This past summer, I had the incredible experience of working as an outpost counselor at Camp Glisson. Going into camp, the only expectation I had was for God to do some pretty amazing things. It is safe to say that my expectation was beyond met because God is just that good! This summer’s theme was transformation and I have definitely seen God transform many lives in small and big ways. My life has been forever changed by this place, these people, but most of all, by Jesus! I decided to dig into the ways that God has transformed my life through the things He has taught me. So, in no particular order, here they are!
Going into the summer, I considered myself to be a patient person but that view quickly changed. Week one of camp taught me that difficult campers really are the best campers because they teach you so much. Constantly having to repeat that, “It’s gonna be okay if it rains,” and, “It’s not the end of the world if your shoes get wet,” can be frustrating. Having a camper cry over the smallest of things every day isn’t the most ideal camp experience, but it teaches you patience. Now, I can confidently say that although it may take 45 minutes for six girls to change clothes and brush their teeth, that’s okay, because I could stand there waiting all morning!
Grace is something that is so freely given to us and Jesus calls us to freely give His grace to others. Extending grace to others can be challenging, but being a counselor truly taught me how to fully extend grace to others. I have grown to believe that it’s easy to show grace when a mistake is made once; but when it continues to happen over and over again, that’s when you really learn to show Jesus’ grace. This can happen with others or within yourself. I have always been very hard on myself and struggled to extend myself grace until I came to the realization that Jesus desires that I love myself the same way He loves me.
As we were hiking down Yonah, I had a camper who decided it would be a good idea to drag the trash bag down the mountain. A few moments later, it had inevitably ripped open, leaving trash everywhere. As I proceeded to pick up what I could, my camper scooped up the trash bag and took off running down the mountain. I could feel the frustrating growing inside of me, but took a deep breath as I felt Jesus whisper the word grace over me. Little did I know was that minutes later, my camper comes running back up the trail to not only pick up the trash, but help me carry my bags. My heart melted in that moment as I felt God’s presence and knew this had all happened to help me learn what grace looks like in action. It is grace that gives us the freedom to live a full life and by extending the grace Jesus has given us, we can better love ourselves and others.
Being an outpost counselor taught me many skills like knots and building fires and even cooking because about the only thing I knew how to make before this summer was a quesadilla and eggs. It was nerve racking at first knowing that I had to teach campers how to cook meals that I wasn’t even confident in making. But somehow I learned and successfully taught them to cook at the same time (except week three when I destroyed Mac n’ cheese, but that was a hilarious learning experience). Aside from these basic skills, along the way I learned how to be more resourceful. Sometimes you’re on Yonah without the right water filter bag, so you have to boil water to drink. I encountered many moments of panic when realizing a certain resource was lacking. However, I learned that it’s important to just stay calm and let your creative side come out because Jesus provides us with all the resources we need to survive. All we have to do is discover them and then freely use them.
Courage and Bravery
My biggest concern going into this summer at camp was spiders. No joke, I really did not know how I would live outside for three months knowing I would encounter a multitude of spiders, which have always been my biggest fear. By the second week of staff training, I was already traveling full speed ahead down the road to fearlessness! For instance, during the kayaking trip on staff training, I encountered tons of spiders, but then Jesus spoke right into my fear through a devotional. This devotional was on Psalm 139. As I listened to it, I realized that God created everyone and everything unique and beautiful in its own way. So if God loves all of His creations and we are striving to love like Jesus does, then we too should love all of His creations. With this, I decided to stop viewing spiders as scary and rather view them as one of God’s beautiful creations. Once taking on this new mindset, I would verbally express my appreciation towards spiders when I encountered them. Many of my campers thought it was so weird that I approached spiders so calmly and lovingly, but it was honestly the only way for me to not totally freak out! There were many times when I had to get spiders out our sleeping shelter or realized a spider was chilling right by my head as I tried to fall asleep. In moments like these when I still felt fear, I simply relied on Jesus to fill me with courage. Courage is a neat thing because it allows us to face fears even in the midst of still being scared.
Another fear I had going into the summer was white water. I had a bad experience whitewater rafting and told myself I’d never get near rapids again because it terrified me. Sure enough, on the kayaking trip during staff training we did whitewater kayaking. I remember sitting on the bus on the way to the Etowah feeling nauseous and crippled with fear. Once on the river, I was hesitant to go down the first rapid, but once I did I realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. My fear increased as we approached the lower part of Etowah falls, but after some encouragement and a quick prayer from some sweet friends, I decided to take on the rapid. After I made it down this rapid without flipping, I felt unstoppable because I had finally conquered my fear of whitewater. For the remainder of my kayaking trips throughout the summer, I approached every rapid with bravery and a huge smile.
