This summer was my second time to work at Pine Cove Christian Camps. I worked at Towers, the camp for 2nd-5th graders.There are a lot of reasons I love camp. The authentic community, camp names, seeing someone randomly dressed up run across camp, throwing kids off the battle-mat, I could go on forever with reasons why I love camp. Perhaps my favorite is the opportunity to share the Gospel with children freely and joyfully in a fun environment designed for them to see the love of Christ in everything they do.
God taught me SO much this summer. Through everything, His faithfulness was something I was constantly reminded of. Honestly, my first few days of camp with kids on property, I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t see how I could relate to these kids, something I had struggled with the summer before, and I was worried I wasn’t going to be a good counselor. I was on work crew week 1 which means I didn’t have any campers of my own-throughout that first week I prayed diligently and cried out to the Lord to help me see how I could relate to campers. By the end of the week, God had changed my heart and I was pumped to be in a cabin.
Week 2 I was in a cabin with 8 4th graders. I’m not sure how it always seems to happen, but it seemed that 6 out of the 8 of my campers were super hyper, all the time. Except at flag of course. One particular camper was one of those ‘famous’ campers. There are certain campers who are remembered year after year. Whether it’s because they’re a camper who likes to wander, is obsessed with bugs, or who only responds to nicknames like ‘Rabbit.’ Yes, those are all actual examples. Well I had heard about Harleigh before I met her. One of my best friends had her the summer before and assured me that while she was difficult, she had absolutely loved her. I met all my campers and the first few days I did not know how to communicate with Harleigh. She was a good kid, she didn’t disobey or act super crazy-she was just a bit on the slow side. Every time I realized I only had 7 campers, it only took me a second to realize Harleigh was the one missing. She was a special child and I really do not think I have ever loved a child so much, so fast. I loved every single girl in that cabin and through this love-God’s faithfulness was revealed more than I ever expected. The week before I had prayed consistently that fast relationships would form between myself and my campers and as soon as I met those girls-I loved them. As the week went on, however stressful it was, I realized that the love I felt for them was special. It was not my own. I was overwhelmed by the love I felt for them, there is no way I am capable of that kind of love. God had answered my prayers-in more ways than one. I found it easy to relate to my girls, whatever their situation and background, there was always something I could relate to. I found this pattern for all 4 weeks I had campers, what a faithful God we serve. I miss those girls, especially Harleigh. She will always have a special place in my heart. Here is my favorite picture of her, taken in the Buffalo Pit during our Friday night activity. This is actually my favorite picture from the entire summer:
Now how could you not love that face?
The next week I was on day camp (Castle Rock) and had the oldest girls. I was excited-one of my best friends, Master, was my senior counselor that week 🙂 It was certainly different considering the summer before I had had the youngest girls on Castle Rock, 1st graders. Week 3 I had 4 5th graders and 1 6th grader. It was certainly a blessing to only have 5 campers, and considering they were the oldest girls, they were so capable. It was like night and day from the previous week-the week before I felt like I had to repeat myself several times and like I was constantly wrangling my campers. But with only 5 campers for Castle Rock, I found we were consistently the first cabin ready and my campers were actually spirited. I felt so blessed that week by those 5 girls. They were also so solid and truly desired the Lord. They paid attention and asked questions during Bible study, one girl actually requested we pray for another counselor, and another girl got out of the pool 20 minutes early on Friday to help another girl memorize her Bible verses. My 6th grader, Allecia, was one of the most mature 11 year olds I’ve ever met. She had been through some hard things in her short life but was able to tell me how she had seen God work through it all-even through the death of the father at the age of 6. On Friday lunch, Allecia took the fruit plate from me and said “you always serve us, I want to serve you.” Wow. Castle Rock was pretty easy counseling wise-but I was constantly exhausted from having to wake up so early and I also got the dreaded camp crud that week. But God was still oh so faithful. There were times when I would be practically asleep standing up and I didn’t know how I could keep going and then we would get to club and I would have plenty of energy to jump and dance. I may or may not have fallen asleep in club almost every day but hey, who decided it should be at 2:30 in the afternoon? (I did actually feel quite guilty for this everyday) My campers taught ME so much that week and I was so proud of them everyday. God blessed me with solid girls and I learned that even though I was sick and so very tired, my joy and strength, when from myself, is worthless. When I surrender to the Lord, He will provide in ways I can’t even imagine.
So coming up on week 4, I really wanted to be in a younger cabin. We have three clusters of cabins at camp, grouped by age. I had never been in the youngest girls cluster, Once Upon A Time, and I really wanted to experience counseling the youngest girls. I also really wanted to be in that cluster because another of my very best friends,Biebs, was the senior counselor. And I also really wanted to be with the youngest cabin of girls, what we called “the crib.” Well I was a little disappointed when I found out that I was going to be with 5th graders again for week 4. But I was also excited but my 5th graders from the week before were so great and so fun to be around. Also I got to have Awkward Scissorhands (one of the best camp names of all time) as my senior counselor for the second time, I had been with her week 2 and loved it!
