By Stephanie Ziebarth, Barnabas Mentor Coordinator
Camp counselors need your prayers.
I spent almost all of the summers of my youth serving in camping ministry, mostly as a junior or senior counselor, followed by women’s head counselor. I dealt with heart-breaking situations, including campers resistant to the Lord working in their hearts, as well as campers who came from horrifying situations.
The interesting thing is: I can still call to mind the faces of each of these young ladies. They were the exception, rather than the rule.
Decades later, I am still involved in camping ministry. Some things do not change, but one thing I have noticed: today’s camp counselors deal with uniquely hard situations every week, rather than on occasion. Children’s situations are becoming more and more difficult as our world tends toward decay.
My daughter Abigail is a senior counselor at Joy El Camps & Retreats this summer. Though I miss seeing her as much as I would prefer, I am very thankful she is willing to serve the Lord in this sacrificial way. When she is around, I love hearing updates about how God is working in and through her this summer.
Each time she updates me, I hear a tale of a hard situation. One camper had both parents in prison and was slow in developing trust with Abigail and her junior counselor, as well as her fellow campers. A junior high girl used to believe in Jesus but now is not sure what she thinks because she struggles with her sexual identity. And these within the first two weeks of summer camp!
Add into this mix the very conscious and significant role of being sure to reach out to ALL campers, rather than just the obviously needy ones. There are many campers who are blessed to come from loving, Christ-centered homes. These children also need to experience the benefit of stepping out of their normal routines to meet with Jesus in a special way at camp. The counselors want to (and are trained to) connect with each one individually.
As I processed and prayed for Abigail and these campers, I considered how Abigail is just one of 18 female senior counselors on staff at Joy El this summer. And Joy El is just one of almost a thousand Christian camps in the Christian Camp and Conference Association. These young people are on the frontline of ministry this summer.
So, you may see photos of camp counselors with wild hairdos or silly costumes, or videos of them doing motions to songs on stage, or hear stories of crazy camp stunts. But know that this fun and silliness is only the tip of the iceberg. These are entries into campers’ hearts and means of joy in a hard world. But these young adults are doing serious heart work. And it’s hard work. And through this hard work, God is changing lives at summer camp in Pennsylvania, Maryland and around the world.
Please pray for the spiritual protection of our camp counselors and those at other camps you know. And pray for our Heavenly Father to work through these sacrificial young people to reach His precious children as they seek Him at summer camp.