Fully trusting that Jesus will protect you and fill you with courage is the best way to face your fears head on and when you do, He can use those moments to grow your character in ways like never before!
After this summer, rejoice is my new favorite word because it encompasses positivity in a whole new light. I’m a firm believer in having a positive attitude because sometimes that may be the only thing we can do. I always define this word as finding the joy in everything, no matter how horrible the situation. As the famous camp saying goes, “Embrace the suck!” Sometimes it rains the entire week, but hey, rain camp is fun. During week two on my kayaking trip, I got my kayak stuck in a strainer at the bottom of the river for twenty minutes. That moment really made me stop and just laugh at the fact that I successfully turned a kayak into a submarine, rather than being upset about our lunch being temporarily sunken and delaying our time. Having a positive attitude has never really been something I’ve struggled with, but there is always room for improvement in things we may already be good at! There are endless stories I could tell about having to rejoice this summer, which just goes to show that God wants us to grow in areas that we may believe we are already doing great.
Sacrificial love is something that has always challenged me because, as a human, I can be very selfish. It’s difficult for me to sacrifice something, whether it be tangible or not, that is mine. Especially when it’s something I intend to use for a good purpose, such as your sleeping bag or jacket or even food. As counselors, we are taught to exemplify sacrificial love. I really enjoy sleeping with stuffed animals because it brings me a certain sense of comfort. There was one particular week when I had a homesick camper, so I offered her my penguin stuffed animal to sleep with along with another camper using my sleeping pad. Let me just say that at first I was very sad on the inside, but soon realized that by doing so, I learned that that’s how Jesus calls us to love one another because the biggest act of love is sacrifice.
Every year I pick one word to focus on and in 2018, I chose humility. I have always thought of humility as putting others before yourself, but I’ve learned that it’s so much more than that. I have been praying over this word since the beginning of 2018, and during my ten day trip, God answered so many little prayers. With my expedition campers, I was quickly taught that humility can be exemplified through viewing myself as equal, or even lesser, to others. This could be having lesser or equal qualities, but most importantly realizing that we are all uniquely made in His image. I am not more loved or more worthy or more wise than anyone else. Spending ten days with high schoolers who are on fire for Jesus allowed me to realize what it looks like to truly humble myself! Although I may be older and more experienced, I am no greater than they are and in fact can learn so much from them. There’s just something special about being in a place where your pure intention is to pour yourself out, but then God puts people into your life to pour right back into you!
The first thing I think about when hearing this word is how when we are weak that is when Jesus can make us strong. I can be very stubborn and will take everything into my own hands, thinking I am perfectly capable of doing it all on my own and sometimes that’s true. Being vulnerable means asking for help when you need it instead of being stubborn and trying to do it all on your own.
Vulnerability is also being completely authentic and open with others, which can be scary. But Jesus loves to reward us, and He will reward our vulnerability through beautiful things, such as new friendships, acceptance, and unconditional love.
How to have healthy conflict/confrontation
I have now adopted the term “storming” to refer to disagreements. Although storming is a term specifically referring to a phase of team building, I find joy in saying “we’re storming” rather than “we’re in a fight”. I think one of the worse things about being in a disagreement with someone is the discomfort the situation brings. Whether there’s silence, tears, or frustration, conflict is uncomfortable. But conflict is also necessary. It’s necessary to building and maintaining healthy relationships and teams.
I would rather let it all go, pretend I’m not bothered by anything, and continue in peace with others. The thing about avoiding confrontation, though, is that it’s a direct route to missing out on an opportunity of growth and unity. I’m thankful that camp taught me how to sit in silence, in discomfort, and experience painful emotions with others and lean on Jesus through it all.
There’s a difference between being a great leader and being a servant leader. I’ve learned that servant leaders are great leaders, but not all great leaders are servant leaders. Servant leaders are those that lead others towards Jesus and lead others like Jesus would have. I had the pleasure of working alongside many servant leaders.
Servant leaders embody humility, grace, sacrificial love, etc. As leaders, we should all strive to serve others above ourselves. This is one of the many ways to live more like Jesus.
This is one of the four core values of camp. When campers come to Glisson, by the end of the week they’re always saying that they feel at home and never want to leave. Home is a place where we can fully be and express ourselves, a place where we are fully accepted.
Radically accepting others is both an internal and external job. It’s easy to externally accept someone as part of the group, but still judge them within your heart. When I think about radical acceptance, I think about fully, internally accepting others no matter how different they are from you.
Making the decision to step out of my comfort zone and spend a summer living outside, working with others I had never met before, was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I will always carry the memories and lessons from last summer with me and praise Jesus for transformation.