Monday, July 28, 2008

the boy who stole my heart

I've been home from Florida for just over a day now, and I'm sure tales of the trip will come out in bits and pieces. The very first thing I have to talk about is Dylan.

Our main purpose for this trip was to help at a VBS alternative at The Bridge Church in Bradenton, Florida. The VBS (Miss Shelly, the camp director, would kill me if she knew I was calling it that!) was split into four camps--cooking, drama, soccer, and football. We were in charge of the sports camps. I was apprehensive, to say the least, about helping kids learn about sports. Sports instruction from a girl whose only experience was in junior high--and even then she only participated because she had to--how good could that be?

On the first night of camp, I found out that another lady and I would begin as floaters in the sports camps, going wherever they needed extra help. A few minutes later, everything changed. As the kids arrived, we played games with them or supervised them on the playground. I was watching kids on the playground when Kate pulled me aside. "We have a special needs boy that needs someone to play with him until camp starts."

That's when I met Dylan. He's 7, just finished Kindergarten, and has Down Syndrome or something similar. We played outside for a few minutes, then it was time for camp to start. I walked him into the sanctuary, looking for someone who I assumed would "take over" for me. Miss Shelly was helping kids find their places, and I asked her what to do with Dylan. "He's in cooking," she said. "Sit with him over there." Oh, so maybe no one else is going to help him. Throughout the opening, I wondered what would happen when the camps split up. I asked one of the cooking leaders if someone would be helping Dylan cook. "We don't have very many leaders, but we can manage. You can go to sports camp." But I knew I couldn't do that. So I followed Dylan to cooking camp and helped him mix up his Artesian bread. I also cleaned dough out of the water fountain (he used it as a sink to wash his hands), helped him put on and take off his apron repeatedly, and drug him back to the table time after time (he's deceptively quick!). At the end of the evening, I was exhausted. Then I met his mom. She thanked me profusely for helping Dylan. "And you'll be with him all week, right?" Of course I said yes.

The next morning, I told the team about Dylan and asked them to pray for me. I also emailed the people from my church who had signed up to receive email updates and asked them to pray, too. I knew that without God's intervention, I'd never make it through the week--what did I know about special needs kids? On Tuesday, I learned that Dylan would listen to me if I prefaced what I was saying with a firm "Look at me." On Wednesday, I learned that pulling Dylan onto my lap and wrapping my arms around him would calm him down. On Thursday, I learned that whispering into his ear would distract him from whatever he wasn't supposed to be doing. And on Friday, I learned how to dance like the penguin in Happy Feet. (Steph would be happy to tell you about that last one. I've never seen her laugh so hard. I'm sure I looked like a doofus . . . but I didn't care!)

Each day, I'd wait outside for Dylan. Each day, he'd run to me with arms outstretched. Each day, he'd tell me he missed me! On Friday, he and his mom brought me flowers. His mom hugged me and thanked me for making it possible for Dylan to be at camp. But you know what? Dylan blessed me at least as much as, if not more than, I blessed him and his mom. It was hard to say goodbye, especially knowing that I may never see Dylan again in this life. I'm not sure how much he understands, but I do know he loves Jesus, so I have hope that I'll see him in eternity.

On Monday night, I was reading my Bible by the pool (yeah, we had it rough . . . a pool in our backyard!). In my regular Bible reading, I'm in 2 Corinthians--and so many times on the trip, what I read completely matched up with what I was going through. It was very cool. Anyway, Monday night, I read 2 Corinthians 5. Paul talks about our new heavenly bodies, and verse 3 stuck out: "We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing." I couldn't help but think of Dylan. He will go through his life in a body that is far from perfect, but oh, what God has waiting for him in heaven!


  1. Becky, this is so precious! It brought tears to my eyes! What a wonderful experience for BOTH of you!

  2. Oh, Becky, he is absolutely adorable. I know just what you mean and how you feel. It is always the child who demands the most of your time and creative energy who you find yourself loving the most. No wonder God loves us so much...we need alot of help!

  3. If you keep making me cry, I'll have to stop reading these! I loved this post, and the impact you had on Dylan!


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