Mothers and children in the Buckner Family Pathways programs across the state were able to spend spring break at Camp Buckner. Lisa Olgin is in the Family Pathways program in Dallas. Though reluctant at first to go, Lisa describes how the experience restored her soul and gave her precious moments to connect with her daughter.
The sun creeps over the horizon, and it is daybreak. Excitement bubbles out of the mouth of my 4-year-old daughter Ilyanna as she crawls on top of me asking “Are we going to camp today mom?” With a sigh, I crawl out of bed and wander into the kitchen for some coffee and some energy. I must admit at this moment, I am wondering if I made the right decision. “Will camp be boring? I really don’t know if there is anything a 4-year-old can do.”
Packed and headed to the bus, the mothers from Family Pathways all stand out as a community of sisters with our children. Looking around, it seems more like family. An engine purrs behind us and to our great surprise, there is a charter bus pulling into the driveway. I feel as if we are celebrities.
Once we turn off the highway of bustling travelers, we hit the hill country and the bending and winding of the roads. The traffic disappears, and we own the road. The plains open up to something like a ranch, and we reach our destination. Every mom and child in the bus squeals with delight. Exiting the bus, we are greeted warmly by the team of Camp Buckner.
A staff member helps us with our luggage to our cabin, which is grand enough for a large family. Looking in the mirror, I catch a glimpse of my face and it was one of surprise – the face of a child who sees hot air balloons in different colors floating in the room.
When we step out on the porch to go to dinner, the scene grabs hold of me. I am captivated by the view and need to sit down on one of the rockers on the porch. The sun is on the horizon with a slow descent. I close my eyes and breathe in the air. The colors mask the sky with amber, amethyst and crimson orange. Living in the city, sunsets are made of the highway horizon and city skylines, but here at Camp Buckner, the horizon is of nature. The sun waves goodbye with a wink, and I stand to my feet in honor.
At dinner we are greeted by volunteers who serve us with humility. We encounter the love of Jesus here where there is no color boundary or race factor. There is no financial title here. We are all the same. Every meal is like this, with the humility of a servant heart overflowing in the room.
The next day, we participate in devotions and we create prayer boxes. We make faith rocks and give positive affirmations away to others. We worship together and receive tips for parenting from guest speakers. Our little ones have an amazing time at an animal show. Their eyes light up with innocence and glee. We ride a train and take a hay ride. We attempt to catch fish with sausage for bait – we learned fish do not really care for turkey sausage. We sit back on the porches and hold our children in our laps.
With no hustle and bustle of the city we have the opportunity to catch up on snuggles. We cheer the other brave ones that tackle the zip line and tree swing, and we safely guide our little ones to the rock climbing wall. Ilyanna takes her challenge seriously and makes it about three feet from the very top. She is the push in my drive and I am her biggest fan.
The best things of Camp Buckner were the smiles and the memories. There is no pressure here to be better or compete against your peers. What started as scary ended up being the best thing I could ask for. I was moved by the unconditional love shown to us through strangers.
There were many firsts here for Ilyanna and me. We rode the paddle boats and we watched our first sunset together. We also had our first week alone since the birth of her little sister nine months ago, who needed more attention and care her first five months. We were blessed by Camp Buckner with some much needed alone time away from the fast world we live in and the demands of being a parent to siblings.
Today, when you ask Ilyanna and I about camp, we have stories upon stories. We will have those cherished memories forever.