I came to camp the day after I graduated from High School as a JET (Jr. Counselor). I remember earlier in my Senior year of High School I was trying to figure out what I wanted to study in college and where I wanted to go. I had two strong desires. One was to be a Marine Mammal Biologist. I seriously wanted to go to school on the beach somewhere and study marine mammals, like manatees, dolphins, whales, etc. As I was looking at schools, I realized that’s not the direction the Lord wanted me to go. My other desire was to work in camping ministry. I loved volunteering with my youth group and I loved the mountains and the outdoors. I had one problem though. I had never worked at a summer camp. So I started googling my options. I knew I wanted to be close to Greenville, SC, my home. Asheville seemed like the best location. I applied to The Cove Camp because of a connection there but they had already filled their positions. Then I found Camp Crestridge. I eventually was hired and made the trek up to camp after graduation.
What some of you don’t know is that this was COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone. I had never left home and gone to a place where I knew almost no one. I had never spent that much time away from home in a place I had never been to. I was very nervous. I was shy, I had a hard time putting myself out there and meeting new people. But thankfully the camp staff saw beyond that and gave me a chance. Something else you probably don’t know about me is that as I was growing up, if I left my parents for more than a couple days, I would literally make myself sick because I missed them. I wanted to be in the safety of my own home. So going to camp my first summer was a HUGE step for me. It was the best thing to prepare me for college and the rest of my life. The Lord knew what He was doing!
That was a life-changing summer. I worked with the Choctaw campers. We had some fun times in Choctaw 4, lots of laughter, times to talk about Jesus, dance parties, etc. I also worked with an amazing group of staff. We supported and loved each other and wanted to lead our campers well. Thankfully, the Lord allowed me to be fully present and not focus on missing home!
I’ve always thought, “What would I have been like as a camper? Would I have been able to handle it? Would I have enjoyed it?” I do think I would have struggled with missing home. I think I would have been visiting the Infirmary quite a bit saying I didn’t feel well and needed to go home. I would have tried to say I came down with a stomach bug. But I would have loved all the activities. I would have loved making new friends from places I had never been before. I would have loved having counselors who wanted to spend time with me and loved me.
Campers are brave! It takes a lot of courage to come to camp. But those who make that decision probably don’t realize the incredible impact it will have on their future. They may not see how it’s instilling confidence and independence. They may not see how it’s allowing them to try new things, to see if they like a hobby that could turn into a future career. They may not see how much growth comes from pushing themselves to complete a challenge. It would have been very hard for me to stay at camp, away from my family, but I wonder how it would have shaped me. Thankfully the Lord used other experiences to grow me into the woman I am today. He used and is using my time on staff to continue to draw me closer to Him and impact lives for His glory. I’m thankful that God has placed me at such a special place called Camp Crestridge!