Camp is chaos with a direction. Not everyone is geared to work at camp. Some folks need a job description, a number of hours they are expected to work, days off, and the promise of a set bedtime. And then there is camping ministry. One never knows what is going to happen next. All the small business owners out there are nodding their heads. They know exactly what it is like to have responsibility for everything that must be done, no matter the day or hour. For some people, this kind of adventure would drive them crazy. But for some, they simply haven’t tried it yet and don’t realize how amazing it is to watch God work His wonders in the midst of our fears and feelings of inadequacy.
Our summer intern posted a beautiful newsletter article that walked us through her first terrifying and amazing week as a camp counselor. I want to repost that here, because it was so real and honest and fabulous. But I also want to give you guys a sneak peak. I want to take you behind the scenes as Scruffy considered making that phone call that would push our dear Sparks way out of her comfort zone and into a leadership position.
Usually one is a C.I.T. her first year, a Junior counselor her second year, and finally in her third year she is considered for the senior counselor position. But things don’t always work out like this. Sometimes a teen is not ready to be a Senior Counselor when their third year of camp experience rolls around. Sometimes we have too many qualified counselors and an individual must be a Jr. Counselor for another year. Sometimes there are simply not enough applicants and we must choose someone to step up. Once in awhile, we will even ask one of the permanent staff members to counsel. Scruffy, Choco, and I have all taken a cabin for a week when needed.
So, it was the night before camp and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…except for Scruffy who was doing cabin assignments. The number of campers did not match up with the number of counselor applicants. When we are in a pinch with the girl counselors, I usually offer to counsel. This time Scruff was not concerned. “You don’t need to, I have someone in mind.”
When we are short on staff, God always provides someone. Sometimes it is a counselor from years before who is suddenly able to return and help out. Sometimes it is myself or one of the permanent staff members. Sometimes it is a new counselor who is ready to be pushed out of their comfort zone and into a position of authority. Sparks was 17 or 18 years old, demonstrated a solid understanding of the Bible and the Gospel at Staff Training, had a summer of experience at a different camp, and she was from the church of Scruffy’s good friend who highly recommended her. So Scruff didn’t even consider pulling me away from my parenting duties, Sparks was just right for the job.
Easy for us to see her potential, hard for her to feel prepared. It can be so difficult to move forward completely relying on God, but this is exactly where we want our staff to be. This is where God does His very best work.
And so without further ado, here is Sparks’ beautiful testimony.
“Recently I’ve been getting caught up in qualifications. Kind of a weird thing, I know. I’ve been looking for a job, reading about how to get the job I want, and how I need to acquire all these qualifications and skills before I can get the job I want. Honestly, it’s overwhelming. I keep thinking I’m so behind and feeling like I’m pushing against this constant wall of “experience.”
I’ve always thought that God’s way is backwards and upside down. He calls the unqualified, the inexperienced, and the weak. I struggle accepting that any of those characteristics could be used to describe me. I struggle accepting them because I don’t want to believe that’s what I am. But like the Bible says, “In my weakness He is stronger.” This brings me to the story of my first week as an unqualified, inexperienced, and weak counselor at Camas Meadows Bible Camp.
It was the night before my first week, first year, first everything, when I got a message from Scruffy saying they were short on girl staff and I was going to be a senior counselor that week. That first week. Of the first year. Of the first EVERYTHING. I had no dang clue what I was going to do.
That week my co-counselor and I had 8 campers. Neither of us had ever been campers up there so we were total newbs. But despite our under qualified-ness, we lead cabin discussions, created amazing sandcastles and skits, and loved those girls with all our hearts. We honestly didn’t know what else to do! During that week we didn’t know what Whatchamabob was, Morning Jam, or “The Pillow Fight”. Because we were such newbs, we didn’t know the exhaustion that comes with camp, so we would completely expended all our energy every day, all day. We were beyond weak at the end.
Three of our girls met Jesus for the first time that week. I still think of their little voices talking to God for the first time and it brings tears to my eyes. I wish I could live in that week always. I wish I could be that weak always. Because we were just winging it, we weren’t relying on God “consciously.” If that makes any sense. We knew we loved Jesus and we knew we wanted these girls to love Jesus too. Each day we didn’t pray “God give us guidance and wisdom as we lead these girls.” We prayed, “Lord, please let us make it to all the activities today and have fun.” In a way we knew God would take care of us. And he did. We didn’t ask everyday to be made humble, we were thrust into humbleness and it was good.
I was inexperienced, under qualified, and weak yet God used me. Yet now I feel like I have to be all these things before God can use me, but that’s not true! God will use me wherever he wants, whenever he wants. I just need to admit I’m nothing without him and that it is only through the love of Jesus Christ that I can accomplish anything. I am nothing without God. He is the ultimate qualification, experience, and strength.”