Unwanted and unloved – this is exactly how Travis felt. He spent his childhood believing his life had little meaning to his parents. “My mother was a cocaine addict and my father was a drunk,” Travis said. As a young boy, Travis bounced back and forth from his mother’s house to his father’s house. He shared that his father was often completely disconnected from him because of his addiction to alcohol. When spending time with his mom, it was not uncommon for her to leave Travis alone at night.
On one occasion, Travis’ mother stayed away for days leaving her son with a friend she barely knew. News of this incident left Travis’ father concerned. Worried about his son, he called his sister Karen to see if she and her husband would take care of Travis while he sorted out his personal struggles.
“My husband, Daniel, and our two children agreed that there wasn’t anything to discuss,” Karen recalls. “Travis was coming to stay with us.”
What the family could not prepare for was the raw emotion and anger the 7-year-old boy would bring with him. Travis completely shouldered the blame for his parents’ problems. But he was also dealing with severe trust issues, related to his mother. He took his frustration out on his aunt who was now Travis’ mother figure.
“While my uncle was at work, all my pain would come out on Aunt Karen,” Travis explains.
Years passed, but his parents’ personal issues did not improve. As a result, Karen and Daniel were granted permanent custody of Travis. And while the judge left the door open for his parents to one day gain visitation rights, or even regain custody, it became evident to Travis that they were not working toward that goal. His self-worth plummeted while his anger elevated to new highs.
One Sunday after the family returned home from church, Travis’ emotions erupted. “He said his parents didn’t love him, he wanted to die, and he wanted to leave,” Karen says. “We knew that through our family, his therapist and the guidance of our church, we had done everything we could for Travis. We reached out to Cameron Boys Camp for help.”
When Travis and his aunt and uncle first visited Baptist Children’s Homes’ residential wilderness program near Southern Pines, things clicked immediately for the 13-year-old boy.
The Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina provided Travis, right, with the stability he needed to help he and his family. From left: Dan and Kathy, Travis’ aunt and uncle; Benjamin and Victoria, Travis’ cousins. After two and a half years of living at Cameron Boys Camp, Travis and his family have found healing and are reunited.
“I knew I had to focus on taking care of myself,” Travis says. “It was like God was saying that Camp is the right place for me.”
Travis had become a believer and was baptized at his aunt’s and uncle’s church. Cameron Boys Camp chiefs – counselors that provide guidance to the boys and live with them at campsites – and Camp social workers helped Travis understand how God could heal his hurt.
“I had hated God because of the things that had happened in my life,” Travis said. “Once I understood that these things weren’t my fault, I was able to recommit my relationship to Him. God has much better things in store for me.”
Through Camp’s Christ-centered focus and unique support structure, Travis shared about his pain and feelings for the very first time.
“Camp pushed me to deal with it,” he says. “The respect chiefs show us campers, and we show them, made me realize I needed to be doing that at home.”
Travis and his aunt and uncle attended family sessions with Camp staff to work through the pain together. “Aunt Karen is the mom I should’ve had,” Travis says. “Uncle Dan is like my second dad.”
Travis consistently tells his story of hope and healing to others. The teen regularly shared his testimony with congregations as he traveled with campers and staff to be a part of worship services. The church visits not only impacted the people in the pews, but the care and support of Baptists profoundly moved Travis.
“After he’d been on a church visit, Travis said to me, ‘Aunt Karen, they really love me. I’m worth being loved,’” Karen said. “Travis is just special, and BCH and Cameron Boys Camp were able to pull that out. It had been stuffed down so deep inside of him.”
The dark days for Travis have receded, and he has successfully returned home to live with his aunt and uncle. After two and a half years of living at camp and the three of them working hard on some big problems, the family has been restored and reunified.
“Everybody we know has been affected by the change in Travis because of what Baptists in North Carolina have done for us,” Karen said tearfully. “They didn’t know us, they just knew they loved God and they loved His children.”
This year’s theme for Baptist Children’s Homes annual Thanksgiving offering is Sharing Hope. For more information, or to see the 2012 offering video on Travis’ story, go to bchfamily.org/offering. Or, call (800) 476-3669, ext. 1209, to order free offering promotional materials for your church.