Magazines 2019 Mar - Apr Summer camp changed my life

Summer camp changed my life

03 April 2019 By Holly Stiller

And what it could mean for the kids in your community

My strongest memory of my first summer at Christian camp was sitting on my top bunk in my cabin, laughing until I peed my pants as my leaders told us stories about when they were younger.

The next year I remember hearing my leaders talk about Jesus as if He was a friend of theirs. That year I ran into a love for me so big, I barely knew what to do with it.

leaders at boys Leaders at Boys’ and Girls’ Camp, Ontario Pioneer Camp: Alyssa, Dylan, Holly and Jenna.

At the end of that summer, people talked about how Jesus changes lives outside of camp too. In the years and summers to follow, I began to understand what they meant.

Camp is where I learned how to shoot a bullseye, fall out of any and all kinds of boats, and keep people up all night giggling.

As a camper my days at camp were rich. They were full of singing at the top of my lungs in the dining hall, and staring wide-eyed at the stars that were so bright, I was a bit confused.

Without phones or schedules (that I knew about), our days seemed fuller. Filled to the rim with games, songs, skits, and real conversation and big laughter.

There was also stillness at camp.

At the beginning of the day, we would have a time of musical worship where it was explained our laughter and awe at those stars last night was also worship. We would hear stories, old and new, about Jesus.

leaders at girls Leaders at Girls’ Camp, Ontario Pioneer Camp in Muskoka, Ont.: (back row) Holly, Alida, Lian, Elana, Jenna; (front row) Avery, Carys and Calista. PHOTOS: HOLLY STILLER

My leaders always took the time to really get to know me, and ask questions so they could encourage me in the areas where I needed that.

As I went from being a kid at camp, to a teenager going through its leadership program, then a chalet leader and most recently a section head, the things I needed guidance with changed. As a leader I think I have learned to lead well, to listen and hear and gently guide, even as I still receive the guidance I need.

People come and go, and came and went, but the mission of camp has been constant. To do whatever it takes to get campers in front of the love of Jesus, like the friends of the paralytic man in Mark 2. I am thankful for the weirdness my first leaders put up with to show me His love, and the sass my later leaders had to deal with in showing me His patience.

Going to camp has had so many ripple effects on my life that it is safe to say camp has completely changed the trajectory of it. I saw the importance of being plugged into community. I felt God’s love in a profound and personal way.

I am now involved in leadership with my university’s Inter-Varsity group. (Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada operates the Pioneer Camp I attended, as well as other camps and campus programs across the country.)

My university group shares the same heart camp has for all people to have the opportunity to encounter Christ. As a campus group we went to Urbana this winter – joining thousands of students at this missions conference wanting to hear from and worship God. We heard about big movements of God. While there, I spoke to a student who wanted to go to camp this summer to be a leader and share what they knew of Him.

"Go," I said.

When I was a camper and wanted to know the love my leaders knew, God met me there on my bunk. Big things happen at camp, and often in little moments. Go.