Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself

This year marks the 9th Rainbow Express camp at EvFree Fullerton – the 9th summer we’ve paused our summer schedules to dedicate a week fully focused on joining together people who are not normally in relationship with each other. This summer, 32 students ages 5-12, without disabilities, chose to spend five hours daily engaging and befriending a student their same age with a disability. Twenty-four teenagers chose to dedicate their last days of summer break to love on and lead 24 teens with disabilities on an outing daily. Ninety teens and young adults volunteered to join in the vision of “loving your neighbor as yourself” by serving as counselors, rotation leaders and other support staff.

Our Jr. High ministry joined with our Special Needs ministry by adding Rainbow Express as one of their service trips on their jam-packed summer calendar for the 8th year in a row. The majority of the families who attend Rainbow Express do not go to church, often due to the barriers of their student’s disabilities.

My favorite thing about Rainbow Express each year is witnessing the beauty that occurs when we choose to love one another like Jesus does. Our theme for camp this year was “Dig Deep – Boldly Digging into who Jesus Is,” and I saw this acted out daily. Hearing stories, like a five-year old girl without a disability “complaining” to her counselor about her camper with Autism by saying, “I thought this was a camp for students with disabilities. My camper is just like me; she doesn’t have a disability!”

Or listening to a mom whose 12-year old son with Autism (who has never had a true friend) rejoice in the fact that her son mourned leaving camp daily because it meant leaving his friend, another 12-year old boy without a disability who loved her son well.

I loved listening to 48 teenagers with and without disabilities sing songs together on the bus while going to the pool or to the bowling alley or to Scooter’s Jungle. If my eyes were closed, I would not know there were any differences between the people singing, just friends enjoying each other’s company. And on top of all these moments, realizing that none of these could occur if God’s people didn’t join together; people inside and outside the church, and those with and without disabilities.

One of the pastors on staff here described Rainbow Express well in saying “Jesus would smile on this, it is a ministry near and dear to His heart. The gospel in its purest form – loving your neighbor as yourself.”

Rebecca Stavert
Rainbow Express Director of Teen Groups

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