Six years ago, when my son Jacob came home from Middle School Camp, I was blown away by what he walked away with in just a week’s time. He stood differently during worship services, he was willing to lead in prayer with his peers, and he was spending personal time with others who wanted to grow in their faith. He found new friends and mentors and made memories that he’ll have forever. Truthfully, I knew I wasn’t being a good example of those things at home, so he wasn’t making those changes because of my example.
The following summer, Crossroads was looking for volunteers to lead groups. I had many obstacles that I had to think about before I could commit. At that time, I was going to be leaving my husband home alone for 4.5 days with our special needs daughter who required full-time care. And I was going to have to use 5 days of my personal vacation time—which I needed to use cautiously because of our daughter’s special needs.
I also knew I needed to do some serious work on my own relationship with God. How was I going to help lead our youth to God if I was struggling with him myself? Also, why would any middle school student want to hang out with some older lady when there were high school and college age students leading? I feared that they wouldn’t open up to me and that they wouldn’t be getting the real experience like my son did.
And then the biggest challenge appeared...did my own children want mom around camp while they were there? So, I began doing what most of us do with uncertainty: I prayed about it.
After praying, I made the decision to go ahead and do it. My husband supported the idea so I started planning. I sought out and took advice from others who had been the year before about what to be prepared for. They told me what Camp was like and (more importantly) advised me on what snacks I should bring.
As helpful as that was, one thing they forgot to mention was this: even though my entire week was for the students, I would also walk away with something. I left Camp not afraid to be vulnerable with kids who were struggling with similar emotions to mine. Obviously, we were in different chapters of our lives but we were all going through something. That week, God showed me that if I was willing to step out, He would use me.
That year, I bonded with six girls that to this day I still spend time with. I get to witness them grow. I’m not just speaking spiritually, but there is no better feeling than being a part of a student dedicating their life to Jesus. At Camp, you get to create relationships with students that will change your life.
It’s so cool to watch a student attend Camp for the first time. Some are scared and unsure what to expect, but by the last day they don’t want to leave. As a leader, you get to listen to them share stories of their struggles and realize they aren’t alone in them. You get to watch them overcome fears—whether it’s fear of being away from home for the first time, fear of doing the zipline or fear of opening their hearts and raising their hands in worship.
And, in the end, I faced my big fear: that my own kids wouldn’t want me at Camp. Instead, over the last couple of years, Camp has become something we’ve looked forward to doing all together. Once they were old enough, my boys even jumped on the opportunity to serve at MSM Camp alongside me. My youngest is a senior this year, so this will be his last Camp as a camper. It's bittersweet. I pray that wherever my kids are, they continue to serve.
My summers just wouldn’t be the same without Camp. I’m so grateful for that first nudge God gave me. Because I took that step, I get to be a part of something bigger than myself every year.