April 28, 2014

Your Response to a Child's Cry May Be LIFE CHANGING!
The Story of Mrs. Blagg

For many years I struggled with anxiety and fear. I now know that much of my struggle was related to post-adoption issues. 

During all of my growing up years, I attended church camp at Potomac Park Assemblies of God Camp in Falling Waters, West Virginia.   My first experience with camp was quite a memorable one. I went on to attend every year and ultimately received a confirmation of my call to ministry there. But if my first experience hadn’t been handled correctly, perhaps I wouldn’t have ever wanted to return. And, even if I did, I might not have received the amazing blessings God had for me, because of my fears.  I share this story partly to underscore the impact adults make on children's lives forever. How we respond to children matters...A LOT. 

Goodbyes and separation always made me anxious though I didn’t manifest it by tantrums or such. I was always quiet about these matters but would became extremely anxious inside, bit my nails down to the quick, wet the bed, or obsessively worked on things or organized. 

 My first year of camp as a very young child  I became fearful that my parents weren’t going to come back for me, or that they wouldn’t be able to find me at the camp when they returned. They never gave me a reason to believe they wouldn’t return. They were good, faithful parents in this regard. Nevertheless, I remember lying awake late into the night, worried sick about their return. Would they come back to get me on Saturday when camp was over? And, would they be able to find me? 

With all of the reading I have done to educate myself on post-adoption issues the past few years, I have discovered this is not an uncommon response for adoptees at all. Some research I have read suggests that many children who are adoptees can become extremely anxious if their parents are even a few moments late picking them up from school or another activity. There is a great fear that they may not return. 

So during this, my first camp experience, I would pack and repack my suitcase, before lights out. My nightly self-assigned chore was organizing and reorganizing it to get it "just right." I now see that this was probably an effort to try to have some sense of control.

As the week of camp progressed, I would lie in bed and quietly cry because amidst all the fun and chaos of lots of little girls staying together, my washcloth had gone missing. Suddenly, I had lost a piece of what control I thought I had. 

One of the girls in the cabin heard me crying and asked, “What’s wrong, Deanna?” I couldn’t explain it but just said I had lost the washcloth, and was afraid I wouldn’t have everything in perfect order. I told her that I was afraid my parents weren’t coming back, or that they wouldn’t be able to find me if they did return. Noticing my distress, she said, “Let’s go get Mrs. Blagg.”

Mrs. Blagg was our counselor for the week. I attended camp dozens of other times after that, but interestingly, I don’t remember even one counselor’s name besides Mrs. Blagg. Thankfully it’s for a good reason. 

Mrs. Blagg was the hands and feet of Jesus. A few of the girls ran and got her. She came over to my bunk bed and put an arm around me, asking what was wrong. When I told her my fears, she gently pushed my long brown hair out of my eyes, and wiped my tears. In a soft, comforting voice she said, “Deanna, everything is going to be alright.  We will find your washcloth and your parents will find you on Saturday. I promise you -- they are coming back for you, and I will be right here with you when they return. It’s going to be okay.” Then she prayed with me and I was able to be at peace and go to sleep.

She didn’t tell me I was silly.
Didn't laugh at me.
Didn’t dismiss my fears.
Didn’t tell me to suck it up.

I stopped worrying about the washcloth and my parents’ return.
I trusted what Mrs. Blagg told me and from that moment, I was able to concentrate on receiving what God had for me at camp. 

Mrs. Blagg was Jesus to a little girl at camp who was scared out of her mind, that her parents were never going to find her again.

I never forgot Mrs. Blagg. And I sure did love camp! I couldn't wait to go back, again and again!

This story became much more special this past Saturday.

I was doing the edits for my upcoming book, the story that many of you have read here on my blog. (Before we had to take it down from the blog, because the book is being published.) I have been asked to expand the original story by about 10,000 words. One of the stories from my life that I decided to include in the memoir is this story about Mrs. Blagg. As I was writing on Saturday, the tears just flowed as I recalled the experience.

Suddenly I remembered that we have an Assemblies of God minister that Larry and I serve with here in Tampa, who also has the last name, Blagg. The AG is a small world even though there are millions of adherents. So, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if Pastor Bruce Blagg is related to Mrs. Blagg?”  So... I Facebook messaged him and said, “Hey Bruce, by any chance did your mother ever serve as a camp counselor at Potomac Park Camp? And does your mother have red hair?”  To my utter shock, he answered, “Yes!” 

Pastor Bruce’s mother is Mrs. Joan Blagg, now in her eighties, and is STILL teaching a girls class in her local Assemblies of God church, in West Virginia.

Bruce immediately got on the phone with her, and his father as well, and read them the story you have just read above, that I also sent to him on Facebook. All three of them wept!

Mrs. Blagg said, “Bruce, there’s more…I served for four years at that camp, but only counseled the first year. The remaining years they placed me in different areas of ministry besides camp counselor. My only time serving as counselor with the girls was the first year -- the year with Deanna. It seems God may have had me there just for her sake!”

Bruce asked if I could call him Saturday night and said he had something special to tell me. Voice breaking with tears, he relayed this story to me and said, “Deanna, that’s how much God loves you! He had mom there that year, just for you!”

Mr. and Mrs. Blagg will be visiting Bruce and his wife Pam later this year in Tampa and they have expressed a desire to come visit us at our church, and reconnect. I can hardly wait! I will have the opportunity to thank Mrs. Joan Blagg in person, forty years later, for the loving, caring, Holy Spirit directed way in which she ministered to me, so many years ago.

Thank you God, for loving me so much. And thank you, Mrs. Blagg. I am a life that was changed.