At the beginning of this past summer, I packed a big suitcase, took a deep breath, said a prayer, and drove from my home in Virginia all the way to Nashville, Tennessee to begin an absolutely life-changing summer!
Looking back, I can confidently say that was one of the most rewarding, difficult, and yet exciting summers of my life. I was a camp counselor with CentriKid Camps, a nation-wide church camp for 3rd-6th grade kids. There are 8 teams of staffers who are trained and sent out across the country to put on camp at various college campuses and retreat centers for thousands of kids.
My team had an absolute blast this summer road tripping across the Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, and Louisiana doing camp at four different locations! We were intensely trained for a week in Nashville, then dispersed with our various teams across the country in big white vans. The summer’s theme revolved around retro video games and was called Reset: God Redeems. It featured bible studies focused on stories that showcased characters who needed a reset in their lives, and ultimately pointed to how God redeems us from our sin.
A typical day of camp for me looked like this:
7:15am—Breakfast with campers
7:40—Staff quiet time in the auditorium, and then a staff meeting at 8:00
8:30—I Can’t Wait, a high-energy celebration to get campers excited about the day
11:00—Lunch with campers. I would eat quickly, and then also set up my upcoming tracks.
1:30—Track Time A. These are times where the campers get to pick an activity they enjoy doing or want to learn more about. There’s various sports and fun hobbies. I taught the tracks Art Studio (fun arts and crafts) and Kitchen Chaos (making and eating food—yum!).
5:30—Dinner with campers
8:00—Church Group Time. The kids separated into their own churches, which led discussions reviewing that day’s bible study.
10:00—Campers go to bed (yay!)
We usually went to bed around midnight, if we were lucky. Many times there were evening responsibilities. For instance, during the weeks in which I taught the track Art Studio, I had to cut out templates on construction paper for the next day on Tuesday night which had me and my co-teacher staying up until 1 or 2am. It was really hard at first to get used to such little sleep combined with such a demanding schedule, but we did learn to adapt.
The whole summer, I taught bible study classes of 6th-graders, my favorite age to teach. It was so great to be able to go deep with the kids and get them really thinking about their faith. Many times their mouths would actually drop open as their minds were blown with the enormity of the gospel or as they considered aspects of a story they had never realized before. CentriKid’s goal is that not a single kid would leave camp without having a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ, and I adopted that as my personal goal as well while teaching Bible Study. I felt like God really worked through me to reach the campers. Sometimes I would open my mouth and teach things that I never thought of before—stuff I didn’t know beforehand. That was absolutely amazing to know that God was literally speaking through me! During Hang Time and at Church Group Time every day, I tried to really invest in the sixth graders to bring them closer to God and one another.
Looking back, the best thing about this summer was making such a difference in the lives of so many kids. And I believe with my whole heart that it was totally, completely, God working through me! There were days where I didn’t have any energy left to give and my voice was so scratchy from all the cheers and singing so that it hurt to talk. But God supernaturally supplied me with energy to make it though and a remnant of a voice so I could teach campers about Him.
Now this summer was certainly not without other challenges! Even though our schedule was fun, it was so exhausting, and following it for 9 whole weeks was draining physically, mentally, and emotionally. Often I also had a rough time on the weekends in between camps, because since I had poured out so much of myself to the campers during the week I had almost no energy left to invest in friendships with the other staffers. Also, since my team traveled so often, we had to pack up the entire camp and set it up more than almost every other CentriKid team. But overall, it was so rewarding to give absolutely everything and know by the time I reached the 10:10 staff meeting every night that I had nothing left to give.
At the beginning of the summer, during training week, all the staffers had written down our fears about the summer on a sheet of paper. I stuck it in my Bible so I could review it from time to time and take note of how I was doing. By the end of the summer, every single one of those fears had disappeared. I truly grew outside my comfort zone this past few months and have grown so much closer to God! CentriKid 2015, here we come!!
P.S. As an added bonus, I could maybe add these things to my resume…
- Can relate absolutely anything to Jesus and the gospel (Like, anything. From a backpack to a burrito.)
- Can deal with tarantulas (They were rampant in Texas!)
- Can create cheers for anything, about anything
- Can survive a cafeteria with crazy campers dumping salt and pepper in my hair every lunch for a week
- Can walk 10 gajillion miles every day
- Can write really really really long narratives about camp
So, in short, if you’re still reading this you should work for CentriKid! As in, go apply for camp right now! 🙂
“Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for there is faithful love with the Lord, and with Him is redemption in abundance.” -Psalm 130:7 <<<<<our summer theme verse