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Camp Field Story North America USA - Alaska

A Look Through My Eyes

"Everyone here actually does quiet time and studies the Bible on their off time, it's kind of my favorite thing to see. The people of God still exist and they still love him."

Spending the summer at a camp working in close quarters with around 40 other people can pose interesting questions about what it means to be a community. My main prayer all summer was to be a healthy, helpful member of the community I found myself somewhat thrown into and that I would be focused on being authentic rather than impressive.

There were many times I'm sure I failed to be those things, but nonetheless the Lord moved through my weakness and it was the best summer of my life, in the most loving and Christ-centered community I've ever been a part of. Having 8-11 roommates shows you things about yourself and your priorities that don't come up elsewhere. I already knew most of mine, (one of which being my living space has to smell good or I can't function) but at the end of the day what was actually most surprising was all the things that didn't bother me. I'm fairly low-maintenance to begin with, but at camp there were days when I just shrugged and moved on that surprised the parts of me that thought I really cared about someone else's shoe being on top of mine and getting sand in it. 

My constant prayer, written down multiple times this summer:

Lord, help me to be gracious and merciful as you are gracious and merciful to us. 

Let me see with your eyes the children of your Kingdom, and the work to be done. 

Thank you for your gift of community, may I be a healthy member of mine.

I could tell all kinds of hilarious anecdotes about what it's like to bunk together out at summer camp, but here's what really mattered.

The really important things were honestly not done by me at all, I just had the privilege of witnessing them or facilitating them through the guidance of the Spirit.

When I think about the specific ways I saw the Lord work and when he taught me most through my experiences counseling, two main stories come to mind. 

The first story happened my very first week counseling in a cabin of ten 10 year-olds. I'm not going to lie, kids make me kind of nervous, and this was my toughest week in Alaska by far. I've spent years studying theology, but kids ask questions I never feel prepared to answer satisfactorily for them. Like "Why doesn't God have a wife" and "If God loves all his children, why is it even possible for anyone to go to hell?"

Obviously, as a logical adult I know the answers to these questions, but how to you explain divine mystery, total depravity and the wages of sin to kids, especially ones who don't care? Some days it felt like I was trying to talk theology to a herd of cats, while drowning. There was one day though, in the second half of camp, that made the whole week. One of my girls was having a particularly tough time and it felt like every five minutes she was having a meltdown. On one of these occasions I was squatting in the bushes she had run to cry in and trying to talk her into coming out and rejoining the activity the rest of the cabin was busy doing. Eventually, she stopped being angry and followed me out into the shade and started asking me questions about Jesus. At first I thought she was trying to prank me, because she'd asked joke questions all week and seemed to really hate anything more serious than talking about pizza, but we ended up having a good conversation. While talking to her I did my best to explain the simple truth of the Gospel, that Jesus the Messiah came to the world to triumph over evil and pay the debt of sin on our behalf. After a few moments of silence, she looked at me with the most incredulous frown and asked "Do you really believe that? Does everyone here really believe that?" and for the first time in that entire week, I felt like she was listening.

Regardless of whether or not the rest of the week went perfectly, (which it absolutely did not) that one moment of revelation for this one kid made all the difficult moments worth it. I don't know what the rest of that campers life is going to look like, I doubt I'll see much of it at all, if any. But I do know that for one day, for about 20 minutes, she was listening and the Spirit was moving despite my inadequacies and fears. 

One of the most powerful tools we have at camp is telling the kids that none of us get paid. They think it is the most backwards thing on the planet. We pay to go work? Ridiculous. Some of them straight up told me I was stupid for going to camp instead of working my nice summer job I left behind in Texas. But as I always told them, Jesus is more important to me than a paycheck, and if I did not believe in the absolute veracity, necessity and urgency of the Gospel, I wouldn't be on earth, much less at camp. 

The second story happened the last week. 

I was even more nervous for the Sr. high camp because high schoolers don't tend to think I'm cool anymore like younger age groups do, but I was excited to get to explore more complicated ideas and share the whole of my testimony to an audience who could handle it. 

The beginning of the week was tough for a lot of complicated reasons, and I worried that we would not be able to break through the natural divisions enough to find the sincere community together that is necessary for honest discussion as a cabin. Again though, the Lord moved in the second half of the week in ways I could never have orchestrated or foreseen in spite of my fears and failings. After chapel we always have discussion and halfway through the week we got to have a really cool conversation about forgiveness and the past experiences from my life, the ones I prayed would be taken from me at the time because they hurt too much, were brought up and able to be used for the Kingdom. This happened over and over during the whole second half of the week. Sometimes it felt like the Lord was laughing at me, in a loving way, because every conversation I had with our campers and every question I was asked directly related to something I'd gone through in middle school and high school, and could therefore speak to in light of the Spirit. Those conversations and beautiful times of getting to know such vibrant souls who are going through some extremely tough circumstances was a punch in the gut for me, and a poignant reminder of the reconciliation of the suffering I endured before following Jesus, and even after. 

Working alongside like-minded believers all summer was the greatest gift I could have ever asked for. The blessing of being in a place in my life where I can just, take off for two months with few repercussions is not lost on me and I am deeply grateful for it. One of the very first things I wrote a note about after arriving at camp was: 

"Everyone here actually does quiet time and studies the Bible on their off time, it's kind of my favorite thing to see. The people of God still exist and they still love him." 

Christian community is a blessing we often take too lightly and it was brought into sharp focus for me out in the Alaskan wilderness where the ugly parts of our souls tend to come to light, the grace of the Father flourished instead. Not a single one of us is perfect, and that showed too, but there was a weightiness we all felt to the work being done and I feel very lucky to have seen the body doing the work of his Kingdom in such a healthy way. 

I hope and pray to go back next summer, and for as long as I am able. But for now I am going back into school and work with a renewed appreciation for the things I do here in light of the Kingdom. 

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