By: Madeleine “Maddie” Jomolca
I attended summer camp every summer, growing up. Come early June, while many of our friends indulged in the typical summer vacation “sleep ins”, my four siblings and I were parked front and center of the park or club, in later years, lunch bag in-hand, somewhat, ready for the days grueling activities. We spent our days in the sun, playing kick ball, dodge ball, soft ball.. and all-things “ball”; and creating crafty little projects that included beaded friendship pins, popsicle-stick birdhouses, tin-can telephones, and tie-dying several items. We made spaghetti sauce from ketchup, shared sunflower seeds and spooked one another with chilling ghost stories of haunted neighboring houses.
It was in summer camp that I not only had my first crush, but learned the importance of effective communication via good sportsmanship, and team building – And it was those very qualities that kicked in, not only as a camp leader throughout the years, but also as a single parent. The experiences, the good, the bad, and the ugly, undoubtedly become long-held memories and ideals that, for better or worse, shape us into the adults we are today. Still, if we’re conscientious and responsible, we can draw on these events and use them to pour into and bless the lives of others.
This is a story from our minister of seniors at a good friends’ church and his experience as a first time counselor at his youth camp.
“My high school reunion dinner was Saturday evening. To be honest, I didn’t want to go. Oh, I keep up with a couple of friends from high school … but, that’s it, just a couple. When I was growing up, my home life was very difficult (I’m thankful because of Jesus it got much better). Not only was my home life difficult, I was a sickly kid, … in and out of the hospital. I received the brunt end from a bully or two. The reason I tried to make people laugh when I was a child was hopefully to keep them from picking on me.
Why would I want to go back and see the people who had made fun of me or picked on me as a child? But, I did go back. A couple of people came up to me on Saturday and shared how I had helped them through difficult times in school because of something I did. To be honest with you, I don’t remember doing what they said I did. How could a scared little kid, with a terrible inferiority complex, afraid of his own shadow, do something that helped anyone?
As I was reading this morning, I came across a story from Anthony Campolo that helped me understand. Please let me share it with you:
“I was asked to be a counselor in a junior high camp. Everybody ought to be a counselor in a junior high camp – just once. A junior high kid’s concept of a good time is picking on people. And in this particular case, at this particular camp, there was a little boy who was suffering from cerebral palsy. His name was Billy. And they picked on him.
Oh, they picked on him. As he walked across the camp with his uncoordinated body they would line up and imitate his grotesque movements. I watched him one day as he was asking for direction, ‘Which … way is … the … craft … shop?’ he stammered, his mouth contorting. And the boys mimicked in that same awful stammer, ‘It’s … over … there … Billy.’ And then they laughed at him. I was irate.
But my furor reached its highest pitch when on Thursday morning it was Billy’s cabin’s turn to give devotions. I wondered what would happen, because they had appointed Billy to be the speaker. I knew that they just wanted to get him up there to make fun of him. As he dragged his way to the front, you could hear the giggles rolling over the crowd. It took little Billy almost five minutes to say seven words.
‘Jesus … loves … me … and … I … love … Jesus.’
When he finished, there was dead silence. I looked over my shoulder and saw junior high boys bawling all over the place. A revival broke out in that camp after Billy’s short testimony. And as I travel all over the world, I find missionaries and preachers who say, ‘Remember me? I was converted at that junior high camp.’
We counselors had tried everything to get those kids interested in Jesus. We even imported baseball players whose batting averages had gone up since they had started praying. But God chose not to use the superstars. He chose a kid with cerebral palsy to break the spirits of the haughty. He’s that kind of God.”
Don’t ever sell yourself short – thinking that you could never influence anyone. As a matter of fact, there might be several out there who have been touched by how you treated them.”
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11