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Things I Learned as a Camp Counselor

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do” (Hebrews 6:10, ESV).

Hi friends!

Whew, this post was a long time coming! I’m not even going to try to describe the pace of my life lately since it stresses me out just to think about it. 😉 But, I’m here, and I’m excited to finally talk with you again!

A few weeks ago, I said that I spent a couple weeks at camp this summer. One week as a camper, and the other as a counselor. I want to share just a few snippets from my week as a counselor, so lets jump in 🙂

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I had always heard that counseling, particularly at a Christian camp, is so much more fulfilling than being a camper, and I couldn’t wait to serve in that way. So, as I filled out an application and prepped for my week of counseling, I anticipated a burst of spiritual growth and exciting adventures. But I wasn’t expecting the growth to be so subtle. And I wasn’t expecting to learn difficult lessons about myself.

I’d just gone to teen camp the week before I counseled, and the emotional and physical exhaustion set me up for an experience that demanded lots of prayer and dependence on God’s strength. As the week unfolded and my sweet co-counselor and I cared for 13 elementary girls, I was slammed in the face with a depressing realization: I’m not nearly as selfless as I thought I was. 

I didn’t think it would be hard to talk to, instruct, and play with young girls for a week. But the absence of my teen-camp friends, my sleep deprivation, and my distracted heart made it difficult for me to devote my full attention to the little souls around me. Normally when I’m at camp, I’m there to spend time with my friends and benefit from the chapel messages and enjoy free time. I’m there for me. And counseling was the polar opposite. I wasn’t there for myself. I was there for 13 girls who needed Jesus and a lot of tender love and understanding. Putting my desires on hold was the toughest thing for me to do, and I wish it hadn’t been. I wish I hadn’t looked forward to the 45 minutes of counselor free time so much. Wish I hadn’t seized every opportunity to rest when I could have been having gospel conversations. Sure, I went out of my comfort zone and had heart-to-hearts with the girls. But the desire for comfort was still rooted in the back of my mind, and it hindered my ability to give everything I had.

Even though it hurt to realize how selfish I am–though I regret a few hours of that week–I’m glad God showed me that deep-seeded weakness so I can work on it now. It’s still a task for me to serve outside my comfort zone, but I want to do it. I want to shove outside of myself and become more like Christ so that, when I have the chance to counsel next summer, I’ll be fully devoted to giving each camper a special, Jesus-focused experience.

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The second thing I learned, is that brokenness is in everyone–not just teens and grownups. And Jesus can heal it all–we only have to let that truth be known.

To be honest, I expected all the campers to have perfect rainbow and butterfly lives with no cares in the world. No real problems. But that wasn’t so for all of them.I was burdened by the sad snippets I gathered from some of those girls’ lives. Rough family situations, spiritual confusion, loneliness, bullying at school…they carried the weight of it all.

I’ve always been scared to dive into gospel conversations, and that week was no exception. Even though I knew that hurting hearts wandered around me, I struggled to bring myself to talk to them about their relationship with Jesus. But as I asked God to exchange my weakness for His strength…As I gathered encouragement from my co-counselor and sweet friend Bren, I slowly pushed out of my shell and approached some sweet individuals.

It was so rewarding to point them to Scripture and answer their anxious questions. Those moments turned fear into thrill, and I regret not talking to more girls.  Not planting more seeds. But I hope and pray God uses what snippets of truth I was able to offer to a few.

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Something else I learned blew my mind that week, and just thinking about this truth excites me. 🙂 Here it is: Spiritual victory gives physical strength. 

Unfortunately, I was known as the coffee-dependent/addicted/obsessed counselor. The girls in my cabin wouldn’t let me hear the end of it! I was constantly tired, and the knew that (We won’t mention the 13 people who made me tired and coffee-dependent 😉 ). Each day I ran to the coffee maker because I could barely keep my eyes open. My feet were heavy, and I often had to resist the urge to delegate because I was so drowsy. Basically, I had the energy of an 80 year old.

But something really cool happened. Every day after lunch, we had a staff meeting while the kids were out doing an activity. Since it was an overflow camp, there weren’t many campers, and thus, just a handful of counselors. After sharing our challenges and exchanging stories, the camp directors shared short devotionals and exhorted us to press on. I can’t describe the energy that filled me after those short moments with brothers and sisters in Christ.

Another special thing that happened was after chapel one night, when I was ready to head back to the cabin, tuck our girls in, and crash.

Driven by the invitation in chapel, a girl from a different cabin approached me and asked me to talk. I won’t share details from that conversation except that Jesus blessed me with the chance to lead a little girl to His Word and see her accept Him as Savior. When I went back to my own cabin, my weakness had been replaced with pure joy and a high of energy that I couldn’t shake off. I was hardly able to sleep that night because of the enthusiasm that evening brought me. And the next day was the most energetic, fulfilling day yet.

Friend, God works in incredible ways. When we do His service, gather with His people, and pray to Him for strength, He not only gives spiritual victory, but physical strength. What an exciting reality!

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV).

I could ramble on and on about that week, but I’ll save that for a book. 😉 I do want to give you a bottom line, though, so here it is….

  • Serving Christ isn’t always easy, but it is rewarding. It may not bring instant growth, but it reaps life-long lessons. And the end blessing is so worth the smallest sacrifices.
  • Don’t avoid situations that point out your weaknesses. Instead, embrace them and ask God to use the tough lessons to better you as His child. 

If you haven’t counseled at a Christian camp before, I highly recommend it. While I learned some difficult things and struggled through that week a little bit, I wouldn’t trade my counseling experience for anything. My only regret is that I didn’t do it longer!

I truly feel like God refined me, and I’m so glad I know how to improve not only my walk with God, but myself as a counselor in the future.

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do” (Galatians 5:13).

Life is for service. Go live it! ❤

-Abigail Tovah

P.S. Have you noticed the change on the blog? “The Other Side” finally has a new name! The URL will be changed in December, and I’m working on the graphics little by little. I’m so excited to refine this new theme! I hope you like it. 🙂 

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One thought on “Things I Learned as a Camp Counselor

  1. Love the name and love the new graphics. Suh-weet! 😀

    But your post…wonderful, Abigail. I love your heart! What a special privilege and blessing to be able to watch that little girl hand her life over to Jesus. ❤ The angels were rejoicing in heaven!! Another daughter of Christ! Wow…sounds like you had an amazing week and that God used you to further his kingdom!!!!!!!

    I was a camp counselor in 2016. My week wasn’t perfect–it definitely had its moments. I also cherished those forty-five minutes of free time, so I could shower and call home. Being a counselor is hard! It was my first time, and I felt totally inadequate. But it’s true–when I am weak, then He is strong!
    To be able to connect with the girls and to love on them brings such a joy. One of the highs of my week when I was at camp was when I was leading them in our Bible devotions, explaining about how when God forgives our sins He tosses them as far as the east is from the west and remembers the sin no more. Their eyes lit up with understanding! To know that they could be forgiven! It blessed my heart. ❤

    Like

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