Well, it’s that time of year again. Summer time. June is here, and camps all over the country are getting pumped up for the craziest three months of the year.
And I’m not. For the first summer ever, I’m not going on any wild/summer-long adventure. How crazy is that? Summers 2011-2013 I was at Sandy Cove and yes I was working but it was more fun than work. I worked with a bunch of friends and it was basically the most chill job ever. Summer 2014, I was in Grenada following a crazy God-given dream. And summers 2015-2016, I was at the Wilds, praising the Lord for another fulfilled God-given dream. And this summer, I won’t be there.
It has been so much harder than I thought it would be, to be honest. I’ve cried several times at the thought of “I’m not going to camp this summer.” For heaven’s sake, I’ve cried at the notion of staying home and being normal. But that’s another topic for another day. Today I want to highlight some things I’ve learned at camp (obviously) and how they affect me now.
I cannot do anything on my own. This is really two-fold. First of all, I can’t do anything without Jesus Christ. Over and over throughout those two summers, I quoted 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 to myself. I learned how to literally lean on God when I was so empty, and this is something I still have to do day to day. I know I’ve said it before but there were days when I didn’t think I could keep going. I couldn’t cheer another cheer, I couldn’t do another one-on-one, I couldn’t fill out another crisis form, I couldn’t go up those steps or hike that hike again. But HE GIVES STRENGTH! We referred to it as “supernatural energy” when we felt like we couldn’t go on anymore but then God showed up and BAM! I would have enough vitality to get through the day. And He did that over and over again, and I’m so thankful.
Not only did He provide strength when I needed it, but the people I was able to work with were a constant encouragement. I was able to get counseling from Christians wiser than me, and I was able to serve “in the trenches” as we said alongside some amazing individuals. Some of the ladies on my team for the summer saw me when I was broken, overwhelmed, dead tired, or sick; and I’m so thankful they lifted me up, sometimes physically, when I needed it most. We were able to share burdens with each other, whether personal needs or camper needs. In our Christian walk, we can’t do anything on our own. God gives us strength when we ask Him for it, and He gives us community to serve with and encourage. I was able to experience that in a concentrated place while at camp.
I must have purpose. I want to know why I do what I do. While at camp, we talked about this a lot. We wanted to be a small part of lives being changed for the glory of God, and THAT was our purpose. Everything was pointed in that direction. The “why” behind much of what we did was to break down barriers. Your campers won’t talk to you if they don’t know that you are a regular person who cares about them. And if they don’t talk to you, you can’t share truth with love to them that will truly help them where they are. Why did I jump off a rock into a freezing cold swimming hole in a creek? To break down barriers. Why did I hike to Fourth Falls (aka death hike) and have to hike back in a hailstorm one-handed? (Ask me about that sometime.) To break down barriers. Why did I let my campers push me into the lake? To break down barriers. Now I’m home. So why do I go to work? Why do I go to church? Why do I blog? I don’t have answers to all of those questions yet, but I know that God wants us to find our purpose in Him. At camp, I asked “why am I doing this” all the time. My answer was, ultimately, “Because Jesus loves these people, and I want them to see Jesus in me.” That should be the answers to my “why” questions while I’m home too.
Everything I struggle with is because I’m not believing something about God. This concept has been revolutionary for me; it’s how I counsel myself, definitely not just other people! We use what’s called “The Tree Model*” and it illustrates, like Jesus does in Luke 6:43-45, that what comes out of our mouth or how we act comes from our heart. Our life produces fruit, and that fruit can be good or bad. When it’s bad, ask yourself “Why did I make this choice? What desire is behind this fruit?” And that desire or choice is rooted in a wrong belief about God. For example, if I am disrespectful to my parents, what is my desire behind that? Maybe I want to be in control, and if I want to be in control then I am not believing that my God is in control, has complete power and authority, and is sovereign. From there I need to put off the bad sin, meditate on verses about God’s power, control, and sovereignty, and replace those wrong beliefs with truth. This can be used for any sin struggle–selfishness, pornography, cursing, self-harm, immorality, lying, anger, and on and on.
I’m grateful for these counseling principles that have been ingrained into me, and I share it as often as I have opportunity! It has changed my life, and how I approach sin in my life.
There are far too many stories to share about camp than you care to read. But those stories have helped shape who I am. I’m so grateful for the campers who shared their struggles with me and allowed me to share truth with them. I’m grateful for the night the fire alarm in my cabin went off because of dead batteries. I’m grateful for the week when we lost power multiple times and had chapel outside with the humidity and the bugs. I’m grateful for the campers who wanted to fight or argue or complain, because that stretched and grew me. I’m grateful for the sermons that convicted my campers and brought them to their knees before God begging for forgiveness, and the sermons that challenged and convicted me too. I’m grateful for the exhaustion, the pain, the emotions, the fear of regret, and the burdens. I wouldn’t be who I am without it.
So for those of you working at camp, press on. It’s worth it. The tears on your t-shirt and the sweat on your bed because your campers just can’t stay off it and the vomit you have to clean up is WORTH IT. I saw God change lives. I saw campers from the previous summer who told me, “Hey, remember what I talked to you about last summer? I got that right with God and my parents.” I watched God break down walls bit by bit during the week until they broke. I saw answered prayers in specific ways. God is good, and is always good. So whether you’re at camp or trying to cope with not being there, remember that there is a purpose where you are, and He is working in your life right now, just like He works in campers’ lives.
*The Tree Model was designed by Ken Collier from The Wilds Christian Camp and Conference Center.