Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"I've got joy down in my heart..."

Listening to: "All I Need" by Mat Kearney
(Still not over my Mat Kearney obsession. This song is the best. Love, love, love it.)

To continue the updates on my busy summer... Right after getting back from Europe, I headed to work 3 weeks at Camp JOY! When I say right after, I'm not kidding--I got home, washed clothes, re-packed, went to bed, and got up at 6:45 the next morning to head off to camp. It was worth it, but I can't say that I recommend it!

Quick rundown on how I ended up working there to begin with: I typically work youth camp down in Tifton every summer, but this year, I didn't really want to. It's a great camp, don't get me wrong, but since it is a Church of God camp, I just don't agree with a lot of what they teach there. The more I thought about it, the less comfortable I became with the idea. I just couldn't justify being responsible for teaching kids things that I don't personally believe. Anyway, not working camp meant losing a lot of scholarship money, and the job market was not looking great. It's not in my nature to stress out about stuff, generally speaking, and I really wasn't, but at the same time, I really did need a job! I wanted to work a camp because I really love doing that, but since I wasn't doing youth camp, I figured that was probably out of the question. Well, a couple of weeks before last semester ended, I was sitting out on the ped mall, hanging out with people, the usual, when I get a phone call from Mrs. Victoria (my friend Emily's mom). Kinda random, since I never talk to her on the phone. I answered and she said that there was a Lee University bus in Columbus and she was wondering if I knew what it might be for. I thought that was a little strange--I have no clue why a Lee bus would be down there at all. Anyway, we talked for a few minutes and out of the blue, she asks,

"Hey, do you need a job this summer?"

Um, yes!

"There's this camp for underprivileged kids and they really need college students to be on staff. I think you would be awesome at it!"

She told me that she'd give the camp director, Laura, my name and let her get in touch with me on Facebook. The next day, I got a message from Laura telling me that I had come super highly recommended and that she really wanted to have me on staff. She sent me an application, and all of a sudden, I realized: the mandatory training week was right in the middle of when I'd be in Europe. Dangit. At this point, I kinda figured I wouldn't be able to work there, so I told Laura. However, she told me, "If you're interested in working, I am totally willing to train you before your trip!" So awesome.

When I got home, I had to go in for an interview in order to get the position. Since I had been away at school, Laura let me bring in my application then, too. Interview went well, and when it was over, Laura was like, "So, I hope you don't mind, but I've already submitted your name as being our girls' head counselor. I'm technically not supposed to tell you this yet,'re hired." Yeah--she hired me before meeting me or receiving my application. And not only did she hire me, she hired me to work the highest position at camp, besides her own. What the heck.

So yeah, Lee bus randomly shows up in my hometown. Friend's mom happens to see it, thinks of me, and calls me. Random conversation ensues, inspiring her to #1, ask if I need a job, and #2, tell me about a job that happens to be exactly what I wanted. God works out the only glitch (minor detail of me being out of the country during a mandatory week). I get the highest staff position without even turning in an application. Um, can we say God thing? When I say that God gave me the job, I'm not kidding.

Back to camp. It was awesome. Seriously. I loved the kids immediately. Really, really loved them. It was so weird how quickly it happened--it surprised even me! Especially since these kids weren't the easiest bunch to deal with. Every day, I worked in the craft room alongside Mrs. Helen (don't even get me started on her! Crazy. Old. Woman. Not even kidding), building 3,000 birdhouses and coloring. I was in charge of teaching Bible study for the 9- and 10-year-olds. That was interesting. I had the VBS Teacher's Guide and that's about it. I had virtually no materials to work with, and keeping 9- & 10-year-olds entertained for a full hour is no easy task. It was pretty rough at first, but I got the hang of it eventually. Well, sort of.

The first week, the kids were full of questions. One girl, Marjorie, was so sweet and had this innocent curiosity that I absolutely loved. She asked me so many great questions, and I loved having the chance to answer them! (I have to say, my favorite was after our lesson on Zacchaeus, she was asking how short he was. When I said I didn't know, she asked if she could Google him and find pictures. Hahaha.)

The big adventure of week one: Lice. Ahhhh. We sent 10 girls home with it. Ohhh my gosh. My head was itching for 2 weeks every time I would think about it. We thought things were going okay, but on the third day, we found 2 girls who had it really, really bad (like, you could see the lice crawling on the outside of their hair). Then we discovered that it had spread. A lot. On the last night, we ended up having to clean out the cabins and have everyone sleep in the cafeteria, in hopes that no one else would catch it. It was bad. Fortunately, for the remaining weeks, we checked their hair before going to camp.

Second week, the girls in my cabin were hilarious. Seriously. I documented a few of their quotes here, but there are so many other things that I can't even remember anymore. Loved them. Anyway, I realized that we had three hiking trails at camp, and not one of them had been used. Being me, I decided to change that immediately. Our first lesson of the week was about creation, so I took all of the girls in my Bible study on a hike! Yay!

