and ramblings on everything in between
God makes me fearless. When I think about my life before God, I don’t know if I had a deep sense of adventure in me. If I did, He has only amplified it. He has led me to some pretty cool places – places I never would have wandered on my own.
In August, He led me to a little camp with a big heart on Table Rock Lake. Camp Barnabas. A camp dedicated to loving on children and adults with special needs. I had heard stories about the camp from my pastor and his wife, whose children have been campers there for many years. Something about the stories touched my heart deeply. God kept bringing it up, and I knew this was His way of telling me to go experience it for myself.
This camp is largely run by volunteers since many of the campers need one-on-one attention. Every summer, they round up volunteers (aka missionaries) to serve as counselors, cabin parents, kitchen staff, and activity leaders. No experience required, just a great heart for the Lord and a promise to serve selflessly for a week.
I made the 5-hour journey solo, without a clue as to what to expect. I didn’t realize how unusual it is for someone to volunteer at camp on their own until the first three staffers I met exclaimed, “You came all the way down here by yourself?!” Most missionaries are youth groups in the area, or families who have campers attending that week. I never questioned this because God had said ‘Go!’ I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t know a soul – but it was all good. You know, that adventurous spirit I mentioned above…
It was all good until the second morning, that is. What I didn’t anticipate was waking up on camper arrival day practically in tears. My anxiety was through the roof all night and I couldn’t sleep. The devil tried to convince me of a lot of lies that night – that I was going to shut down instead of responding to the campers with love, that I wouldn’t bond with anyone, that I was going to be a shaky mess all week because of the food situation.
On the day the campers woke up with absolute excitement, the one day they look forward to all year long, I was filled with dread. And I felt so ashamed because of that. Here I was worried about me, when I should have been focused on them. It takes a lot of courage for any camper to be away from home for a week – but especially these campers. They deserved a smiling face instead of a nervous wreck.
I should have trusted that something would change the moment the first camper arrived. As soon as I saw her face, God washed me in immense peace and joy. The tears started coming, but for a very different reason. Out of love and compassion and excitement for the week ahead. It was the quickest flip of a switch I have ever experienced.
There is one word I’ve been using to describe my experience – incredible. From watching campers do things they’ve never done before, to dancing the night away under the stars, to sharing family time with the fellow volunteers and staff members in my bunk, the week was so inspirational to me. It proved to me that I can do hard things – YOU can do hard things – when you choose to trust the Lord. It proved that no matter who we are or where we come from, we don’t have to be strangers with anyone because we all have the same Heavenly Father. And it proved that acceptance is a powerful thing that every single one of us deserves to experience.
I understand the importance of listening when God says, “Go.” I could have stayed home that week and let a number of excuses drown out the sound of His voice. That would have been the easy thing to do. But instead, I chose the hard thing. I went.