When I see other 11-year-olds in the newspapers and news, I can see how tough it is for children. Some children are refugees or living in a war zone. Others are slaves working at mines or plantations. Others are beaten up or abused by their parents. There are millions of children that have a bad life! I tried to keep all these children in my prayers. I could not imagine the pain they were in or the agony. I could not imagine that they had no hope and they could not experience happiness or think that their troubles would end.
I was 11 years old and my name was Josephine. I lived with my mother and my sister. My parents got a divorce so my dad lived by himself in another part of town. My mother worked as a nurse which meant we were not rich, but we survived. I had a good mother and father and was treated like a princess. They did not spoil me with material things, but I did not need anything. Unlike the children I saw on the news, I had a lot of hugs and my parents would listen to me. Despite they were divorced, my dad still insisted that I was his princess and I visited him every weekend.
Eva was my older sister that was 14. She was very different from I was. She was always so worried about how she looked and who she was together with. The most important thing for her was to be popular. She had to like the right music and the right clothes. Usually, she wore clothes that showed a lot of skin. She wore makeup and this meant that she would spend hours in front of a mirror. I tried being a close sister to Eva, but all she talked about was boys and how to be popular. Despite her faults, I loved her dearly.
I had one very good friend. Her name was Aisha. She was a Muslim but that did not bother me a lot. She never harmed a fly and could have been a saint if she was Catholic. Aisha was a fun girl to be with and we did nearly everything together. I think in a perfect world, we would have been sisters! It was soon summer holidays, and Aisha and I had lots of plans. Her mom even promised that she would teach us how to cook. I was one of those that liked school, but now I was excited about summer. I thought that maybe I should write a diary on everything Aisha and I got up to.
The only time we were not together was when I went to Church. I was a catholic and of course, we went to a Catholic Church. This was not Aisha’s faith so I understood that she could not come. I must admit that Church was not one of the highlights of my week. The priest mumbled the same prayers every week and held a long boring sermon of how sinful we were. My sister never paid attention, as she would be tapping on her smartphone and I could see that dad was in a different world. I believed in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but I thought that they would rather have a person that talked with them rather than reciting some prayers that someone else made hundreds of years ago.
Aisha and I knew that we had different religions. We talked about what we believed in and decided that Allah is God and God is Allah. We had the image of God as an old grandfather who always smiled and wanted to hear what we were doing. We knew that God would protect us and love us. He did not want us to end in hell. God was full of love and compassion!
The first day of the summer holidays was not a good start. Mom announced that we would be going on a Catholic Summer camp. My sister lost her temper and shouted that she did not want to be spending the summer Bible Bashing. She wanted to spend her time with her friends and have some fun. Mom sighed and told her she could complain all she wanted, the camp would happen. I did not get a chance to say anything. I knew that it would ruin my plans with Aisha, but could see by Eva’s example that a temper tantrum would not help. I decided that I would stay at the camp for a few days and then ring crying home to mum that I was not happy and wanted to come home.
Aisha was relieved when I told her that I had to go to summer camp, as her family was going to visit her grandmother. We promised each other that we would think of each other all the time and would make up for the lost time when we were once again home.
My sister was mad and she took this out on me. She barged into my room and told me that I should grow up. I should pay more attention to my hair and should stop using pigtails. I should wear more sexy clothes and even when I went swimming, I should wear a bikini and not a one piece. She told me that I should start and learn how to use make-up. I did not get a chance to even answer or ask questions. Eva wanted me to be like her. She wanted to be a boy crazy teen that was only worried about how I looked like.
Eva told me that she was ashamed that I was her sister. She thought that she told me taught me better. Ever since Eva became a teen, she had been teaching me what she was taught. There was a way I should dress and that meant mostly tank tops and short skirts. It meant liking the right music and movies as well as the right celebrities. Eva wanted me to be popular, but not just because it would mean I would have an easier time at school, it also meant that I would not embarrass her. Now that we were going on camp, Eva did not want me to humiliate her.
Mom told us the camp would do us good. She knew it was a religious camp and we never were a religious family, but the camp was cheap and it was certain that we would get friends. She smiled as she told us that she knew we would have fun. Eva was still not happy and asked mom where she would be? She went as far as to accuse mom that she would be sunbathing on some nice beach while we were Bible bashing.
