By Kelly Luttinen
“It was the turning point in his life”
In the midst of a long winter, many are likely anticipating the coming of spring and even summer, so it’s a good time to present the powerful benefits of attending a Conquest summer camp.
Following is a story written by parishioners and adoptive parents in a town in Texas about the effect of such a camp on three young brothers. Camp Texas is run by Texas Conquest, including priests and brothers from the Legion of Christ. (The names of the family and these adopted children have been changed because of the sensitive nature of the situation in which the boys lived prior to their adoption.)
They shared one bowl and ate with their hands. The malnourished boys were left unattended many times and even locked in the camper shell of the family’s pickup truck. They lived in a trailer with their grandparents, parents and a few other family members. Ronnie remembers how he and his brothers slept on the fold-down kitchen table, while the adults sat around them smoking, drinking, fighting and receiving visits from local police. Because he was the oldest, Ronnie was burdened with the responsibility of taking care of his younger brothers. Their staple food was Ramen noodles, which Ronnie prepared in the microwave for the three of them.
When the boys’ birth parents were finally arrested, he and his brothers were removed from the situation, taken to Child Protective Services and placed in foster care.
When Ronnie started kindergarten, he did not know his ABC´s, colors, or how to count. After 6 weeks, he was on the verge of being kicked out for discipline problems. The foster home in which they were placed claimed they were “too much for them” to handle.
After a family meeting with the boy´s relatives, CPS had no choice but to separate the boys and place them in individual foster homes. At this point, my sister found out about the boys and called us to pray that a home would be found for all three. Since our two older children were now living on their own, and we had two empty bedrooms, my husband and I said we would take them in until future arrangements could be made.
On November 13, 2005, CPS dropped the boys off at our home. After almost a year, their parents were unable to meet CPS requirements and the boys were eligible for adoption. Needless to say, we were honored and blessed to be able to adopt them (thanks to a little Divine intervention.) They have been a blessing in our lives, but not without many struggles and life lessons.
Having been the caretaker and protector of his younger siblings, Ronnie faced the challenge of learning how to be a child. He also faced many hurdles with learning, until we discovered he was unable to hear well and needed hearing aids.
He was also dealing with memories of his past, the challenges that go along with preteen years, and he was facing many struggles with his spiritual life. He had many anger and control issues. He had to find out who he was and where he fit into this world.
Then Camp Texas came to our area! It was the turning point in his life.
It didn´t happen on the first, second or even third retreat. But the Legionaries, brothers and college counselors had their influence. Each time he came home from a Conquest retreat, a little something had changed about him. Sometimes that caused greater struggles because of the good and not-so-good choices he had been making in his life. Then, during one of the Conquest camps based on the theme from the movie Man of Steel, his spirit and his life changed forever. From the time we dropped him off to the time we picked him up again, a total transformation of this child took place.
The Holy Spirit, using the priests, counselors and dads at the camp, and all the other Camp Texas Conquest retreats leading up to this point, changed Ronnie’s life. We can truly, without a doubt, testify that if it had not been for Camp Texas, Ronnie would not be the person he is today. Parents can do what they can at home. We pray together, worship together and work hard to be a family together. But only God can change the Soul. Without Camp Texas, Ronnie would not have been so exposed to the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit in the way necessary to change his life and mold his soul as it needed to be.
And Ronnie was not the only one helped by Camp Texas. His brother, Mark, experienced all of what Ronnie experienced, but Mark was also physically abused. He was the one on whom his birth father used to take out his anger. Mark has a small scar on his upper lip where his father once punched him in the face. He also carries emotional scars, and is a very quiet and sensitive.
Camp Texas has helped him to deal with the struggles of everyday life, and know that God is with him and will never abandon him during his times of distress or fear. Mark also learned that other people have challenges to overcome, just like he has, and that through prayer and Eucharistic adoration, he can gain strength to overcome his burdens.
Mark has expressed the desire to become a priest, and we believe the Holy Spirit is working in his life to help him discern this question.
It’s not surprising that the third brother, Aaron, who has not yet had the opportunity to attend Camp Texas, absolutely cannot wait until it´s his turn to go!
Without a doubt, we can see the handiwork of God in the lives of these boys, and Camp Texas has been a major part of their spiritual growth and healing. We thank God for this blessing and what it has done for our family. We will continue to support Camp Texas and Conquest, and all involved, through any means we can. If Camp Texas can change the life of another child as it has for our boys that would be wonderful, because the awesome power of the Holy Spirit can change souls!