June 12, 2011 was the first day I stepped foot at a very special place as a camp counselor: the Christian Retreat Center (CRC). This place holds a special place in my heart and that will never, ever change. Unfortunately, only people who have worked as a camp counselor in a place such as this will understand how I feel when I say that I LOVE camp. Take notice to the fact that this word is all caps, bold, italicized, and red. Yeah, I love camp. The people I met there and the things I’ve witnessed God do has forever changed me.
Let me help you gain some perspective on the impact this place had on my life which lead to why its so important to me.
Two counselors I met my first year were bridesmaids in my wedding last month and I am a bridesmaid in one of their weddings this coming October; I had about 4 tables at my wedding for my CRC family; one of the speakers for the older campers (the founder of this website, actually) is now a dear friend of mine and a person whom I feel I can always confide in for guidance; another speaker for a work program at the camp is now my spiritual mother, I rent an apartment behind her house, her 5 year-old daughter is now my little sister (“for real” as little Ella would say) and was my flower girl, and she was officially my mentor in a program my church was founding; the previous program director, his wife and kids are like family to me. I haven’t talked to them much since they moved away, but I know that I am always welcome to go to Virginia and visit for a couple days. Their girls handed out programs for my wedding; my husband and I met there as counselors; here is where I had rededicated my life to God countless times; here is where the shattered pieces of my broken heart and my broken life were mended; here is where I learned how to be human again and learned how to reopen myself to emotions after a long time of being numb.
Does this paint a clear enough picture for you?
This place is amazing because God created it for an extraordinary purpose. I’ve seen counselors and kids turn their lives around and ran with all their heart towards Jesus. I’ve seen kids come to camp believing that they were worthless and had no reason to live, only to learn the truth that they are loved and have a purpose. I’ve seen parent-child relationships mended. I’ve seen campers brought to tears because they were given a second chance for a life full of light. Campers came back year after year. Some because they’re forced, but most because this is home to them. This is where they feel safe, loved.
At the end of my first summer, I discovered that I absolutely loved camp ministry. For the following 4 years of my time at CRC, the months leading up to summer were exhausting and I’m sure I was an annoying person to be around. I could hardly sit still and was super eager and anxious to get to camp. Most people plan their summer around their year, but I planned my year around my summer. I would NOT work somewhere that wouldn’t allow me time off to be at camp every single week of the summer and I would turn down vacation offers if it overlapped camp. I was COMMITTED to this place. I was on staff for 5 years. That came to an end in 2016 and my time at CRC was over. Nothing happened to cause this ending, it was simply time to move on. The camp is still up and running and is running very successfully. CRC is still an amazing place that’s run by people who recognize and love the amazing God we serve.
Its been 2 years since working at camp and I have felt restless ever since. Not only am I restless, but my heart aches. It aches for missing out on seeing counselors grow as a team and become family. It aches for missing out on seeing hearts broken for children who don’t know Jesus. It aches for missing out on the mischief that goes on between staff members. It aches for missing out on the kind of connection you don’t and can’t find anyplace except at summer camp. It aches because this place was where I came to terms with some of the most traumatic times in my life. Camp was over and I didn’t know what to do. So for a while, I cried. Even now I cry. This past Sunday, my husband and I dropped his nephew off at CRC for the week and I cried almost the whole way home. Its very sad to not be at camp. But I think its sad mostly because I’ve known for a long time that camp ministry was what I felt called to do and here I am, not doing it.
Last summer I was asked to be the Program Director for a local camp just getting on it’s feet. I jumped at the opportunity immediately!! Aaaaaannnd…. fell flat on my face. I thought God opened the door for me to be in camp ministry again, I was sure of it!…… and I was wrong. Many people had advised against this because they felt that I was not ready to take on this particular camp for several reasons. There were a lot of red flags that were pretty obvious, but I was determined to prove them all wrong so I overlooked the blinking, neon signs that said “NO!! STAY AWAY!” After a few months of ignoring the signs, I became painfully aware of them and instead of proving everyone wrong, I proved them all right. God did not tell me to go to this camp. Instead, He used my mistake to teach me a valuable lesson about camp ministry and about myself. If I’m being completely honest, I’m still trying to figure out parts of that lesson. But one thing I did learn is that despite a bad camp leading experience, I’m still in love with camp ministry. I do believe this is a calling for my life and I’m not going to jump like I did last time. When an opportunity comes, I will pray, seek counsel, listen, and obey what God is ACTUALLY telling me to do.
A lot of times we make hasty decisions because it’s something we want and it’s happening NOW. God gave you certain desires for a reason and He did not give them to you just so you can be disappointed when you can’t have it. If your desire follows the will of God, He will grant you your desires. “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” – Psalms 37:4
Prayerfully, someday I’ll be involved full time in a camp ministry and I pray that “someday” is sooner rather than later. But our time does not usually coincide with God’s time. They say “good things come to those who wait” but I think that statement is unfinished. Good things come to those who wait on the Lord. So I’ll wait. I’ll even try and do it patiently but lets be honest, I’m probably not going to do that very well.