My camp journey began eleven years ago, the last year LCG held its Teen Camp in Michigan. As a 14-year-old, camp was not a part of my life plan, to say the least. I really, really did not want to go. Nevertheless, my parents threw me into my minister’s minivan, and I was off to camp. Now, looking back, I am glad they did. Camp changed my life forever. I ended up loving camp. I learned how important an experience like camp was for me as a young person in God’s Church. So, I kept going. Every year.
Once I was old enough, I decided that I wanted to return to camp as a staff member, and my first job was serving on the media staff. I became a counselor the following year, and that has been my job at camp every summer since. I do not yet know what it is like to have children, but after seven summers of volunteering to serve in loco parentis for 15 to 20 teenagers, ages 13 to 18, I think I have been given a small taste—and for some reason I keep doing it!
It Happens Every Year
Each year, on the way to camp, you are brimming with excitement. Anyone who has been to camp in any capacity knows what this is like. You are driving or flying to wherever the camp is located that year, and you begin to think, “What am I doing? Why am I coming back?” That first night, as your head hits the pillow, you think: “Again? I must be crazy.”
But you’re not. You begin to remember exactly why you are there. You remember what it was like to be a teenager and what camp meant to you. Camp was the only time of year when you could get together with the single largest assembly of Church of God teenagers in the world—a huge group of people your own age who were going through the same life experiences you were. This was your opportunity to sing with them, to play with them, and to learn with them. This was where you saw just how much the Church cares for you as a young person. With every powerful message delivered during Christian Living class, with every truthful word spoken in love, and with every calming, compassionate Evening Reflection, you knew. Once camp got underway and you were reminded of those things, you remembered: This is why you came back. This is why so many people come back—to serve and to help a new generation experience what you experienced.
The Counselor Life
Upon arriving, you meet the other counselors and you discuss with your co-counselor your plans for the two weeks of camp. A special bond develops between counselors. It reminds me of the song on page 115 of our hymnal, “Blest Be the Tie.” We share our mutual woes, our struggles, and our triumphs—and believe me, there are many struggles and woes to share. Most of the time, however, there are far more triumphs than woes.
A large part of the well-being, enjoyment, and edification of these teens rests on your shoulders when you are a counselor. You are with your campers 24/7 for two whole weeks. This is no small task. It is important, and you know it. Keeping the big picture in mind and asking God to help you to do your best is crucial during camp.
Each day begins the same way. My wake-up time is usually 6:30 a.m., which can be a struggle for some—including me. Once the campers are all awake, they get ready for the day, doing dorm chores—such as cleaning the dorm bathroom, sweeping, mopping, and taking out the garbage—and then making sure they are wearing the shirt of the color designated for that day. Then we are off to breakfast and the day’s activities.
For most staff members, since they are not campers, participating in activities is a thing of the past. But being a counselor is a different story—much like being a camper all over again, just with authority and a lot more responsibility. As counselors, we participate in the activities alongside our campers, and it is a real privilege. Being right there beside them as they play their hardest at football or volleyball, or being the obnoxious musician who tries to get them to sing out in music class, develops a real bond between the counselors and the campers under our care. It’s neat to see what makes them excited, what makes them angry, and what makes them sad—there aren’t many places where one can have these experiences, which makes me thankful for camp. With athletics, arts, crafts, music, speech, and more, campers enjoy a wide variety of opportunities and experiences.
As a teenager, my counselors were a huge part of making my camp experience amazing. Counselors can make or break camp for any camper, so taking on this role is a great responsibility. So, again, why do I do it year after year? I do it because I love God’s way of life and because I love working with His youth. I do it because I remember what a wonderful experience camp was for me as a teen, and I want to have a hand in creating that experience for others. I do it because there are innumerable lessons to be learned by both my campers and me. I do it because I love camp and always will.