One of my favorite moments of the second week was on the first night. One of the girls in my cabin, Tatiana, needed to go take something to her sister, who was in another cabin. I walked over with her, and on our way back, I looked up at the sky. The stars were especially bright, and then I spotted the Big Dipper. It was perfectly positioned in between two trees, so I asked Tatiana,'

"Have you ever seen the Big Dipper?"
Tatiana: "No."
Me: "Do you want to?"
Tatiana: "Yeah!!!"

I let her stand in front of me and showed her exactly where it was. She was so awestruck by such a small thing. It made me really happy, especially when she woke up the next morning and the very first words out of her mouth were to another girl, "Miss Brittany showed me the Big Dipper last night!" :)

Week three was the best though--it's the one that made everything all worth it, and confirmed to me once again that God definitely wanted me to work there this summer! It was a pretty good week in general. It was kinda crazy when I discovered that I had fifty girls in my Bible study (that is, fifty listening-impaired 9- and 10-year-olds by myself. Literally. I was the only adult, only staff member, only anything. It was insane). Other than that, though, it was good. I taught the whole camp how to play Ultimate Frisbee (yay!). Held a snake and a hissing cockroach. Fun stuff like that. I also got to paint a lot! That was fun! It reminded me of how much I enjoy that sort of thing, so now I'm on a roll. I went out and bought a bunch of paint and some canvasses the weekend I finished camp. Ohhh yes. Anyway! All of that was pretty awesome, but the last 2 days were the best.

I was sitting at dinner, eating and talking with my girls, when one of them pointed to the 3 (rather tacky-looking) white crosses hanging on the wall and asked what the red stuff on the middle one was. I explained that it was there to represent Jesus' blood when He died on the cross, etc. This inspired another girl, Tay-Tay, to ask me who nailed Jesus to the cross. Well, after I explained that one, she just kept asking questions (crazy questions!), eventually leading me to say something about Jesus still being alive. She was shocked: "He is?!" At that point, I figured out that she had no idea about anything to do with Christianity. Especially when, after I used the word "Christian," she said shyly, "What's a Christian? I forgot" (in that way where you know the person really has no clue what you're talking about but doesn't want to let on, so they just say they "forgot"). Well! I took the opportunity to explain as simply as possible what it meant to be a Christian, defining sin and salvation for her, making sure she understood everything that I said. (The best way I knew to explain it for her was that sin was like a giant wall between her and God, and being forgiven was like Jesus coming in and knocking down that wall so she could be friends with God. It was a much longer, more in-depth conversation, but that was the idea of it.) It made me realize more than ever that I really need to know and be able to explain the words that I use, especially when it comes to churchy words! "Sin," "salvation," even "Christian"...they're all virtually meaningless to most people. Anyway, all of a sudden, Tay-Tay asked me, "How do I get to be forgiven?" I told her that all she had to do was ask, and to tell Jesus that she wanted to live the way He wanted her to. I asked if she wanted to do that, and she gave a very definite, "Yes." I got to pray with her, and it was seriously the best thing ever. I've never actually had the chance to do that before, and I absolutely loved how she came to me, and it was totally sincere. It wasn't me pushing her in any way--she was totally initiating and leading the whole thing. Incredible. (And what made it even better, she would randomly come up to me hours later and ask me more questions that had to do with what I told her: "So, if I do something bad again, will the wall between me and God come back?")

That in itself was enough to make the entire summer totally worth it, but then on the very last day, we were all sitting in the chapel, waiting for the buses to arrive to take us back into Columbus. Holly went over everything that we had learned at camp, and she decided to do the whole mass prayer of salvation thing (you know, raise your hand if you want to become a Christian, and then everyone prays together). She mentioned something about "the story of Jesus dying for you," and another one of my girls, Alexis, turns to me and says, "Story? What story?"

Me: "The one about Jesus dying on the cross."
Alexis: "I've heard people say that before, but I've never heard the story."

Whoa. That made me realize that we really fail as Christians way too often--we tell people, "Jesus died for you!" but never take the time to explain what that means. We just take for granted that people know, when really, they don't. So I told her the story of what happened, and she seemed satisfied. Well, after Holly prayed with all of the girls, Alexis turned to me again and very urgently said, "I don't know if I'm a Christian or not!" I immediately took her outside (it was way too noisy inside) and explained to her exactly what I had told Tay-Tay. Alexis told me that she wanted to do the same thing, so I ended up getting to pray with her, too! It was so awesome!

So yeah, that was Camp JOY: total God-thing. There are waaaay more stories that I could tell, but this post is long enough as it is. If you read the whole thing, you're my new favorite.


  1. So I read this. lolz. Will you be my counselor when we get back to camp... I mean Lee?

    Oh and now I have "I'VE GOT THE JOY JOY JOY JOY DOWN IN MY HEART! WHERE? DOWN IN MY HEART! WHERE? DOWN IN MY HEART" playing in my head over and over and over... Thanks a lot.

  2. Wow, your story of leading that little girl to Christ is amazing! That is exactly what happened to me when I was working at a Sports Camp for my church. I never forgot the little girl I knew and it's been 6 since then! I'm sure you'll never forget this little girl!

    P.s. Your Europe trip looks amazing. I've never been, oh my gosh, it looks like so. much. fun.