Lessons from a Camp Counselor

Good morning friends. I’m writing to you from the comfort of my parent’s air conditioned, well-stocked, comfortable kitchen. It’s a bit of a difference from what my life has looked like so far this summer to say the least. 8 weeks ago Tuesday, I started a job at a summer camp. I worked there last summer as well actually, but I embarked on a new position this summer of counselor.

 

A lot of people have asked me what camp was like. And that’s so hard to answer. It’s heckling people, cheering every five seconds, praising Jesus, running around, teaching canoe classes, and everything in-between.

I had five groups of thirteen and fourteen year olds and each brought new joys and challenges. Running around with kiddos all the time brings out so many things. I recognize so many sins and failures in my life and got to work through them with the Lord. They asked so many questions that I didn’t know how to answer and showed me new sides of Jesus. I got to watch many of them fall in love with Him. Camp is the one week a year they all get to take a break from the pressures and pulls of the world and just rest in Him. And that’s an incredible thing to be a part of.


Through the weeks the Lord taught me many things but I’d like to share a few with you guys.

 

  1. The gospel never gets old.

Working at camp is hard. Theoretically I knew this. What I wasn’t expecting was how easily seen my flaws would be. When I was impatient or struggling my campers saw it. When I just wanted to have a bad attitude they knew. Teaching classes and being around them so much meant that my mess-ups were public. They knew. They saw. And I didn’t like that very much.

 

I so want to pretend that I’m perfect. That because I love Jesus I never sin. I never make mistakes. I never fail. Ha. Each week I had to apologize to my campers for something. It was painful to admit my mistakes particularly to my kiddos. I so badly wanted to be the best counselor they ever had. To put myself into some kind of spotlight.

 

On one of the last days I was at camp I took a nap on my off period. I managed to turn off my alarm in my sleep and slept through my next class period. I woke up in a fog and proceeded to run around camp trying to apologize to those who covered for me and make it to the next class on time. This ended up with me crying in the middle of the street. One of my dear friends and mentors stopped me and reminded me of something very basic. The gospel is true in every moment. Even in oversleeping. Jesus still covered me. Jesus still loved me. The director’s understood the gospel and weren’t going to respond in anger.

That seems like such a small mistake (and it was) but for me to go to a person in authority and apologize seemed like the end of the world. How silly! I need to remind myself so often that Jesus is enough. His grace and mighty love covers me in every moment. If I’m preaching the gospel to my kiddos, then honestly, shouldn’t they see it applying to my life? We don’t graduate past the beauty of Jesus.

  1. Loving Jesus isn’t about rules.

Living at a summer camp definitely helps you realize the excess we live in. So many things were stripped away. It seems silly, but I felt like I woke up to a few things. Like, spending time with Jesus in the morning does not need to include a cup of coffee and a carefully selected spotify playlist. It doesn’t mean having the perfect devotional book with the well-known author either.

 

Sometimes it means sitting in awe as the clouds drifted over my teepee. Sometimes it means diving into an inductive study of Ephesians. Some mornings I just sat in Proverbs or Psalms. Some mornings I just prayed.

 

Spending time with the Lord doesn’t come with rules or time restrictions. I love waking up to the Lord but it even extends past the beginning of the day. I was reminded that prayer is a constant expression to God. Worshipping God is just an act of looking up and praising Him for what we see around us. It’s recognizing the every day mercies.

 

I had placed myself in a small box of God in the mornings, reading a Christian book or devotional, and church mostly. Loving Jesus is a lifestyle, an every moment love. Walk in that freedom! (it’s fun!)

 

  1. We don’t get to chose who we love.

Or chose who we show patience or kindness or mercy too. My parents told me at an early age to be kind to others. I understood that but I didn’t understand the heart behind it or the extent really. God created each of us. He loves each of us. We each have immeasurable value and are precious in the eyes of the Lord.

 

I realized that if I really believe that. If I truly believe that God loves us each immeasurably, then who am I to chose who I love? It’s so arrogant to think that we can hurt one of God’s creations and it not matter. Anytime I was short or impatient, that wasn’t just a sin against the Lord but a sin against His child. I think back to my day-to-day life at school as well. How often do I avoid people I don’t necessarily like? How often have I gossiped about someone? How often have my thoughts been rude towards someone?

 

I so want to say that I would never do those things. That I’m a nice person. That I love others. But I realized time and time again that I have so much to grow in. Knowing the heart behind why we are called to love everyone is just a piece of that.

 

  1. We can’t save other people.

This is so hard for me to accept. I so wanted to take each of my campers and keep them in the safety of camp. So many temptations and struggles are taken away because camp is such a safe environment. I wanted to say just the right things to heal their hearts, to take away the bullies, to end any sadness, to give them all the happiness in the world.

I wanted to fix life for them. But I can’t. Nothing I say or nothing you say can ever change anyone or bring them to Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can change lives and only God can heal. One of the coolest parts of this summer was watching a few of my campers accept Christ. They didn’t come to Christ because I led such amazing devotionals or showed them Christ. The director’s messages didn’t change their hearts. Ephesians 1:18 talks about how the Lord “opens the eyes” of our hearts. He grants understanding. He pursues. He softens the hardened hearts.


Oftentimes God uses us in that process, He uses our words and actions. But ultimately, God changes their hearts. Not me. Not you. I couldn’t change my campers hearts. But I did get to watch God move in many of their lives. (and that was pretty cool.)


Putting this experience into words is incredibly difficult. I’m still processing through so many things. However, I hope what I can explain, what I wrote above, encourages you today. God is so good to move in our lives and teach us new things. What is He teaching you right now through whatever circumstances you find yourself in? I’d love to hear from you!

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