As the Olympic fanfare song filled the chapel, five youth formed a circle and stacked their hands on top of the others. In unison, their voices called out, "God, let us work together as your team. GO TEAM!"
The Olympics in Rio may not start until August 5th, but Cunningham's Vacation Bible School celebrated the spirit of the Games a little early. Over three days in July, kids from our residential programs took part in Bible Olympics 2016 under the direction of their "coach", Chaplain Gay.
Team Cunningham wasn't training for competition in the parallel bars or 200-meter breaststroke. Their training focused on working as a team and doing their personal best. They got in shape by practicing patience, kindness and generosity, especially through two service projects.
Marcus was really enthusiastic about working on the Sole Hope team, helping to make shoes for children in Africa to prevent them from getting parasitic foot infections. Using old jeans, he and his fellow campers traced the upper part of the shoes on sturdy denim. After the pieces are cut out, they will be sent in batches to Uganda where workers will then attach soles of repurposed rubber. "I'd wear those shoes," Marcus said proudly. "They're pretty cool."
Another project aimed closer to home. The kids bagged beans for distribution to Mexican migrant workers living in Rantoul. They were surprised by how many steps were involved in ensuring the food was handled safely, but they were able to package enough for dozens of meals. Rebecca claimed it was one of her best days at Cunningham. "I've never had so much fun!" she said. "We're helping people from all over the world. I really like doing something that'll make other people feel better."
So many of our kids have spent their childhoods focused inward in order to survive abuse and neglect that it's statements like Rebecca's that speak volumes about the benefits of Cunningham's therapeutic environment. Spiritual programming is an essential component to the healing and emotional growth of our youth.
The youth learned there are no losers when they are a part of God's team. Everyone was a gold medalist at Bible Olympics 2016!
Hope begins here. Hope begins with you.