It’s that time of year again, the time when I start seeing camp pictures and statuses popping up all over in my news feed on Facebook. Seeing one such picture this morning got me thinking back to the two summers that I spent working at a camp, the WILDS in North Carolina. My time there was life changing and I want to share why it was and why I think every college student should spend at least one summer counseling at a Christian camp.
My first summer at the WILDS I worked as a waitress and the second I counseled. While both summers were amazing, the second was the best. Working as a waitress my first summer, I had many opportunities to learn about the Lord and grow: crew devotions, godly mentors and friends, the camp services and more. And I definitely did grow some! But, I didn’t really take advantage of all those opportunities like I should have. Sadly, I think I was just too focused on myself.
But working as a counselor the next summer? I arrived at camp that year already struggling emotionally, honestly not even wanting to be there, and I think THAT was right where God wanted me. It was when I was tired, emotionally spent and lonely that first week of staff training that God started to work in my heart.
That summer was the hardest summer but the best. I was spent like I’d never been spent before. I was forced to realize that I could not do it without God; I desperately needed Him. I realized that a few moments talking with God early in the morning were more necessary for me than a bit of extra sleep.
God showed me a lot of things about myself. He showed my selfishness in many ways. He also showed me the very great joy of leading someone to Christ… I will never ever forget that moment.
I came very close to spending another summer counseling there again. The Lord ended up changing my plans and I went on a mission trip to Mexico the next summer instead, which was an amazing experience for another blog post sometime. Still though, I sometimes think back to camp and wish that I could’ve somehow had one more summer there.
As uncomfortable as it is to be stretched out of your comfort zone and to be spent for others until you feel you have nothing left to give, it is the best place to be. It is when you are in THAT place that God can really work. Because it’s when we are weak that HE is strong!
Sooo after sharing all that, if you aren’t convinced yet, here is my list of reasons that you need to try at least one summer!
1. It makes you focus on others
We all struggle with selfishness (or is it just me?!) Nothing shows you your selfishness more than being given nine campers every week whose needs must be put in front of your own. And that’s a good thing! Realizing your selfishness is the first step to fighting it. I’ve certainly not arrived (marriage is another great selfishness-revealer haha) but I think that I am slowly learning.
Being forced to focus on others instead of yourself is so good. We all have problems, but so many times those problems look small when we see the needs that other people have. And you know what? Sometimes the Lord heals us from our hurts by giving us other people to focus on and try to help.
2. You get to hear God’s truth every day
I was privileged to hear God’s word taught and preached and sung every single day. Of course, I heard it every day at college in chapel, but this was different. Because I was pouring out every day at camp, trying to invest in my campers’ lives and trying to share Jesus with them, I realized how much I needed to hear God’s Word. I’d never really felt like that before. I seriously felt like a sponge, soaking up what I heard because I knew I needed it.
I want to feel like that again.
3. You get to put what you’ve learned to practice in real life
I majored in counseling in college. I was privileged to have amazing classes and awesome teachers who really knew how to counsel from the Bible. I’m so grateful for everything I learned. But, it’s one thing to learn all that stuff and have a lot of great head-knowledge; it’s a whole different thing to actually counsel. I was pretty scared my first time counseling. Actually, I think I was scared every time I sat down to counsel. But it was good! After all, what’s the point about learning how to tell people about Jesus and how to counsel if you never do it? As good as my college education was, I felt like I learned even more being thrown into it as a counselor at camp.
4. You most likely won’t be able to do it in a few years
Once you’re out of college, you’ll get a job (hopefully!) and most likely you won’t be able to just take off a whole summer to work at a camp. Once you’re married, you definitely won’t be able to. That’s not a bad thing! It’s just a different stage of life. So take advantage of the stage you are in now, get out there and use your summers for the Lord!
5. God will provide if He wants you there
I know that a lot of college students are strapped for money. I was too. My parents couldn’t afford to put me through school (I certainly didn’t expect them too!) so I saved all through high-school and worked as much as I could at college. Honestly though, I can’t say that I put myself through school because it was God. I don’t know how I got through four years of college, spending three summers in ministry, only had to stay out one semester to work and graduated with very minimal debt. I think God multiplied my money or something haha. 😉 But seriously, if God wants you somewhere, He’s going to provide. And if you have to sit out of college for a semester to work, guess what, I did it and it’s really not the end of the world!
And last but not least…
6. You’ll make amazing memories!
Yes, it was a hard summer in many ways, but it was also a blast!! I had some of the best campers and we made so many great memories. Getting up super early to go tubing in the very cold creek (I think we were crazy), painting our faces to support our team, screaming when we won the week, hiking down to the most beautiful waterfall (and pushing my campers all the way back up the mountain haha), having great talks in the coffee shop, sharing my heart with my girls… these are memories that I will hold onto forever.
That is why I think that every college student NEEDS to at least consider spending one of their summers counseling. Trust me! You won’t regret it.