Let’s face it, even when our marriages are strong and our finances are secure, parenting can still be a challenge. But what about when things aren’t so secure? What would happen if you moved your family to another country, a country where you didn’t know the language and where just about everything you did was shrouded in a cloud of uncertainty? How hard would it be to raise your children in an environment where every day was a venture into the Great Unknown, with no guarantee that everything would turn out okay? What if every day you had to do battle with the frustration and stress of constantly having to deal with a government bureaucracy that seemed to put up roadblocks at every turn? It’s hard to imagine the difficulty of such a thing.
But this nightmare is real for one Frontier family. Since coming to this country in 2000, they have struggled as “strangers in a strange land.”
Jorge and Carolina Moreno and their little boy, Sammy, came to the U.S. from Venezuela. They came with dreams of great opportunity and a wonderful future. And although Carolina and Jorge are convinced to this day that the decision to leave their homeland was the right one, it has been a long, tough quest. The ironic part is that the really difficult leg of the journey didn’t even occur until they’d already landed on our shores.
The Morenos have been struggling to navigate the rough waters of immigration since 2001. When they first came to the U.S. Jorge had a working visa. But in order to remain in this country, the working visa status has to be changed to resident status. And a green card must be issued. This process alone includes several tedious steps, each requiring governmental approval of its own. To make matters worse, in the wake of 9/11, the process only got more difficult. This is because of the huge backlog that the new regulations created.
This seemingly never-ending process has now taken the Morenos over 17 years, long years of financial struggle because they’ve been limited to Jorge’s salary alone. Neither Carolina nor Sammy has been able to work because they don’t have green cards. The Morenos have had to sell much of their furniture and even a home to help make ends meet. And there’s no end in sight.
It was in the midst of this uncertainty and frustration that Frontier Camp entered the lives of the Moreno family. Since 2008, Frontier has been a source of peace and stability in young Sammy’s life. It was in 2008 that a friend of a friend told Carolina about the experience Frontier had provided for her child. Carolina immediately thought it sounded like a great opportunity for Sammy and his best friend, Andrew.
Carolina went home and got online to find out more about Frontier Camp. Her visit to the website prompted a phone call to the camp. She was able to talk to the Frontier director, Matt Raines. After a long conversation, Matt had answered all of Carolina’s questions. She was convinced that her son would have the time of his life at Frontier and wanted to get Sammy registered as soon as possible.
But she was going to need some help. At the end of the month, there simply wasn’t money left in the budget for luxuries like camp fees. Carolina called and asked Matt about the availability of camper scholarships. Matt assured her that there were funds available to help send Sammy to camp. He put the application form in the mail to Carolina that day.
Even though every effort is made to keep camper fees as low as possible, the fact is many families still cannot afford camp. It’s only because of the kind and generous giving from donors that Frontier is able to offer the experience to so many families who would not otherwise be able to send their children.
Because of the scholarship provided, Sammy was able to attend camp that first summer. And Sammy has been a fixture at camp every year since.
The donations to the scholarship fund enabled Sammy to have the week of his life. Over the years, he’s built a solid community of friends, surrounded by a strong band of believers. Sammy never had to hear his mom or dad say, “We’re so sorry Sammy. We just can’t afford camp this year,” even in the midst of all their other financial craziness.
Every year, Sammy’s experiences at Frontier have been like strong arms that held him close. Frontier became the solid foundational rock in Sammy’s life, something he could hold on to. But camp wasn’t just a good thing for Sammy. No matter what kind of stress his parents were trying to shoulder, they found peace knowing that Frontier would be there every summer for their son.
Coming to camp has literally changed the course of Sammy’s life. One of his favorite things about camp is the Bible studies, which Sammy has always been faithful to keep up with…even throughout the off-season. Carolina recalls how Sammy was often the first to the mailbox to pull out the next series of Bible studies from Frontier and run into the house to get started. He wouldn’t emerge from his bedroom until the lesson was finished. Carolina is convinced that Sammy’s camp experiences have kept him levelheaded throughout the turbulent teenage years.
Sammy’s favorite camp activity is playing “Underground Church,” the night game where campers and counselors try to find the two underground churches meeting secretly in the woods. Of course the support staffers act as secret police, trying to arrest campers and find the secret meetings. It would figure that any game played at night and involves sneaking and hiding would be a camp favorite for any boy!
There was one year when Carolina took a chance and sent Sammy to another camp, sponsored by their church at the time. When Sammy came home, the first words out of his mouth were, “Mom, please don’t ever send me to any camp other than Frontier!”
Sammy considers himself a Frontier “lifer.” He was a camper for seven years before joining summer staff in 2016. Sammy has served in different positions on summer staff the last three summers. His heart’s desire has been to work with young children, giving back in a small way, all those scholarship years.
Sammy’s mother, Carolina, is grateful beyond words for the Frontier scholarship fund. Throughout the turbulent years, her prayer has always been, “Lord, keep your hand on Sammy. Have your will in Sammy’s life. Put those in his path who have the values that Sammy should have in his own life.”
In Carolina’s view, Frontier has always been one of the “in the path” relationships. Because of his years at camp, Sammy has adopted Frontier’s strong, high values into his own life. And these are the very same values that Jorge and Carolina desire for their son.
Throughout high school, Sammy never left the house in the morning without carrying his Bible along with his other books. Carolina has asked him before, “Sammy, why carry the Bible to school?” Sammy’s answer is always the same, “Mom, you never know when someone might just need a word from God!” It sounds like Jorge and Carolina have done a great job with Sammy. But even they will be the first to say the credit belongs to the Lord and to Sammy’s summer camp experiences at Frontier!