|Hopi Cabin, Week 7 2012, Blazers|
My first experience at camp was through the Outdoor Education Program. The Smokey Row 3rd grade class always went. My mom got to be our chaperone, and we stayed in Peoria cabin. I don't remember much from this trip, but I remember telling my mom I wanted to go to camp during the summer time and making a candle.
My first summer as a camper was 2001. I had just finished the 5th grade and I had been waiting for this moment for two years. I barely got in - Mrs. Bartheld called once a week to see if the wait list had changed. It wasn't until the last minute that we got the news. Kristen and I were going to the Camp for a full week. It was Week 3, and we were Potawatomi Braves (now they're called Blazers). The minute my parents came to pick me up I announced that one day I would be a Camp Tecumseh counselor and I wanted to stay at camp forever. I'm sure my parents laughed at me and just took me home.
I talked about camp for weeks, reenacting our cheer, singing songs, and telling stories of mud hikes and skywalkers and blobbing and learning to do fancy dives in diving clinic. I started counting down the days until summer 2002.
What I remember most from that summer was how alive the faith was. For the first time, I encountered incredibly normal and cool people who had so much fun living their lives to the fullest, who also loved Jesus. I had never experienced anything like it. We sang songs at chapel, we talked about God during random games and fun we were having, and we sat down at night to connect with Jesus and one another. The biggest thing was that we even talked about Jesus outside of mealtime prayer and church. It was normal, like he was just another friend everyone had. I remember thinking I couldn't tell my parents that this was a Christian camp - they probably had no idea since I had no idea. (Obviously, they knew...)
In the 6th grade, my faith really started to become alive. I was filled with questions: how did Jesus know to make me? Why did God put me with my family? What if I had been born in China 200 years ago? How is possible that Jesus loves me and knows everything about me and everyone else at the same time? I was hungry for Truth, and I ate up everything my Sunday School teacher had to say that year.
Whenever I tell my story of faith, I say that I've always been the "weird one" who prayed in my family and that my faith was just naturally there. But as I think back, I realize that didn't start until 6th grade. In 2009 when I joined staff, it clicked. Camp Tecumseh was 100% responsible for my faith, and my relationship with Jesus.
Sure, camp was fun, and I'm pretty sure 11-year-old-me wanted to be a counselor so I could swim in a lake all summer, but I just couldn't get enough of camp. When I told stories, it never had to do with the church aspect. But if I were take Jesus and the I'm Third motto out of Tecumseh, would I have loved it as much? I don't think so. Sure, it would have been an incredible and fun outdoor camp, but something would have been missing. On the surface, I fell in love with the activities. Now I realize that I fell in love with Camp Tecumseh because that's where I fell in love with Jesus.
My counselors that first summer had no idea the seeds they planted in my heart. Their love of me, their investment in the mission of Tecumseh, and their love of Jesus changed my life in a small, yet immensely significant way.
Unfortunately, all my pictures from that summer seem to have gone missing. I was hoping to fill this post with hilarious pictures of 11 year old me, but oh well :)