This was written by my husband, Tim, for our resent newsletter. This summer we had several "Vinnie Moments" that help us to understand God's heart for the "fatherless" children all around us.
Vinnie is a near and dear to my heart. Vinnie first started coming to camp during Marci and I’s first summer at CBX. Those first few summers, Vinnie was a major behavioral problem. I have been kicked, punched, spit on, screamed at, had rocks thrown at me, cussed out, and just about every other thing you can imagine all by Vinnie.
Despite that, Vinnie is one of my favorite campers. I think it is because underneath the rough facade, I see a hurting little boy and in a lot of ways, this reminds me of when I was younger. When Vinnie came to camp this summer, he asked if he could go for a ride in my dune buggy. I told Vinnie that if his behavior for the week followed some specific guidelines, on Friday afternoon during rec time, I would take him for a drive and buy him an ice cream. Vinnie’s eyes lit up and wholeheartedly agreed. Knowing Vinnie, I realized the chances of his success in this challenge would be a long shot, but it was worth a try.
All week, Vinnie was on his best behavior. I challenged him to be a leader in the cabin, to be respectful to other campers and to learn something new from the lessons each day. Vinnie easily achieved these goals and went above and beyond my expectations.
When Friday came, Vinnie was ready to go. In addition to our ride being on line, he was also the camper of the day which entitled him to going first at meals and having a one on one time with his counselor. At 8 am, I was in my office when I heard the screaming, cracking voice of a 12 year old boy downstairs. I went to the rail and asked what he wanted. Vinnie was there and asked if I was ready to go on the ride. I replied that our ride would be in the afternoon and that he still had 6 hours to go. He said ok and moved on to his next activity.
Throughout the morning, Vinnie proceeded to ask me this question 6 times, each time with me replying “Not yet Vinnie, you have X hours to go.” However when 3 o’clock rolled around, I grabbed Vinnie, we hopped in the buggy and sped away to town. I decided to go the back dirt roads so that we could have some fun in the dirt. The entire time, Vinnie was ecstatic! He laughed, screamed and at one point, looked a little scared.
After grabbing a soda and an ice cream, Vinny and I headed back to camp. About half way back, Vinnie yelled at the top of his lungs to me “Thank you Tim so much! This is the greatest day of my life!”
I shrugged his comment off with a “No problem buddy,” and continued to drive to camp. Noticing my nonchalance in his comment, he grabbed my head, turned it toward him and said with tears in his eyes, “No Tim, this is the greatest day of my life, thank you!” I was floored... What do I do with that? A silly ride in a dune buggy, a 2 dollar ice cream, 2 hours of my day, for the greatest day of this kids life?
I am honestly still processing through the complexity of this moment, statement and interaction, but thinking through this it has dawned on me that Vinnie has really never been shown any love. His dad is gone, his older brother is a bad influence, his mom is busy. Vinnie is alone in a big city, that has very little love for him. Vinnie is hungry for any attention he can muster. Good or bad, anyone that notices him is better than going unnoticed. Marci shared with my sometime ago that she believes we are living out God’s mandate in James 1:29 to take care of orphans and widows, at CBX. In my moments with Vinnie over the years, I have never had a truer sense of this calling. It is in campers like Vinnie, that I find my purpose and it is for young men like Vinnie, that CBX exists.
I think God gives us moments like this and like mine with the "Brown-eyed Girl" to help us see His heart and to help us experience how His love can empower us to love others when we don't think we have that kind of love to give.
And, I am also just so proud of Vinnie for being able to accomplish something we all thought was too BIG for him... Knowing full well, God gave him the strength to have good behavior and to take it a whole step farther and be a leader among his peers at camp! That is HUGE!