This year I was able to be a counselor a camper named Naomi who was my very first camper. I really enjoyed that we were able to reunite. Last year she had made quite the impact on me.
It was my first week of camp and even though training week was very informative, I was a little nervous because I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I certainly did not foresee that I was going to have a great encounter and life lesson delivered to me by such a sweet lady. Naomi and I hit it off right away and enjoyed talking about the bible, participating in activities, and simply put, being in each other’s company. One day, we were discussing the bible and I asked her what her favorite bible story. I assumed she would reply with a typical story like Daniel and the Lion’s Den or Jonah and the Whale, but Naomi is not a typical lady. To my amazement, she told me her favorite bible story was the Great Commission. That really humbled me. The Lord uses the Special Needs Community in incredible ways and they have such an important and valuable place in the body of Christ. I am reminded of 1st Corinthians 1:27 which says, “God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.” I had come to Christian Berets excited to serve the Lord and teach my campers about Jesus, yet they taught me so much about humility, love, and friendship. We continued to grow in our friendship this year as we shared precious memories like spending the day at Pinecrest Lake and watching the roaring, powerful water at Lyon’s Dam, but I’ll never forget that one conversation we had last summer.
When I first met Justice, I introduced myself and she gave me a small, shy smile hidden under her long brown hair and glasses. Her family had drove her up to camp wanting to check out the facility and meet everyone that was going to be spending the week with their precious daughter. Her mom seemed both nervous and excited; her dad like he was going to cry because his little girl, who was now almost seventeen, was growing up. Her mom double checked that I had Justice’s paperwork and was aware of all her needs before taking a few pictures and giving those last few goodbye embraces. This a week was going to a big step, a rite of passage, because it was Justice’s first time being away from her loving and protective parents. That first day, she was very quiet and loyally stuck by my side, but as the course of camp carried on, she began to be more talkative and warm up to others.
Slowly, I began to see her branch out. First she began to open up to the other girls in our cabin. In our room devotions she only asked a few questions at first, but by the end of the week we had so many great conversations about the trinity, heaven, Jesus’ virgin birth, and prophecies. Then Justice made friends with a few counselors, and after that she started playing games with some of the campers, and by the end of the week she was engaging with everyone at camp. She even hit it off with a visiting camper from Jenness Park, who was a complete stranger.
At Campfire on Thursday night, the shy, quiet girl I met on Monday, bravely faced the small crowd at the amphitheater and spoke of all the fun she had that week, the activities she tried, and the friends she had made. That night she asked if she could sit with another counselor but not without reassuring me that I was still her best friend. My feelings weren’t hurt at all, as I happily obliged. On Friday afternoon as we said our goodbyes, she gave me a big hug and promised to keep in touch. With a big grin on her face, shutting her car door, she yelled, “See you next year!”
It’s incredible what can happen within the short span of five days. This reserved girl who had never been away from home for more a day or two had completely transformed into a social butterfly. Camp
is such a great opportunity for campers to grow in so many ways. I know that because of her experience at camp, Justice will be more confident in meeting people and making friendships as well as being willing to try new things. These social and intrapersonal skills she gained will continue to benefit her beyond the realm of camp. There is such a special relationship that develops between counselor and camper and I’m thankful that the Lord perfectly ordained that I could have that relationship with Justice and I am truly looking forward to seeing her next year.
Stories from Camp
During the second week of camp, I had a camper who enjoyed waking up early and did not desire to linger in bed. On the first morning, she woke up especially early and ready to begin the activities of the day. We went out into the main area together so as not to wake the others in our room. While out in the main room, a male camper came and joined us. He looked hardly awake and rather unsure of himself. He was walking around the room and then walked to the door and headed outside. I was the only counselor out in the main room with the campers and felt responsible. I headed outside after him as I thought he was going to keep going. I stopped him and tried to get him to come back inside, but he did not want to. We sat down on a bench together as I was trying to figure out what was going on. I asked him what was wrong as he was clearly upset and he told me that he missed his mom. I sat there with my heart breaking for him and tried my best to comfort him and assure him that he would have a great week. I had my arm around his shoulders and he leaned his head on my shoulder in a sign of trust. I got him to come back inside with me and sent him to find his counselor. For the rest of the week, he called me “mom” and often found me during the day for a hug.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to share the Gospel with a camper in my room, Pam. She was a Jewish woman full of life and laughter though she was confined to a wheel chair and had daily seizures. Every evening after her seizure, she would become frustrated with herself thinking that if she was doing something differently, she would not be having the seizures. I was able to comfort her throughout the week during these episodes and began to build a friendship with her. Every morning there was time set aside for room devotions, though we counselors were not always sure what to do with that time. On one of the last mornings of camp, we decided that we needed to share the Gospel with each of our campers so that our time together was not wasted. We began to ask Pam questions about God, Jesus, and what she believed. She told us that she was Jewish and therefore believed in God but did not believe that Jesus was His son. I then led her through John 3:16 and what it meant. I explained that: (Good News) God created us all to have a relationship with Him but (Bad News) we are all perishing because of the presence of sin, (Good News) He sent His son to die on the cross for our sin so that we would not have to be separated from Him, (You Choose) salvation is a choice for each one of us. After sharing this I did not push her to make any decision but hoped that this had started her thinking. That night, we had a Gospel presentation and an opportunity for anyone to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Pam chose to go up. I was so excited for her and glad to have had a small part in her finding Jesus.