The time came when it was time that we went camping. It took us ages to get there. It was like that the camp was in the middle of nowhere. It was hard to believe that the area was even discovered by man. Mom joked that we would not be able to escape. I would have said something but my mind was somewhere else. As I looked at the countryside passing by, I wondered how the camp would be. Would there be fun activities? Would I make friends?
We finally arrived at the camp. There was a huge wooden cross in the front. Otherwise, there was like a military barracks, where there was a big hall and dorms where we would sleep. This old woman showed us around the place. Children were walking back and forth and I felt a bit shy. My sister was acting like she didn’t care and it was obvious that she did not want to be there. I was not paying that much attention to my sister as I was trying to get used to the place and were noticing the children that I saw.
The camp building itself was no luxury hotel. It must have been built hundreds of years ago. The walls were white except where the paint was peeling off. The beds were old fashioned iron ones and the furniture looked like it belonged in a museum. I figured that this was the reason the camp was so cheap. It was like an old shack. The only colourful thing was the countless posters hanging on the wall of Jesus. It made me think that I did not know him. I was not very religious. Some of the pictures were even scary, like Jesus hanging on the cross. That must have hurt.
The children were all smiling and talking with each other. I do not think my sister would be impressed by them. They did not wear clothes that a teen would wear. They did not wear short skirts or belly tops. Most girls and even some boys had a necklace with a cross on it. I started to wonder if I should have worn a belly top and skirt. Then again, I did not think I was badly dressed. I liked the clothes that I wore. I do not think that they made me a bad person. They were the fashion.
Mom finally said bye and a part of me wanted to go home with her. It is embarrassing when I said goodbye, that I started crying. I suppose who would blame me. I was being abandoned at a camp somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The only person I knew here was my sister. I doubted that she wanted to hang around with me. She would be busy flirting with the boys or trying to be popular with the older girls.
I walked back to my dorm and started unpacking. Mom packed a lot of clothes. I could have lived here for the rest of my life. I took my time unpacking. I knew that my next responsibility would be to see if anyone would be friends.
I didn’t have to wait long as this girl came up to me.
“Hey, my name is Jenny,” she said, “I am 11... I see you are new here. Most of us have been coming to camp every single year. You will like it here. We are blessed by Jesus that we have a chance to come again. We can learn about Jesus and praise him. I hope we can be best friends forever.”
Wow, she sure talked a lot. I could not get a word in edgeways. At the same time, I was relieved. I met my first friend. I told Jenny that this was my first time here. She smiled and hugged me. Then she asked if I wanted to change into something more comfortable. I told her these were my favourite clothes and I didn’t have to change. I do not think Jenny approved as she said that Jesus loves me anyhow.
I told her that my sister was also at camp. So we went looking for my sister. That was a mistake, as when we found my sister, she got mad and told us to leave her alone. She did not want to be bothered by small girls. I felt as if I wanted to cry. My sister was family and sisters should not be so mean in front of new friends. I do not know why I wanted to cry. Eva could be very mean and demanding at home. I was invisible to her. Why would a camp like this change her?
It was time for the camp leader to welcome us. She was a small plump woman and had a huge cross hanging around her neck. She started by saying over and over to praise Jesus. Every time she said that the children shouted it back. In the end, it was loud shouting of praise, where everyone started to wave their hands above their head. It was such a strange experience.
“Welcome to Camp Jesus,” she said, “Welcome to the loyal Catholics that have been coming every year. Welcome to the new Children. We have a lot planned for this year. We will teach you about the power of our Lord, as well as what he expects of us. We will teach you how to worship God and how to live the life that he wants us to live. You will not only be followers of Jesus, but you will also be his soldiers against Satan and you will learn how to fight Satan and his evil plans for this world!”
Then she looked at me and said, “Jesus loves you all but he is a demanding God. Look at the way you are dressed and ask yourself will the way you are dressed please Jesus? Jesus does not want us to show skin by showing bellies and most of our legs. Our body is sacred and needs to be respected. Do not fall into Satans trap!”
Everyone was looking at me. I should have changed!
Please leave a comment and like the story. it means a lot to authors
You can see my profile for other stories that I have done