The bin had been packed. The car had been stuffed. The gear had been purchased. The engine was started. This was going to be my summer of radically following Jesus. I was going to be apart of a team of goofballs. I was going to live outdoors and breathe the fresh country air. I was going to lifeguard at a beach for the first time. I was going to sleep in real cabins. We pulled out of the driveway, and I officially began a journey of a lifetime! It was a journey to a new home.
There are many expectations and assumptions I had about camp as I prepared for all that was to come in my next three months. I made playlists of music for quiet time, playlists for fun cabin time, and playlists for a pumped up welcome when the campers would arrive. I bought tons of bug spray and sunscreen for days and nights outside. I brought a portable bin for a camp wardrobe of silly camp skit costume gear, beach wear, hiking wear, church on Sundays, lounging on weekends, and everything in between.
My mind swirled with excitement and preparation of the stories my mom told me about her college summers at camp. I was prepared for a summer like I had never experienced before. I would be able to start a fresh as a new staff member and show people who I was aside from the stress of college or pressure of parents and influence of high school friends. This was my summer of being bold in my faith and bold with myself. And that is just what it turned out to be!
As I have just recently committed my summer 2019 to being a camp counselor once again, my mind has been reminded of the cherished memories and lessons that I had learned almost a whole year ago now! The experience of having authority over a cabin and putting them to bed, mixed with supporting them in friendship or home struggles, mixed with being silly to make them laugh with stories and camp events, was continually different each week. I got to give messages…and RAP at our nightly campfires and dance like crazy at morning chapels. I got to guide devotions under the stars and also walk them to first aid in the middle of the night when they lost a tooth..and perhaps assist with a visit from the tooth fairy :). I got to lifeguard on a beach with a team of lifeguards that were business on the surface and quirky down deep (no pun intended 🙂 ). Honestly, my stories could truthfully go on and on!
I will say that though some of these lessons are silly or small, there are also lessons that took perseverance and loyalty to God’s voice to understand. I will not write this truth of my summer to you and say that counseling is all fun, as I must admit that it is a job that takes work. Work like sitting down the cabin to enforce zero tolerance for bullying. Work like taking your hour off to sit with a camper when their hurting in first aid. Work like creatively coming up with a game for the indoors when there’s an unexpected rainy day. But I will also say, that even though some weeks were harder than others, I believe it was all part of God’s plan to help me grow in my faith and my relationship with Him.
Without further a doo, here is a list of some lessons that I learned through one summer of being a camp counselor and living away from home on the campsite for a full three months:
1. Wash your hands before EVERY meal. It takes time, but it’s worth not getting sick!
2.Wake up right when your alarm sounds… otherwise you’ll miss your counselor morning meeting and devotions.
3. Mornings are the best time to be with God! They are like the calm before the storm. Take them seriously!
4. Your time with God doesn’t always have to be a devotional… it could just be opening up to a verse and meditating on it!
5. Eat smaller portions…aka kid portions… because they are not only satisfactory, but also healthier for you!
6. Save makeup for special occasions, it’s more special that way 🙂 Besides, God made you beautiful the way you are, so be yourself!…(also it will most likely sweat off at some point in the hot summer sun.. 🙂 )
7. You can RAP in front of people…like you did at campfire messages… so don’t stop just cause you left camp!
8. Reading before bed is a great way to put kids to bed…and yourself.
9. A set time to go on your phone each day is good…because you can’t when you’re with the kids.. so use that time wisely and be present the rest of the day. Also, that way you won’t get distracted…or even addicted by social media!
10. Chacos are definitely the most durable choice of camp shoes as you have discovered that Vans, Birkenstocks, slide sandals, and velcro sandals don’t make the cut.
11. It’s best to workout in the morning quick before breakfast (before the campers… and the rest of the world wakes up).
12. Exercise can continue all day if you look for the opportunity. (aka. dancing in chapel, jumping at campfire, playing gaga ball with the kids instead of just supervising them during free time, choosing the running positions at camp wide games, etc.
