Camper to Counselor
My first summer at Lakeside was 1999. I was a ten year-old junior camper and my counselor was Jill. Away from home for the first time, I was a little fish in a big pond, but I instantly connected with my cabin mates and with Jill. She looked after us, like a mother duck looks after her ducklings, and made sure that we had a week we would never forget. And for our parents’ sakes, she made sure we brushed our teeth, ate our veggies, and showered every now and then – apparently the lake didn’t count? But most importantly, Jill made sure that we knew how much she loved Jesus and how much she loved us. In our daily cabin devotions, she impressed upon us, in a way that we could understand, the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and how we should live in response.
I am fortunate enough to have grown up in a Christian home and in a wonderful church, so the story of salvation was not a new one to me. But there was something new about pursuing God in a camp environment. Our days were full of fun and laughter at the waterfront, on the low ropes course, or around the table at mealtimes. And during every activity, we were constantly building relationships with our peers and with our counselors. Jill’s age, paired with the fact that she gave me the time of day, automatically made her cool in my book.
In retrospect, it is a little scary to think how much I idolized my counselors. I was amazed at how twenty-something Michelle was able to pull off light up sneakers at her age (to which I promptly went home and purchased my own pair) and loved that Megan went by the nickname of Megs. I figured Marty would never stop working camp, because she was there every summer I could remember, and I practiced braiding my head into small braids just like Kelly. I looked up to my counselors in every way, including for reference on how to live my life as a Christian.
I spent six summers as a camper at Lakeside, each time experiencing God in a new and powerful way. Eventually I felt the call of God to join summer staff. I first worked in the kitchen before transitioning to be a counselor in 2006. I was beyond excited, but intimidated by the huge responsibility that came along with this. I wanted to provide the same love and wisdom to my campers that my counselors had given to me over the years, but those were some big shoes to fill. Thankfully, God is faithful and he worked in the lives of my campers that summer, always reminding me, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Reading through my journals from my counseling years, I am reminded of story after story of how by God’s grace, campers grew in their faith at Lakeside. To tell just one – during one week of junior camp, my co-counselor and I planned a devotion for our campers that entailed a half-hour of silent prayer time on the green. I was nervous that this might be too long for some of our girls, only 9 -11 year olds, but we decided to try it. We sat on the cabin porch while we let them spend time with God on their own. Towards the end of the time allotted, one of our campers, a sweet girl named Samantha, came up to us and quietly remarked, “I never want it to end.” My eyes filled with tears at her honest desire to continue in conversation with God.
This experience was one of many during my years of counseling when I was left humbled by the genuine faith of my campers. While I can only hope that I had an impact on their lives, I know they had an impact on mine.
And therein lies the beauty about Lakeside. It is a place centered on God where people grow deeper in their faith through the relationships that they form. As a camper, God used the counselors to show me what the fruit of the Spirit looks like in a Christian’s life – they were all so full of love, joy, kindness, faithfulness. As a counselor, God used the campers to gently remind me that Jesus calls us to have the faith of a child (Mark 10:15).
While I’m no longer spending my summers dressing up for the counselor hunt or seizing the opportunity of rain to start a mudfight, my years at camp have left a lasting impression on my life. I am joyful to see the legacy of campers and counselors continuing, and I praise God for all that He has done through the ministry of Lakeside.
– Amanda Hug
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