Written by Hannah Beadle
Camp is the only place on earth where it is socially acceptable to work for less than minimum wage but gain more spiritual maturity than your pastor; camp is the only place where your co-workers throw you into the lake, but you make the best friends you have ever had. All jokes aside, camp is a place of transformation.
Being at Camp Mishewah was always the highlight of my summer, but the summer I turned 15 brought something new; this time I was going to be the counsellor rather than the camper. Having just finished Grade 9, I walked boldly into the summer with the mindset that I could 100% take on the world—after all, hadn’t I just successfully transitioned into high school, made a solid group of friends, had two crushes, got my heart broken and been placed into a leadership role in my youth group? Clearly, I knew everything there was to know about being a mature and responsible leader and should be put in charge of 6 crazy 10-year-olds for a week! Shockingly, to me at least, I was not as prepared as I had thought.
Oh yes, I was prepared to play the games with the girls, sing some campfire songs and go to chapel with them, but I was not prepared to be the literal hands and feet of Jesus. Unlike other camps that I have heard my friends talk about, Camp Mishewah was not only for Church Kids. In fact, many of the kids who came were actually sponsored by Family and Child Services (FACS), providing a fun week of camp for underprivileged children.
The Church Kids would arrive at camp with suitcases that looked like they were going on vacation for three months, filled with tons of pretty outfits, toys and candy. In contrast, the FACS Kids came to camp with very little in their hands, but with more emotional baggage than even an adult should have to carry. They came unloved, neglected and unsure about what camp would hold for them. But I knew… they came so that they could be shown Jesus’ love for the very first time.
I launched into my first week of camp with excitement and energy; it was the first summer I had been on staff, so the magical quality of being a camper the year before still lingered. Camp is such an awesome place, especially during your early teens, which is often a difficult time of transition between being an adult and a kid. It’s especially challenging as you begin to experience personal growth and start to feel older, yet your parents still see you as their young child—you feel like you’re in limbo. Camp is the perfect place to thrive in both worlds, drawing upon your youthful desire for fun and friends, while at the same time allowing you to step into your newly acquired maturity and growth.
As the young campers arrived on the first day, they automatically view you as older, responsible staff members who don’t have a trace of insecurity or awkwardness. They set a standard for you to be awesome, and you naturally want to meet it—no pressure put on by your parents. They want it, you provide it, and everyone wins.
The second week of camp is always harder with less sleep and less energy. Some of the excitement begins to wear off, as you have to do the same activities as the previous week and pretend to be just as pumped. However, it wasn’t the tiredness that posed the ultimate challenge for me, it was the comments that came from the some of the campers.
The true challenge came at dinner time when one of the girls exclaimed, “Wow, we get three whole meals here!?” or during cabin devotions when another girl answered the discussion question with, “I think my biggest fear is that when my Mom goes out for the day that she will never come back”. Those words absolutely broke my heart. I’ll be real with you—they weren’t even the worst that I heard over my summers at camp.
Throughout my time at camp, I realized that most of these kids had never heard of Jesus or the Bible before. As well, there were lots of behavioural issues and patterns that they had learned to get attention from their parents or teachers, even if it was negative attention. I had a big task on my hands and I knew that I needed serious help… and that came from Jesus.
Camp showed me how to depend on God in the day-to-day things. When you are placed with a group of campers so needy that it can seem impossible to get through a week with, you start depending on God for very mundane things like, “God, please help me to get them to shower today”. Though it sounds like silly prayers, they honestly become your desperate cries, and when you begin to pay attention, you can actually see God’s hand weaving through both the important and insignificant parts of your day.
During these tough times, being surrounded by a community of Christians who constantly pray for you and your cabin makes all the difference. Camp helped me to build proper rhythms in my life that allowed me to walk closely with Christ; it’s so nice being on a schedule that allows you to be productive, healthy and purposeful each new day.
When I said camp was life-changing for me, I truly mean it with all of my heart. If you don’t have plans made this summer, I encourage you to go to camp… you might just change the world—or should I say, you’re world might just be changed.