By Esther Fultz
For many Cedarville University students, going to camp was an integral part of our childhood summers. New friendships, an opportunity to disconnect from technology and responsibilities at home, full days packed with adventure and activities, and pure excitement and chaos are just some of the things that make camp appealing. These things also make camp a great avenue for sharing the hope of Christ with youth who may never have heard of Him and helping those who are already believers grow stronger in their faith.
Sophomore business management major Naomi Fultz went to camp for the first time between her freshman and sophomore years of high school. It was an experience that led her to come back year after year afterwards. In addition to the community she found in her cabin and the fun activities she participated in, she learned valuable lessons about how to live in a Christ-honoring way.
“I learned about leadership and integrity and teamwork,” Fultz said.
One of the initiatives she participated in during her first week at camp required her and other campers to close their eyes and organize themselves in a line in alphabetical order without talking.
“It would’ve been really easy to cheat and open our eyes when the counselors weren’t looking,” Fultz said. “At the end, one of the counselors asked how many of us had opened our eyes, and he said that at the end of the day, it wouldn’t matter if we completed the initiative correctly, but it would matter the integrity we had and how much of a habit we had of consistently being honest.”
Cedarville students spend about nine months of their year being poured into by faculty members, peers, chapel speakers, and church families. The remaining three months of the summer can be an opportunity to pour back into others in a similar way, and summer camp is conveniently structured for students to be able to do this.
Junior nursing major Elisabeth Penner served as a counselor at Lake Ann Camp for the second year in a row this summer. Lake Ann uses activities such as their high ropes course to build relationships and facilitate sharing the Gospel. The Gospel is also shared through daily morning and evening chapel sessions.
One experience in particular that stood out to Penner this summer was getting to share the Gospel with a camper who never heard of Jesus.
“I had several Gospel conversations with her, but by the end of the week she said that still wasn’t a choice that she was ready to make,” said Penner. “That was really hard but it taught me that at the end of the day, it’s not in my hands. It’s the Word that brings justification and sanctification in people and it’s not anything I can say or do.”
Sophomore journalism major Julia Swain served at Camp Luz for her second year in a row as a counselor for most of the summer and a program director for the last week of camp. As a counselor, Swain’s day consisted of cabin and camp-wide activities, as well as devotions twice a day, campfire lessons, and chapel, which was her favorite part of the day.
“I saw myself grow a lot in just loving others,” Swain said. “Especially with campers who were more challenging to work with or I had a harder time with, even if I didn’t like working with them in those moments I would try to focus on just loving them and making sure they saw how much God loved them.”
Swain said she also grew in trusting God’s plan this summer.
“This summer, I was supposed to be the program assistant for four weeks out of the summer,” Swain said. “So it was really hard when there were weeks that they needed me to counsel that I was really tired and didn’t want to counsel, especially with the youngest kids, who are really hard to counsel.”
Swain remembered one week in particular when a counselor went home sick the second day of camp and she stepped in. The young girls in her cabin felt very apprehensive because they didn’t know her and didn’t understand the switch.
Despite the stress of this last-minute change, Swain trusted God’s perfect plan for that week. It helped change her perspective on the situation, and she wants to continue being intentional trusting God with the little things coming away from camp.
One of Penner’s biggest areas of growth was using the limited time she had with her campers for God’s glory.
“In the grand scheme of things, they may not be that big, but we can’t let them slip away,” Penner said. “We need to grab ahold of those things and use those moments.”
Like Swain, Penner also grew in her trust of God’s plan while at camp.
\“This summer, even just in my personal life, the Lord has continued to say no to good things I’ve asked for and things I’ve felt like align with His desires too,” Penner said. “I didn’t expect for that theme to continue going into camp, but even just praying that campers see the beauty of the Gospel and get saved and getting a no from God, I was reminded that even in the pain there’s purpose. God’s road is so much greater than whatever perfect road I could play out in my mind without pain.”
To anyone considering working at camp but questioning their abilities, Penner would encourage them if they feel called by the Lord to go ahead and do it.
“It may be one of the hardest experiences of your life, but the Lord provides and he will give you what you need every single day,” Penner said.
Swain encourages those considering camp ministry to acknowledge the hardship – not to sugarcoat it – but to also focus on the growth it brings.
“If I had to do it over, I would still go through all the hard things I’ve had to do as a counselor,” Swain said. “It’s such a growing experience and something that’s helped me grow in my faith as a believer.”
Esther Fultz is a senior Social Work major and the Off Campus Editor for Cedars. When she’s not writing or editing for Cedars she enjoys thrifting, making coffee, exploring new places, and spending time with friends.
Photos provided by Elisabeth Penner