Not only was Awkward my senior counselor but she was also my roomy for the week, this did mean sleeping on a cot for me but I’ll take the trade any day. Again when I met my campers, I instantly fell in love with them. I also received two presents on opening day-including a bracelet, brownies, and cookies. What great parents! My 5th graders were so fun, I absolutely loved them. Most of them, like the week before, truly wanted to pursue the Lord and were full of questions. I also had an awesome adopt-a-cabin that week, Exclamation Point. XP is the worship leader for Towers this summer and she is one of the most expressive, loving people I have ever met. She sat with us every meal, joyfully and willingly serving me and my girls. I felt undeserving of her blessing that week, of the blessing that was my cabin. Again, the week truly wasn’t that difficult, my campers were amazing and I felt encouraged and affirmed by other staff, like Awkward and XP. Friday night my girls found out they had won the Vindico cup, an award given to one cabin of 5th grade girls and boys. The biggest requirement for the cup was setting a great example of Christ. I was SO proud of them and what they had accomplished. I was sad to see them leave.
I know this is the longest post in the world, but God did a lot this summer. As it was getting closer to staff meeting, I was getting nervous. I really really wanted to be in the youngest cluster. But I knew that might not be God’s plan and I also wanted to be content with wherever He had me. As Pappy (our camp director) called out names for the oldest girls clusters, I got excited but also nervous. Master came to stand behind me and put her hands on my shoulders, as Pappy announced my name for the crib I felt stunned-Master actually pushed me into the circle. Biebs gave me the biggest hug ever and told me she had known all week and it had killed her to not tell me. Turns out Awkward and Master had also known all week.
I was only going to have 6 campers (4th of July week is always small) which meant I didn’t have to sleep on a cot AND I was going to be sharing a room with Biebs. Best week ever right? I was excited to have 2nd graders but also a little nervous-after two weeks of 5th graders I knew that 2nd graders weren’t going to be nearly as capable. Or excited about camp, it was their first time to ever experience camp and they were a lot more hesitant than older campers. I felt like I was experiencing camp for the first time with them, everything was so different. The first time I found myself with two of my campers I wasn’t really sure what to do at first. First of all, all 6 of them were stinkin cute. They were all mostly super sassy. One camper in particular came to be known as ‘sasspants’ by the other staff. They all said hilarious things and asked funny questions. I may have broken a few hearts during one particular reflection time when I was asked if dogs go to heaven with us and I had to tell them, “no, dogs don’t have souls.” Then I had to explain what a soul is. It was definitely a trying week, I didn’t really mind the physical part of it-it required me to do a lot more things for them in general. The hardest part was that 7 year olds are just mean to each other. They would call each other names and stick their tongues out, I would often hear, “Miss Scream, so and so is staring at me” “she stared first.” (I think I forgot to mention they all called me Miss Scream all week-so funny) We did have to have some consequences for not using kind words-as a cabin we had to pick up rocks on Thursday. I had never even had one camper have to be disciplined before but now my entire cabin of campers was having to be disciplined together. I actually really enjoyed the experience-it was such a great example of Christ to them. Biebs (or Miss Biebs) and I had to carry the large rocks that the girls brought to us a short distance, and they were pretty heavy. We explained to the girls that although Miss Biebs and I had done nothing wrong, we had to carry the weight of their sin. We told them how serious sin is and used us carrying the rocks as an example for Christ carrying our sin on the cross. I think they girls listened and understood but they still did not always say kind things to each other. Often I would not let them talk at all when we were walking from place to place, telling them if they couldn’t say anything nice, they shouldn’t say anything at all. That week I was blessed beyond imagination by another staffer, Marcel the Shell. She was not my adopt-a-cabin but diligently sat with us every meal she could and served wholeheartedly. She wouldn’t even let me help clean up at the end of the meal. We weren’t able to talk much throughout the week but I feel as though I got to know her heart very well that week and it is truly beautiful. She taught me so much by simply serving and I won’t forget it anytime soon. Overall the week was good-despite the many arguments I had to settle. I loved those girls and two of them came to know Christ that week, including Miss Sassypants herself. 🙂 They were so cute and lovable and I miss just having fun with them, hopefully I’ll see them next summer.
This summer was incredible, I did not expect to grow or learn so much. I thought I knew what I was going into being a returner. But this summer was so different from last. I learned more about God’s faithfulness, gained affirmation and confidence in my Christ identity, and feel like I truly learned what it means to serve. One of our camp mottos is “It’s not about me.” Every single time I didn’t feel like doing something, I was tired and didn’t feel like cheering or I felt sick, or I just wanted to go sleep, I would think to myself, it’s not about me. It’s about Christ. It’s about the Gospel. And I found that when I truly surrendered myself to the Lord and let Him fill me with joy and energy, amazing things happened. I experienced things I never have before and I can’t explain it except God that did powerful things. My love for my campers this summer was something I had never felt before and I am so thankful and blessed to have had this opportunity. In every single cabin, God allowed me to witness at least one camper come to salvation. As I prayed with these girls to receive salvation, I felt overwhelming blessed that God had allowed me to be a part of their story-how incredible is that?!
I encourage you, if you’re not sure what you’re doing next summer and you want to do work for the Lord, apply to work at Pine Cove. There are so many different positions and 8 different camps to choose from to work. Do it now –> pinecove.com/apply