I reluctantly entered the dining room and took a blue, plastic tray from the stack of hundreds and joined the line. A kid behind me shoved me aside and forced herself in front of me.
After that, two more did the same. I felt scared and alone. I’d always been a bit tough and normally would not have allowed anyone to treat me this way. However, I was out of my element. I didn’t look like anyone else and everyone stared at me.
I had been hungry before, but, due to my nerves, I was beginning to lose my appetite. In frustration, my body language changed and I straightened up standing taller. Now, no one will cut in front of me, I thought.
I managed to make it to the buffet table. I held my tray out in front of my body so the lady with the white apron and plastic gloves could fill it with food.
My next dilemma. I had to find a seat. My eyes darted back and forth hoping they’d connect with someone else’s that would encourage me to sit with them. It didn’t happen.
Instead, I chose a table in the back of the room where no one else sat. Within seconds, others joined me. I tried to make conversation.
“Have you ever been here before?” I asked a large-framed girl who sat in front of me.
“Yeah, I come to camp every year. You gonna eat that?” she said, and snatched the only piece of fried chicken from my plate.
I didn’t know what to say. Normally, I would’ve smacked it out of her hand. Instead, I just sat there.
I put a French fry in my mouth and took a sip of juice. I felt a jab in my left arm and another girl said, “You don’t mind if I take that piece of corn do you?”
“Hey, you got your own corn,” I bravely said, and tried to grab it back, but it already made it into her big mouth.
I figured I’d better eat quickly before someone took it all. I grabbed my roll and shoved it into my mouth and took a bite from my watermelon. That was my dinner. A roll and a one inch sliver of watermelon.
DING. DING. DING.
The bell rang and everyone got up. I didn’t want to cry, but my stomach hurt from loneliness and hunger combined.
I followed the group to the chapel and sat down. The counselor introduced herself as Pam. She led us in hymns. I’d always loved to sing, but found it difficult to sing this time. After the songs were finished, she asked if anyone wanted to accept Jesus into their heart.
I knew Jesus. I had gone to church, but no one ever asked me before if I wanted to ask Him into my heart. Pam seemed nice. She gave me attention. She saw I was alone and didn’t fit in with the others. Afterwards she asked me if I’d like to talk with her alone.
I was glad. I followed her to her cabin. Then, again, she asked the question, “Would you like to ask Jesus into your Heart?”
“What does that mean?” I asked, not really understanding what she meant.
“If you really, truly want Him to live in your heart, He will always be with you and protect you and you will never be lonely again.”
Lonely. That’s the world that stuck in my head more than anything else. If I didn’t have to be lonely anymore, I would definitely ask Jesus to come into my heart.
Pam told me what to say to Jesus.
That night I lied in my very uncomfortable cot and closed my eyes tight. With all my heart I prayed, “Jesus please come into my heart, I don’t want to be lonely anymore.”
The next day Pam approached me and asked if I wanted to be in her group. She took me outside and led us in games and songs and verse memorization. If we memorized a verse by the end of the day, we would win a gazoo. She gave us each a piece of paper with a bible verse on it.
I won the gazoo. The first bible verse I ever memorized was, “Make a Joyful Noise unto the Lord.”
I will never stop making a joyful noise unto the Lord and I’ll never forget how Pam led me to the Lord, who filled my hungry heart.