I got to spend the first part of this week on holy ground at the Christian Conference Center. It is always refreshing to be there. The space itself sings the presence of God. Maybe it is the echo of the souls of the thousands of children, youth, and adults who have gone to camp, sang, read scripture, prayed, experienced welcome, shared their stories, or sat and simply listened for God’s presence. Maybe it is the echo of my own soul reverberating with my past camp experiences: friends made, love shared, and first hearing the pull of God on my life to be a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe it is just the decreased volume of the noise of the world. Or maybe all of those things together cause the place to sing God’s presence.
Camp changes people. Sometimes it is the first place that a young person feels welcome in a way they don’t at school or even at home. Sometimes it is a place where a child first encounters God. Sometimes it is a place where an experience of redemption and reconciliation occurs. Sometimes it is a place where a person realizes that they are made in the image of God and that they are holy and beloved. Sometimes it is a place where the world stills enough for someone to have clarity about their life and place in the world.
Each year Ankeny Christian Church sends children, youth, and adults to camp out at the Conference Center. Each year they know they are loved and beautiful and holy!
The thing is camp doesn’t happen without volunteers. There are many adults who volunteer to share their time, along with the staff, with the young people who attend camp. These people fill different kinds of roles: counselors, directors, nurses, chaplains, and general workers.
While all those roles are important and keep the camp operating, probably the role with the most direct impact on the lives of the campers is the camp counselor. They get up with the campers, eat with them, lead them in groups, pray with them, plan with them, play with them, and share their stories and faith with them. It is sometimes very hard work. It is also some of the most rewarding work.
I remember a number of camp counselors from my days as a camper who remain some of the most important and influential people in my life. They are my mentors in faith. I know, also, the experience of being a counselor and have found it to be engaging, challenging, hopeful, and life-giving – almost always in ways I haven’t expected.
We send lots of people to camp each year, a handful are counselors. Directors, like me, are almost always in need of good counselors; good folk who want to make an impact in the world. Pray about and ponder being a counselor this summer at camp! I can’t promise that it won’t be hard, but I can promise that it will be good, and I feel I can promise that you will make a difference in someone’s life!