By: Jackie Boyer, Assistant Director for Bible Adventure/CIA
As Assistant Director for Bible Adventure/CIA, I’m always interested in learning how people became involved with our Bible Adventure (formerly released time) and CIA (Christians in Acton for Middle School Students) programs. Last month, I was talking with summer staffer Winter Saunders and she told me how she had earned a free camp when she was a child and how that was very formative in her Christian walk and her involvement with Joy El. Our Bible Adventure team decided that Winter’s story would be a perfect subject for our July blog and as an added incentive for interviewing with us, we decided to gift her with her very own neon green “free camp” t-shirt (which she loves!) Winter has gone through many challenges in her life from being raised in a single-parent household, to suffering from an illness that kept her bed-ridden for 2 years during high school. She has overcome these obstacles with grace and she gives God glory for allowing her to heal and serve at Joy El. Winter says, “I think God gives me a lot of strength and understanding knowing that He’s going to use the pain that I have and that He promises that one day I won’t have it anymore.” Read on to learn more of Winter’s story and how God brought her to where she is today.
Jackie: “How did you get involved with Joy El?”
Winter: “It was through Bible Adventure I earned the free week and before that, I’d been invited many times just from being at Bible Adventure with the Jubilee and then the different weekends. I never wanted to go but when I earned the free week my mother wanted me to go so I went and then I never really left, I just kept coming back.”
Jackie: “When did you first start with Bible Adventure?”
Winter: “I think 3rd grade. I was at the Waynesboro one which is actually going still I think.”
Jackie: “So you did Bible Adventure (Released Time) every year?”
Winter: “Yes until 6th grade”
Jackie: “And then did you participate in CIA?”
Winter: “I went to CIA my 8th grade year and then I actually helped out when I was in High School for a year.”
Jackie: “What can you share about your story, how all of this kind of worked together?”
Winter: “Well I went to the YMCA preschool and I remember that they would go over the pledge of allegiance to the Christian flag and that’s kind of how I heard about God and the Gospel and I just kind of decided that I believed that that was true and shortly after that my mom was invited to church so we started going.
I remember my listeners very well. I’m very thankful for them. And one man in particular, Mr. John, really impacted me.
After that, I had gone to Joy El for the free week and I came again in 8th grade and I joined the 4.12 program. Very shy child, I kept to myself a lot. But, it’s a leadership training program so going through all 5 years of that I was continually impacted by Joy El to develop my leadership skills and come out of my shell.
Joy El has taught me a lot and I continued coming back after I graduated 4.12 in different random job roles-like I filled in for someone when they were on sabbatical and then I’d come back every summer. I was a senior counselor for 2 years , I was the female head counselor last year and now I’m the support staff coordinator. And in all those different positions I learned more about just trusting in God and where He has asked me to be.
Through being the Senior Counselor, I decided that I wanted to study the Bible and be a teacher! So I am at LBC to earn a Bachelor Degree in both Biblical Studies and Early Childhood Education. I’m the first person to go to college.”
Jackie: “From your family?”
Winter: “Yeah and actually finish. Someone else went but they quit. My family doesn’t fully understand why I do so much at Joy El, but throughout the years they have started to see that there is something different about the way I live my life and they are intrigued by that “
Jackie: “That’s so cool! When did you make a decision to begin a relationship with Christ?”
Winter: “I think it was when I just decided that I believed in the Christian flag. I just heard it and believed it. No one was with me. But a lot of things changed after that. And God worked it out to where we started going to church. It really showed me that a church community can be something really great even though there are flaws still. ”
Jackie: “Do you remember what year you earned your free camp?”
Winter: “6th Grade, I was at the very end so you can imagine I was invited to Joy El a lot by then.”
Jackie: “Yeah, but you didn’t want to come. Do you remember what your reservations were?”
Jackie: “So what’s your favorite part about being on staff?”
Winter: “I like that we have mentors and that we get to mentor. That’s like in every position. I love the discipleship here and also it’s always challenging and I know I’m always going to learn. And I just really love seeing lives changed. I know that’s our mission.”
Jackie “What would be your best advice for a child that was feeling hesitant about coming to camp for the first time?”
Winter: (giggles) “Go. If they were anything like me, I would probably say that there are a lot of new things that you’ll get to try. And you don’t know if you don’t like something until you try it. It’s a very safe place where people care about you. So if they weren’t enticed by the go-karts, I’d probably say something like that.”
Jackie: “What are some of the key things you learned through your faith journey with Joy El?”
Winter: “A lot. It really helped me growing up. My mom is a single mom, I grew up with her. And I saw a lot of male role models that imitated attributes of God so it helped me learn about God in a way that I couldn’t understand in my own family dynamic. That was such a big thing that I learned here. Who God is and who that makes me. I learned that I can do more than I think I can and it’s all because of God’s strength and guidance.”
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