This is a story that has inspired the work of Love Must Act. It is a story about a young girl from Grahamstown, South Africa and a group of volunteers from Lexington, Kentucky. They all met when the Kentucky volunteers came to introduce Reading Camp in South Africa. Reading Camp is a ministry of the Episcopal Church in Lexington, where I served as bishop from 2001 to 2011, that helps children who are seriously behind grade level in reading ability. It takes second and third graders who are at least a year behind grade level and helps them make significant remedial progress over the course of a very fun week at camp, which is an experience the children we work with would never have had.
The Holy Cross monks at uMariya uMama weThemba Monastery in Grahamstown had invited us to bring Reading Camp to help local children the monks were working with in their after-school program. We gladly accepted.
The South African camp was a great success. Every morning the children read and learned. In the afternoon they played games, did art, and took field trips. It was the first time any of them had seen the ocean or the animals for which Africa is so famous.
Every night we would talk together about where we had seen God during the day. There were many good answers. In the giraffe. In the songs. In the games.
One evening, one of our young adult volunteers reported that he had seen God that day when he was awakened at 4:30 that morning by the strange sensation that someone was watching him. When he turned on the light, he found his four little campers dressed for the day and sitting quietly on a bed waiting for him to wake up. “What are you guys doing?” he asked. “It’s 4:30 in the morning.” Their response? “When is it time to read?”
On the last night of camp, all of the campers came in to the main room just before bedtime to say good-bye to us. They were already dressed for bed, and they brought sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows. Very cute! There was a fire in the fireplace. They sang a song. A teacher asked if they had anything they would like to say. Once again, there were many wonderful responses.
One little girl named Charmaine stood up. With a beaming face, she said in a beautiful, rich South African accent, “We will remember about God.” Writing about it doesn’t do it justice. It was hearing it that changed our lives forever.
The point, of course, is not only that Charmaine will remember about God, but that we will because we had seen God in Charmaine’s precious face and heard God in Charmaine’s beautiful voice. We will remember about God because Charmaine touched our hearts. It is exactly what Love Must Act exists to do.