I felt almost giddy as I packed. The following morning, I was leaving for a weekend camping retreat with the elementary-aged children from my church, where I’d be chaperoning six little girls. That may not be everyone’s idea of a fun weekend, but I’m a former teacher who left the profession to be a stay-at-home mom, so I miss hanging out with little kids.
Plus, the retreat’s theme was courage and our children’s pastor, Sue, would be speaking on many of my favourite Bible stories: David beating Goliath. Noah building the Ark. And Esther, who became queen to save the Jewish people. After, each chaperone would do an activity that illustrated the lesson.
As I was packing, I saw an email from Sue telling me that another little girl had signed up for the retreat. The more the merrier, I thought—until I read the message from the little girl’s mom.
“We adopted Sarah two years ago,” it said. “She was in a terrible situation before coming to us, and she still bears many scars from her past.” The email gave a long list of Sarah’s fears. “This is her first time being away from home, and she may have a lot of anxiety,” her mom warned.
My heart broke for little Sarah.
“God, I’m going on a camping trip in the woods with a little girl who is afraid of bugs and the dark,” I prayed. “Please help both of us.”
As I pulled into the church the next morning, I saw a woman with a little girl who had tears streaming down her face. Clearly, Sarah didn’t want to go on the trip. “Definitely going to need Your help, God,” I murmured.
Thirty minutes later, I was sitting next to Sarah in the church van, ready to go. She had stopped crying, but whenever I tried talking to Sarah during the two-hour drive, she didn’t respond.
That afternoon, Sue told the story about David and Goliath. The activity that followed was a fun one and I was excited to gather my seven girls together to talk about courage.
But the moment we sat down, Sarah spotted a spider and took off running.
“God, I’m going on a camping trip in the woods with a little girl who is afraid of bugs and the dark,” I prayed. “Please help both of us.” Diane Stark
“Watch the girls,” I called to one of the other chaperones as I took off after Sarah. When I caught up to her, she collapsed in my arms, sobbing about the spider. I hugged her tightly and murmured comforting words.
When she calmed down enough to return, small-group time was over.
The same thing happened that night when Sue talked about Noah. Sarah got scared, ran off and, by the time we got back, the lesson was over. It was clear that Sarah needed one-on-one attention and I couldn’t chaperone the other girls while caring for her.
Sue split my small group among the other chaperones, and Sarah became my sole responsibility. Although it was clearly the best choice, I was disappointed. This weekend just wasn’t at all what I’d hoped it would be.
The Right Path
The next day, when Sue shared thes tory of Esther, I was sitting in the grass outside the shelter, Sarah in my lap.
“Esther’s people were in danger and God made her queen for such a time as this,” Sue told the kids. “God put her in that position so she could save her people.”
For such a time as this. I’d always loved the phrase. It reminds me that God puts us in certain situations at specific times for His purposes, even when it’s not clear what that purpose is. I hugged Sarah and prayed that God had a purpose in us missing every lesson on the retreat.
That night, Maggie, one of the teen chaperones, asked to talk with me.
“I’m graduating soon, and I’ve been torn between several career paths,” she said. “But after watching you and Sarah all weekend, I know now.” She smiled. “I’m going to become a social worker so I can help kids like Sarah.
“I was supposed to work this weekend, but God wanted me here,” she continued. “Just like Esther, God has a specific purpose for me. He needed me here this weekend so He could show me what path He wants me to follow.”
“Maggie, I’m so glad you came this weekend,” I said, “and I’m proud of your decision.”
She smiled. “I was here for such a time as this.”
I hugged her and realized that we both were.
Diane Stark is a wife, mother of five and freelance writer from rural Indiana. She loves to write about the important things in life: her family and her faith.
Illustration: Rivonny Luchas
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