By the end of this summer I had a sense of peace and calmness and this is why…
A guest post by: Allison
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,” ~ Ephesians 6:7 NIV
“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” ~ 1 Timothy 4:12 NLT
I was given the wonderful opportunity of being a chalet leader at Ontario Pioneer Camp up in the beautiful Muskoka area. It was truly some of the greatest two weeks of my life.
The section of camp I was a part of was a small crew, Teens & Leadership Camp called 252, dedicated to serving the other sites by doing dishes after meals and housekeeping. The campers earned volunteer hours for their work and the fees were reduced. Despite the few hours of work, campers still had the opportunities for fun camp activities. I feel as though I was placed specifically here, whereas I could’ve simply gone to the girl’s camp. In this site, I was able to work specifically with high school aged kids, of both genders, and I believe it was much more rewarding. As someone who is a bit older than the campers, I have a few more years of life experience, however just finishing high school myself I could easily relate to them.
The campers I had those two weeks were such a blessing. I was lucky to spend time around them, and felt honoured to be able to pour into their lives. I realized near the end what an impact my words and actions had on these campers, thankfully a positive impact. I knew going in to camp I had to be very careful with how I behaved and what I said, as the campers would look to me as an example. I’m certain I fumbled up countless times, however the two weeks truly helped me realize how often I don’t think before I speak or do something, since I had to consciously review every choice I made. It was a learning experience for me, and I think going into the future it will help me be more careful and thoughtful with my actions.
One thing I noticed specifically was my attitude. Some of the campers were extremely pessimistic and self depreciating, a trend I find myself falling into all too often. However, because I was in the position of leader, I knew I had to be a role model with my attitude. I was purposely and deliberately optimistic, positive, and uplifting with (nearly) every word and action, in hopes to encourage the campers to do the same. Had I not been a leader I’m sure I would’ve been right next to them joking about how much I hated myself and saw no hope for the future, but now I don’t think I’ll ever be in that place again. My eyes were opened to how detrimental it was for me to be so negative towards myself and having such a dark outlook on life, because of how much it hurt me to see my campers go through that. I truly meant every encouraging and positive thing I said to my campers, and I knew it was important for them to hear these words and affirmations loud and clear. I can only hope my voice got through louder than their internal monologue.
Being out in the middle of nowhere for two weeks proved to me how meaningless technology and social media can be. It was much more enjoyable for me to play endless rounds of card games with a group of campers, laughing and joking with each other face to face, than it ever was chatting online. We entertained ourselves with inside jokes, simple riddles, and dancing. During the two weeks I saw campers build hammocks in their chalet from scratch, slide around on mattresses, and invent a beach game in seconds. During reflection times, they read, wrote, observed, or pondered. Conversations turned deep and meaningful so quickly. This simplicity meant so much to me, and I’m not sure if my campers appreciate it as much as I do, yet. For the first time I made a point to notice the stars, the way the rain fell, how fog settled on the lake, the breeze in the trees. All these years I’ve wasted staring at a screen instead of appreciating the beauty that God has created. It’s right in front of us, yet most people don’t have the eyes to see it.
I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity. I’m thankful for the campers I spent time with and bonded with, they are so wonderful and such loving kids. I’m thankful for the conversations, whether they were silly or deep, and I’m especially thankful for the ones that organically turned to discussions of God. I missed camp before it was even over. I miss my campers and my heart aches for them, but I continue to pray that going into this school year they are safe.
One last thing, a favourite memory of mine. Once a week the campers get a day off from work placement (did I mention that we leaders also had to do work placement? I’m not complaining, I actually loved doing the dishes), and one day we went to a nearby park of sorts, with mini golf and laser tag, that sort of thing. It was a blast, but what really stands out to me is what happened when we got back. It was sort of late, and everyone was getting ready for bed. We girls were in our chalets, just chatting, when we heard fireworks start going off. We rushed outside and on to the dock, where we were joined by some of the boys. Across the lake there was a resort having a celebration. It felt like an eternity and a split second at the same time, but we all stood there huddled in awe of the fireworks, as if they were something we don’t all see every holiday. Something about watching them over the lake, as if they were especially for us only to see, it was indescribable honestly. I’ve seen fireworks dozens of times in my life, but this was different, and I don’t really know why. When the show ended, we stayed on the dock a moment longer, we all hugged goodnight. To me this was such a special memory. I hope I don’t forget it any time soon.