It was Spring Break, 1995, and I was finally old enough to go the Leadership Training up at camp. I was going to work on staff at Kawkawa that summer, and I could hardly wait.
Leadership itself was a great week - seminars, training, lots of work, and so much information I thought my head was going to pop. Bertski, Professor, and Prem (the director at the time) poured their hearts into us that week. It was intense and loads of fun.
Summer finally arrived, and I had been given three weeks to work - the first two weeks of July and the very last week of August. I was a junior counsellor for one week and taught some activities and helped run a Bible study the next. I was so sad to leave at the end of my first two weeks. At the end of the summer, I came back as a camper for my last year then stayed the weekend before the last week of camp. It was then that Prem asked me if I would like my own cabin for the last week. I was beyond thrilled that he thought I was ready for the challenge of going it alone.
And so I got my very first group of girls: Ellen, Ashleigh, and Kandace. It didn't matter to me that it was only three girls, I was going to be the best counsellor there ever was! It was such a great week, and solidified my desire to work at camp for many more years to come.
And many more years there were. I continued to work at camp for another seven years after that, anywhere from one to nine weeks each summer. If I thought I had grown as a camper, my years there on staff would blow me away.
It was on staff at Kawkawa that I had the honour of praying with someone as they decided to become a Christian for the first time. It was on the back steps of Chalet 401. I will never forget how I felt God niggling at me all day to ask this girl if she wanted to become a Christian. About how scared I was to actually bring it up, and about how eagerly she said yes. I was so excited that I thought I was going to pop. I ran back down to the campfire where the non-counselling staff were still praying and told Bertski about it because I just couldn't contain my joy. She gave me a hug and then told me to go get back to my cabin of girls. Oh yeah! Whoops! (Good thing I was a junior counsellor and there was still someone with them!)
It was on staff where I first saw how much the Bible is a living book. It was the hardest week of camp I had ever experienced. I had a really challenging group of girls, and I was having some conflicts with some other staff, too. I was at the end of my rope. About halfway through the week (um, DUH! Why did it take me so long???), I opened my Bible randomly and had never had something jump out at me in such a vivid, life-giving way. It spoke directly to what I was dealing with and was exactly what I needed to hear. It went so far beyond coincidence. The passage I read encouraged me, chastised me, and gave me comfort and hope. I came to see that God was (and is!) in that book, alive and well, and oh so relevant.
It was on staff that I saw God work in SO many different ways. Big, small, ordinary and extraordinary. It was amazing to get to see him work through me, in me, and often despite me, and in and through so many other people, too. Camp is not the only place I've experienced this, but the thing about camp is that all the rest of life's pressures and messiness just isn't there, so it's much easier to see things more clearly. And seeing God work and answer prayer at camp was training for seeing Him work in the 'real world,' where sometimes it's not so recognizable amidst the stress and business of regular life.
It was on staff that I had one of my most humbling moments - where God began teaching me to back off on my own plan, cause his is so much better. (Oh how I wish it only took that once to learn that lesson! It's gonna be a lifetime before I get that one down!) It was a particularly hot week, and I had wanted to surprise my girls by sleeping down on the dock. I had gotten permission, and waited till they were all ready for bed before I surprised them. They were so excited to get to sleep outside, and I'm sure one of the reasons was that it was about a kajilion degrees in our cabin. We bundled up our sleeping bags and pillows and made our trek down the giant hill to the beach, only to find that some of the junior counsellors were swimming and the dock was soaking wet.
It was definitely not one of my proudest moments when I told off the junior staff leader and made it perfectly clear how annoyed I was that now we couldn't sleep on the dock. I was disappointed for my girls, too, who were really looking forward to this. So, up we trekked back to our cabin - waaay up the hill - and had to go back into our sweltering cabin to sleep after being out in the cool breezy summer air down at the beach. *grumble grumble grumble* At staff meeting the next morning, I made sure that EVERYBODY knew that I'd like my girls to sleep on the dock, so puh-leeeease don't go swimming after campfire.
Take two. It wasn't a surprise, but the girls were still looking forward to sleeping out. After we all got settled on the dock, we began looking up at the stars. "Hey! There's a shooting star!" "And another one!" "Look! I just saw one, too!" It turns out that that night, and not the night before, was the night of the huge August meteor shower. We lay awake for hours watching falling stars and talking about God's creation, reading Psalms and praising God for his creativity and beauty. Ok, God, I get it. You've got a better plan! :P
And it was on staff that I made one of the biggest discoveries about myself I've made so far. For a year or so, I had been plagued with the question of "What's my passion?" I saw people with a passion for scuba diving, or a passion for missions, or a passion for sports and on and on... But what was mine? Sure, I liked a lot of different things, but I couldn't call any of them "my passion." I guess in some ways it was a quest for purpose: what is my purpose, my calling - where that place where my great love and the world's great need intersected?
Well, it was the last night of the second to last week of camp in 2001. I had had the most incredible week - I had the best cabin I've ever had, and witnessed some extremely meaningful changes in the lives of every single girl in my cabin. It was a particularly impacting week for many, many campers, not to mention staff. We were at campfire on the last night, and I found myself looking around. The kids - many who had never once set foot in a church in their lives - were singing with all their hearts, arms raised to heaven, knowing what it felt like to experience the love of God. They were deciding to trust him, choosing to accept the gift he offers.
It was at that moment that I knew. What's my passion? It's here. It's this. It's helping kids come to a greater understanding of who God is and what he's done for them. It's seeing lives changed. I've struggled since then to understand how that translates to the 'real world,' as sadly, camp is not a year round event. But it's trying to see how that works into my daily life - in whatever role I'm in - that will be the lifelong lesson. It was on staff at Kawkawa where I realized that nothing gets to my heart quicker than a child in love with God. And to have God allow me to help that happen? That's my passion.