My name is Megan, I am a senior in college, and this summer, I got to see God at work, and I was lucky enough to be used by Him as a change agent in 22 teenager’s lives.
I decided to forgo the larger paycheck and comfort I would’ve had at home on my summer vacation to work at Camp Squanto, a Covenant Church camp in Swanzey, New Hampshire, counseling a special population of campers who had applied to be a part of the Leaders in Training program. Although the camp is nearly 2.5 hours away from my hometown of Milford, Connecticut, it was an easy decision, as I had grown up attending the camp, just like my siblings before me, and had always dreamed of being a counselor, but I had no idea what it would be like to be on the other side of the cabin.
I was surrounded by an amazing, supportive, and caring staff who always helped me when I needed and taught me age old secrets of being a counselor. One young woman helped me more than the rest, as she had counseled the Leaders in Training program the previous summer. I learned from her that although I was stressed and nervous much of the time, it was nearly impossible to fail at my job as long as I approached each day with love for my campers and for God. The task in front of me seemed insurmountable at times, but I was planting seeds that others would water and that my campers would harvest years later. We are all blessed to have a God that can make you a part of a long term, impactful plan without you even realizing it. It is all in His hands.
I learned how to lean on God and how to create a relationship with Him that was all my own. Time Alone with God—or “TAWG” as it is lovingly called at Squanto—became one of my favorite parts of the day. During this time, the entire camp would take 10 minutes to sit outside and be with God, either through prayer, reading the Bible, journaling, or whatever other quiet medium they chose. This time alone with God laid the foundation for our personal relationship, because I had to actively seek Him, not just passively listen to a sermon.
Camp Squanto is a very special place. It was incredible to see the campers, many of whom did not know each other and a few that had never stepped foot on the campgrounds before, immediately bond with one another. Within hours, campers were laughing with one another like best friends. Within days, sharing intimate and personal experiences with one another, such as home life troubles or mental health concerns, as if they had known each other forever. This can be attributed to a few factors, including the safe space the camp staff has always bent over backwards to create, but most importantly these campers were able to form meaningful connections based on faith due to how openly, colloquially, and frequently it was discussed. Unlike many of their home communities, religious conversations extended far beyond church sermons, which they experienced twice a day. Grace is a silly song followed by a prayer, ultimate Frisbee is a time to be thankful for God’s creations, and questioning conversations about faith can be considered small talk. This extreme immersion and normalization of faith is a large part of the reason why the bonds my campers formed with each other were created so quickly and deeply, and that was a beautiful thing to watch.
I watched as my campers dove headfirst into their new experiences at camp. I swelled with pride as I watched them bond with the campers, lead activity areas, connect with staff members, and lead worship. These campers also delivered devotionals to our group with ease, covering heavy topics they chose themselves such as depression, fitting in, and dealing with labels given to them by their peers. They climbed mountains, literally and metaphorically, and I was able to watch them help each other to the summit. Helping each other through this unique experience was probably the secret ingredient to their growth, and they didn’t even realize it.
I wish I could say that every day was productive and helpful for each camper, but I know that’s impossible. Some campers learned the most from our studies based off of the film series “Basic” by Francis Chan, while others learned from shadowing counselors and interacting directly with the campers, and others from completing our service projects, which included spending the afternoon at a local nursing home and helping a smaller ministry set up its vacation bible camp. Each camper had different strengths, learning styles, and, most importantly, personalities, making it very difficult to always cater to all of their needs.
At the beginning of the session, each camper was asked to write on a small sheet of paper what they hoped to gain from their experience in the Leaders in Training program. Many common answers included learning how to lead devotionals, improving leadership skills, reading the Bible more, and learning how to be a counselor. I see now that what these campers needed was not lessons in how to achieve those goals, but confidence in themselves and just a little push in the right direction by my co-counselor and I. They did not need to be taught how to lead a devotional step-by-step, but they needed the framework to understand the components and listen to what God was putting on their heart to share.
This summer taught me so many things, but most importantly it taught me how and why to develop a personal relationship with God. I am no longer a child, and can no longer rely solely on my family and my week away at camp to fuel my faith; I must fill my own cup. My co-counselor once asked, “How can you say you believe in something you’ve never read?” The question hit me like a brick wall and inspired me to speed up my reading of the Bible, as I had been working on the same “read the Bible in a year” plan for around 2 years and was nowhere near the middle, never mind the end. My discipline in reading is slowly becoming devotion, and each day I make sure to have at least a few moments alone with Him. I actively pursue positive relationships with those around me, and try to remind myself that others’ opinions do not matter, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I value my friendships differently now, realizing that four quarters are worth much more than one hundred pennies, and am constantly supported by loving friends and family members now that I am not exerting valuable energy on fair weather friends. I am slowly learning to embody the verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Even better still, as I look back on my time at Camp Squanto trying to teach my campers about their faith, I realize that I’ve learned so much from them. I’ve learned that alternative forms of worship are great, like music, art, and journaling, and that the term “child-like faith” can be achieved through love, friendship, and devotion.
My cup overflows.