On Jesus Camp

By Heidie Raine

Career Services sent an email on January 10 telling us to mark our calendars for the Summer Camp Career Fair — the week where neon banners and stock photos of face-painted 4th-graders cascade across the walls of the upper SSC.

I usually find myself delightfully uncomfortable the week that camps come to network and hire, wanting to both learn more and avoid the greeting that follows eye contact. My curiosity presses me to say hello, ask about their grounds, hear how they structure a chapel service distinctly from the camps represented to their left and right. Instead, I put my head down and walk.

I’ve always wished that I could wear a sign around my neck during camp week that reads: “Hello there! I already work for a camp that isn’t you, so please don’t take it too harshly when I stare down at the carpet instead of waving. Best wishes!”

This year, that imaginary sign’s content wouldn’t be true. After three summers of hoofing it at a Reformed camp in the Chicago suburbs, I’m trading in my Keens for some not-yet-known gig in southwest Ohio. I won’t awaken to 5th-graders staring at me from their bunk beds. I will go to bed before midnight, smelling of shampoo rather than deet.

It feels like I’ve cheated the system over the last three years, getting paid to go-cart with middle schoolers while my peers point middle-aged dads to the paint aisle at Menards. To my merit, though, I’ve also endured small children throwing sand in my eyes (three times) and hitting me with sticks (too many to count).

I’ve died to myself over picnic tables when my elementary peers chose to discuss Roblox instead of current events. I’ve set down my pride and realized that I am not entitled to same-aged peers, and that I can often best reflect Christ by helping an ornery child tie his shoes.

Camp ministry has shown me that holiness does not wait for the quiet, candle-lit room at 6 a.m. with the smell of a latte and the notes of instrumental hymns. It finds you — approaches you — in the middle of a soccer game with skinned knees, in bracelet-making circles with high-school caliber questions of dating.

It’s helped me see that our Lord doesn’t compartmentalize righteousness and responsibility, and I will carry that with me to the newsroom, coffee shop or Amazon warehouse I find myself in come June.

Why leave now? Why not another summer? For me, it’s a desire for the next season. That doesn’t come from some ethereal “God told me to” type whooshy-belly feeling — feelings aren’t God — but from a resolution to step back and prepare for what comes next. I long to meal prep, stay at my local church, learn to live in an apartment when college isn’t the only thing keeping me here. But that’s only come after three summers of noodle tag, rich evangelism, carb-heavy meals, minimally restful nights and plenty of mosquito bites.

To the freshman with no plans for this summer: Work at the camp if you can. You’ll be better for it. It will expose and refine you. You’re not above it.

To the camp representatives, wearied by the number of head-down students scurrying through the upper-SSC: I, with my head down, see you. Jesus saved my cold, barren soul at a camp like yours. There are many more to come. What you’re doing — this is rich faithfulness staged in booths, the in-between of evangelism, work worth having done.

Heidie Raine is a junior English major at Cedarville with concentrations in creative and journalistic writing. In addition to working for Cedarville public relations and the writing center, Heidie loves perusing her local Goodwill, drinking iced cortados, watching videos of sea otters and caring for her small forest of plants.

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