By Natasha St Martin
My first summer at Lakeside was in the summer of 2008. Eleven years later, I can say that this single experience altered the course of my life for the better.
I grew up in a traditional church, continually just going through the motions. I would go to church every Sunday and recite all the prayers, but I had no idea what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus. I remember being taught in Sunday school that since Jesus gave us his entire life, the least I could do was give him an hour a week and pay attention in church. I remember hearing this countless times. It wasn’t until years later when I realized that not only does God want to be in a relationship with the people He created, but He deserves so much more praise and more of our attention than merely an hour a week.
Growing up non-Baptist, going to a Baptist summer camp wasn’t even a consideration to my parents. Not only that but my family couldn’t afford to send me to summer camp. However, my mother was and is still working as a CNA at Elim Park and she entered my name into a raffle to win a scholarship for a week at Lakeside Christian Camp. When she mentioned it to me, I was nervous because I had never been to summer camp before so I had no idea what to expect, but she also prefaced with the fact that it’s a lottery so I might not even get the chance to go. By the grace of God, I was blessed by receiving a scholarship to Lakeside Christian Camp for a week of breakaway camp the summer before going into seventh grade. Not only was it so much fun, but for the first time, I actually heard the Gospel, and heard what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus. This was the first time I heard about God’s perfect grace and infinite mercy, and that there was nothing that I could do to be ‘good enough for God,’ but that the salvation that comes through Jesus is a free gift. This was the first time in my life that someone sat down and prayed prayers with me that wasn’t just rote prayers, but a prayer from the heart directly to God. This was the first time I danced to worship songs- strange as it seemed at first- and sang songs of praise to Jesus. It was all so different from everything that I had grown up learning but in the best way.
After that week, I went back to going through the motions of being at my old church because my parents had me on track to get confirmed, but I still looked forward to going back to Lakeside the next summer. My second summer I stayed for a week, but as the years went on, that one week turned into two, then five and so on. I would save my allowance, use my birthday money, and ask my grandparents for financial help so that I could keep going back to Lakeside and spend more time there every summer.
Lakeside quickly became my home away from home and going there every summer was the highlight of my year. Each summer I would learn more about God and grew my relationship with Jesus even more. Over the years, I went from being a breakaway and venture camper to a crew camper, to an intern, and this past summer was my third summer being a counselor.
Lakeside Christian Camp will always hold an extremely special place in my heart. It was the place where I came to know Jesus and at 16 years old, I accepted Him as my Savior and it is the single best decision I have ever made. Just a few weeks ago, I was able to get baptized at my second home and it was such an incredible experience. I am extremely blessed to have Lakeside as being such an influential part of my life and my faith- this place helped lead me to Jesus. I am also so blessed to have had that scholarship granted to me from Elim Park 11 years ago because without it, I would have never gone to Lakeside and who knows what course my life would have taken. I am so grateful for Elim Park and Lakeside who together, tremendously impacted my life for the better.