13. Chapel is a passionate and expressive way to connect with God, so go to it! (even when you’re back at school).
14. You’re not bad a gaga ball. AND, it’s a great way to let out frustration 🙂
15. When in charge of Kitchen Patrol (aka. Kitchen Party, or just KP), you gotta TELL the kiddos jobs to do, DON’T ASK them… or they may turn you down with some sass 🙂
16. Camper emotions are best dealt with in a one-on-one conversation NOT in public space!
17. Bullies need to be reminded of their own value… they may not be told their value very often.
18. Tell parents the truth about their kids at the end of the week… even if it’s not good news!
19. Homesickness is curable by continual activity, positivity, and companionship.
20. Don’t tell campers you’re having one-on-ones to sign up for, just go and talk to them when you see them whether they are alone or in a group 🙂
21. Bracelets are a productive way to use time, so make them when you have time to kill!
22. Beadie buddies make for really cute key chains.
23. Don’t wear nice clothes whatsoever while at camp… everything will somehow get messy or destroyed within a matter of time.
24. Baby oil protects your skin from swimmer’s ich… though it is slightly toxic to the marine biological environment of the lake 😐
25. Lifeguaridng can serve as a getaway from your campers when you may need it. Enjoy that time.
26. Lake water is dark and uncomfy (and possibly risky) in your nose 🙂
27. Horses are like big dogs! Treat them as such.
28. Campers can’t go unsupervised in the cabin together for very long times…or else (the possibilities are endless)
29. Sometimes, kids just need to be kids.
30. Cleaning should be done daily instead of at crunch time at the end of the week.
31. A fly swatter is essential no matter which cabin you’re in.
32. You can’t always handle it all alone or with your co-counselor, know when to ask for help.
33. Staff or volunteers that work in churches that come to camp have incredible stories to share, take advantage of them whether it be with your cabin in a bible study, a meal or independently.
34. Movies are the ultimate solution to indoor rainy days, so be sure to use your resources when the time comes.
35. Counselors are best at narrating a game of mafia. Campers can if necessary.
36. When in doubt during cabin time, play Disney music.
37. If a cabin of girls are obsessed with their image, remind them of the truths of how God made them. (reading, the devotional poem: “I Made Her” and covering cabin mirrors with a paper to write positive messages on is very helpful for this).
38. Putting your foot down allows for more respect (This may mean threatening to take away fun activities with your voice rather than your physical strength, OR even simply sassing them back and learning to speak their language.)
39. Notes during quiet times are almost always bad (mention it as a camp tradition…or rule :)… at the beginning of the week that no notes are allowed during quiet time due to a recent camp bullying incident).
40. Starting showers during night meds gets the “getting ready for bed time” job done faster than waiting for meds to be finished.
41. Take time for yourself or else you’ll definitely get burnt out.
42. Asking for advice and wisdom from those older than you (whether it be camp staff or visiting church staff) can be very helpful in many ways.
43. Agape is a rapper with a great message, and some great values, so keep listening to him!
44. Bangs are fun, but can easily get greasy. They make take more upkeep than you would think.
45. You need Jesus. You will always need Jesus.
Though these lessons are centered around camp and my summer days spent there, I extend much of this knowledge into my school years too. I firmly believe that every part of our lives are connected in the beautiful way that God has designed.
If you feel so-called to be apart of ministry such as CAMP, then I encourage you to pursue that calling… even if you don’t think you’re ready. Sometimes, those are the times when God calls us into taking a leap of faith and trusting him to get you where you need to be. Also, after getting a college degree, you may not have the amazing chance to act like such a child ever again! If you do end up taking that leap, I hope these lessons will assist you in your preparation. However, if camp staff doesn’t feel like your thing, I still hope that these things not only brought a smile to your face, but also practical wisdom for your day-to-day life.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
~ James 1:2-4
So, my dear reader, as the well runs dry for today, I must ask: When is the last time you took a leap of faith? And what did God teach you in the process of it?
Sing a song for the soul: Committed- Newsboys