“And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” ~ Isaiah 58:10 NIV
With this theme verse and mission, the team that traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas spent themselves completely as they served the children, youth, young adults, and staff at the Hillcrest Children’s Home. Through long days packed with activity, they focused primarily on being present in the lives of approximately forty children who had previously experienced abuse or neglect.
In the mornings, the team pitched in to paint a staff member’s apartment on campus, painted the dining hall, and cleared brush off of the property as part of the preparation for this fall’s 70th Anniversary celebration event. One morning, several of the boys on the team were excused from work to play basketball with the teen boys on campus and continue to build relationships. Their afternoons were spent interacting with the children, often at a nearby water amusement park. Some watched the children care for or ride Belle and Amber. Their evenings were full of more activities and opportunities to build connections including when they treated the entire campus to the annual 4th of July Arkansas Traveler’s ball game and fireworks.
One night, they went bowling. One young man had never been bowling before and seemed very nervous. A team member gave him pointers like looking at the arrows instead of the pins, then stepped back to watch as the boy knocked down eight on his first try. After a thumb’s up from his cottage dad, his face lit up to know that he had done well. The team later learned the boy had never had a male in his life before coming to Hillcrest.
One new highlight from this trip was organizing the first “Hillcrest’s Got Talent” show. There were 14 different acts including a lot of singing. One girl wrote the lyrics to a song and read it as a poem. A cottage of younger kids played patriotic songs using bells. And one teenager who had been part of a high school marching band’s color guard prior to coming to Hillcrest, presented a swirling flag routine … then attempted to teach the difficult moves to a member of the team amid much laughter. Overall, the event gave the children the opportunity to shine in front of their peers and the success impacted their lives even more than the team had anticipated. The evening’s fun was capped off with the annual all-campus ice cream social.
Despite the long hours and numerous mosquito, spider, and chigger bites, the team was blessed to be able to identify times where they had spent themselves serving the kids or other team members as well as spot God’s redemptive work in the lives of the children who call Hillcrest home.