inconvenience. Some have never known love. Some have a perverted, tarnished idea of what love means. Some have been beaten and starved. Some were born addicts because of circumstances outside of their control. These children are placed in one home after another. Many get treated as if there is something wrong with them. How can this be, as they are just kids? Some of these kids have had the opportunity to attend a Royal Family KIDS camp—a place full of purple hearts.
These camps are located all across the country with a community of people who come together to create a brand new world for these tiny warriors during one week of summer camp. It is amazing! The camps are a safe place for these special warriors. A place by which they can drop their armor and defenses, and just be kids. They get to run and play and laugh and sing, and experience ‘life’ how God intended it to be. It is a world where they get to experience the love and support of Christ. Camp is a place where they are valued and adored and learn that they are not alone. It’s amazing what a difference a week makes! These children have the luxury of sleeping straight through the night, focus on a single activity, eat an entire meal—and ask for more, which isn’t something they are always able to do.
I am not a foster child. I didn’t grow up in a situation by which I had to move from one home to another. I was well taken care of and loved. Adult life had its battles, but there’s no comparison in some cases as to what these children endure. I didn’t know how I was going to relate? But then I met Andy, she was a beautiful and courageous little girl. To this day, I don’t know her entire story but I know enough. For one week Andy was mine, and God had entrusted me to renew her hope and show her love … or so I thought. I met this tiny little thing getting off the bus for camp, wide eyed and a little confused. She was a spitfire full of energy! Andy and I did a lot together that week of camp. She was so excited and wanted to engage in all of the camp activities and fun, expressing a non-interest in sleeping! Then there was Wednesday, the third day of camp. The sun was setting and Andy opened up about what she would see and feel when nighttime came. My heart ached as the eight year-old held my hand and talked. That night I watched that precious girl sing songs of worship, smile, and truly light up. I lost it. Tears poured down my face as I realized that there was hope. Heading to bed that night, I assured Andy that her nighttime fears would not find her here at camp and that she was safe. Andy slept sound and even snored that night.
This was the first of many stories that I have from my experiences at Royal Family KIDS camp. This little girl was the first of many girls and boys who have shown me the true meaning of love, affection, and trust—the kind God intended for each of us. I have seen the resiliency of a child, how a tender heart filled with Christ is the most powerful force I’ve ever seen. These kids have become my heroes. They have given me a whole new perspective on life, love, Christ … and purple hearts. We are one Royal Family.
Esther Becker, RFK volunteer counselor in Temecula, CA