By Clare Pursch, former UGM Camp Photographer/Blogger
Two stories, two people, different ages, different lives.
Same story, same pain, same struggles, brought together by the love of Jesus Christ.
Tonight I sat in the back of the chapel at UGM Camp and watched as the kids one by one slowly got up from their seats to walk to the altar. They cried out to Jesus, they wept in one another’s arms, they held their hands up in worship, they knelt in prayer. As I watched this beautiful scene unfold, I prayed a silent prayer to God— “Jesus, please just let them know how deeply loved they are by You. That is my heart’s desire.”
Immediately after breathing this prayer to God, one of the little girls from the cabin that I had been facilitating that week walked up to me and sweetly asked, “Can I talk to you?”
Hayley and I decided to go outside where it was quiet. She began to tell me her heart, her struggles, her fears. She explained to me that her dad is barely able to make any money, that her mom is unable to work, and that she daily takes it upon herself to care for the rest of her siblings and to keep her parents happy.
Hayley looked me in the eye, tears streaming down her face, and told me that every day of her life she is filled with fear about the future, anger because of her circumstances, and admitted to me that she desperately needs help. When I asked her how she needs help, she simply replied, “I just need someone to talk to. I need a friend. I’m so alone, I’m so scared, I’m so angry. I just need someone to count on.”
As Hayley told me her story, I began to see more and more of myself in her. This little girl in front of me, so broken, so scared, so exhausted from carrying these burdens that were not meant for her, was a picture perfect mirror of who I used to be before I found Jesus. She mirrored the pain I used to feel, the loneliness that nearly drowned me, the anxiety that came with caring for my family. My heart resonated with hers in so many ways. I wondered for a moment if this is how Jesus feels when we cry out to Him… Does His heart break with ours the way my heart is breaking with hers?
I took Hayley’s hand, looked her in the eye and said, “I understand. I feel that same way all the time, and I definitely felt that way when I was growing up.” At that, her eyes lit up and in awe she said, “Really?!” It’s as if she had never been told that her feelings were valid and that it was okay to feel them.
I went on to tell her my story, I told her all the ways that I could relate to her. I told her that her pain is valid, that her hurts matter, and that Jesus wants so badly to be her friend. I told her that He sees her in those desperately lonely moments, that He holds her in those moments of fear, that He hears her in those moments of unfathomable pain…I told her all the things I wish I had known back then. I watched as her shoulders slightly lifted, and her tears began to slow down.
She breathed deeply and wiped her face.
I explained to her that Jesus made Himself fully man so that He could come to earth and feel every form of human pain that we feel on a daily basis so that He could understand it, and that He keeps our tears in a bottle. I told her that He is crying with her when she cries… and she said “I had no idea.”
You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.-- Psalm 56:8
Hayley didn't make a decision for Christ tonight, but Hayley spoke about what hurt and that is often the first step to knowing Jesus. Hayley learned that her Savior cries with her and that her pain is valid. Hayley felt loved and understood tonight and I believe that she will carry that with her for the rest of her life.
UGM Camp is a place where at-risk youth experience God's love and acceptance. To sponsor a child at UGM Camp, click below.