Monday, January 11, 2010

God Put a Smile Upon Your Face

One of the biggest highlights of my life was the summer of 2009, when I spent over two months in Alaska volunteering as a counselor at Echo Ranch Bible Camp. I first heard about it at Olivet’s mission fair held in the fall of 2007, though I opted not to go the following summer. As the next year progressed, however, I couldn’t get Echo Ranch out of my mind. Wondering whether it was more than just a feeling, I decided to pray about whether I should go. About a week later, I got an e-mail from Jon-Michael Gwinnell—the guy in charge of recruiting—saying they were looking for counselors who would be willing to serve in the summer of 2009. I knew it was more than a coincidence. I printed out an application and had everything turned in before January.

I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I got to Alaska. I knew there would be more natural beauty that to what I had been accustomed, but I could not believe how much green they have there. If there aren't buildings, there are only forest, mountains, and ocean. It was incredible. I didn't even want to talk during the drive from the airport to camp because I just wanted to look around. The camp itself is literally situated in a forest. The beach is probably 150 yards or so from the dorm/dining hall, where we lived when we weren’t in the cabins with the campers. If you stood facing the bay, you could clearly see the mountains in front you, as if they just sprouted out of the ocean. Behind you was the forest, which encompassed the dorm, cabins, bathhouses, barn, and various other buildings of the camp.

As much as I loved the scenery, however, I loved the people and experiences even more. I stayed in a cabin with a different group of girls each week and witnessed several of them come to know Christ as their Savior. It was so humbling to be there for the moment their names were signed in the Book of Life. Through chapel messages, prayer, worship, devotions in the cabins, and love, I saw kids' eyes opened to Christ in a whole new way. Through seeing the innocence of their faith, hearing the stories of other counselors, and developing lasting relationships with other believers, my eyes were opened as well.

Of course, camp had its share of difficulties. There were times when I couldn’t answer every question a child had about God. There were times when I felt I was at the end of my rope—that I had no love or patience left. There were times when I felt exhausted and completely helpless, and all I could do what cry out to God to give me strength for each day and love for each child. I was always delighted (and surprised!) to see that when I finally surrendered a situation to Him, He would take over and do more than I ever could on my own. I was able to see all the things I knew about God—that He is faithful, loving, and attentive to our prayers—played out right in front of my eyes. It was as if my faith and spiritual knowledge were finally brought to life.

If you'd like to read more about my experience at Echo Ranch, click here.

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