Thursday, August 14, 2014

When My Name Was Phoebe (What I Learned As A Camp Counselor)

This week, two years ago, I was preparing to say goodbye to the place I called home for an entire summer. Tucked away in the middle of the woods somewhere in Maine, I was a girl's counselor, assistant cook, event coordinator, curriculum developer, conflict resolver, Bible teacher, improv lunchtime skit performer, dishwasher, fire builder, kayak instructor, knitting teacher, thunderstorm comforter...etc.

And they called me Phoebe, and I liked it.

I was 17 years old, and was younger than some of the CAMPERS there that summer. That, by default, caused drama and tension with other campers and staff members, but not issues I didn't learn and grow from. In between my two initial interviews and showing up in early June for training, the director & assistant suddenly resigned. When I told the interim director who I was, she didn't believe me and nearly sent me home.

It was a lonely first two weeks there. I was away from my family for the longest I've ever been, I was surrounded by a dozen other women years older than me with already established friendships & some very shocking beliefs that surprised me after spending so much time in more conservative circles, and I wasn't seen as being equal staff due to my age.

Sean and I were in the midst of an intentional friendship (even though we didn't know it at the time) that had to be put on hold while I was away. I kept his picture tucked in my Bible and prayed for him every day.

Even with all that to start with, I grew exponentially that summer while working in the trenches of ministry. It was all very surreal, and it was beautiful.

5 Things I Learned While Camp Counseling:


1. Practical ministry and counseling skills

Books & classes on Christian counseling ministry never will compare to learning counseling skills hands-on, face-to-face; with tears in your eyes and a Bible in your hand. Counseling comes easier to some people, but it is STILL a skill that must be cultivated. Learning how to listen, learning when to speak and when to be silent, understanding when an issue is too complex for you to deal with on your own, and growing in the art of leading productive conversation - these are all skills that I learned & grew greatly in.



2. To answer the hard questions

If God made everyone, why didn't He make everyone love Him? Is being gay a sin? Why do such bad things happen to good people? Interacting with girls asking these types of questions drove me to study Scripture more and again, to lead healthy and good conversation about our culture and where God is in the midst of that.


3. To effectively teach the Bible

I fear that in an effort to train men to be leaders within the church (which is wonderful), women aren't as often taught, trained, or specifically encouraged to teach Scripture to others. I'm not talking about women being pastors, but teachers in the basic sense of the word - just being prepared and equipped to instruct everyone around her in righteousness.

Proverbs 31:26 says, "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue." When I was at camp and responsible for teaching the Word of God to little ears on a daily basis, I flourished. I learned to teach expositorily - to look at a passage, and teach it verse-by-verse; to ask discussion questions, and to encourage memorization. Unless I taught a Sunday School class or something, I wouldn't have had this opportunity elsewhere.


4. How to lesson plan & teach wiggling middle schoolers

I taught kayaking, knitting, outdoor cooking, & other crafts. For every class I taught, I needed to have a week-long lesson plan outlining my objectives for the week and goals for every day. I've taught the Bible before camp, but never had I taught a skill. I have decided I could never be a teacher (bless your heart all you who are).



5. To abide in Christ like never before

When you're spending all but 20 hours a week pouring everything into the lives of others, you grow weary. The more tired I grew, the more refreshing Christ was to me. The more frustrated, the more His Word gave me peace. The more confused, the more clarity I received.

I learned what "abiding" really meant - to drink deeply of my Savior or else I wouldn't have any more to give.

“I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.” – Psalm 16

I found the fullness of Christ at that small, all-girls camp in the sticks of Maine. Away from the busyness of work, life, school, boys, and media, I was able to be silly & love God and others furiously and in a setting unlike any other.

Even if I didn't get married a year later, I probably wouldn't have gone back to this particular camp for a variety of reasons - but that's not the point. In a unique season of my life (post-high school, pre-love story, pre-marriage, etc), God decided to plant me there and I'm STILL reaping the joys of that summer.

What about you? Have you ever worked at summer camp? What are some of the lessons you've learned?


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