In the summer of 2003, my son Brandon went to spend a week at Camp Kadesh. This was the first time he had been at camp there but it wasn't the first time for me. It was 17 years earlier that I had been at this camp myself, not as a camper, but as a wounded young girl in need of knowing who God really was. A dear friend saw the huge mess my life was in when I was 16 years old and encouraged me to go and work up at camp for a summer. That was the best summer of my life - it changed who I was and was a tremendous stepping stone into discovering who God really was. This week that Brandon was at camp, I cooked in the kitchen. The first morning, I felt very strongly that God wanted me to share with the counselors and all the camp workers my journey that I had taken 17 years earlier at this same camp. So I spoke with the camp director and told him what was on my heart. The next morning I was sharing at their devotional time. Here's what I shared:
My Sharing with Camp Kadesh Staff July 2003
About a year ago, I began having a desire to share my story with young people. I’ve shared it with many people before, mostly friends and often strangers. But never young people like you. It wouldn’t leave my heart and so I told God, okay, if you want me to do this, it will happen in your time and place and you’ll help me know what to say.
My son went to camp for the first time last summer (I worked that week as well) and the desire to share grew. He went to camp at the Quest – he had gone with a friend. The desire grew greater in my heart and at the back of my mind I wondered if God would ever bring me back here to Kadesh.
Brandon wanted to go to camp again this summer and I encouraged him to try Kadesh. So here we are. This is the first time I’ve been back since the summer of ’86. When Brenda (the speaker this week) shared on Sunday night about the Armour of God, I knew my time had come to share. When she talked about nervousness with me on Monday night and who makes you nervous, I knew again that I would have to share this. Tuesday morning during my devotions God again confirmed that I needed to share with you, so I spoke to Kelly the director and he obviously said yes. J This was the time and place God chose.
So, it was the summer of 1986. I had just finished Gr. 11. I was not living at home – not since Gr. 10. I was not honouring or respecting my parents and I had a confused view of God. I had lived in a couple of different places and my brother had just kicked me out of his home (where I had been living at the time) in a drunken rage. I didn’t know where to go and I felt I couldn’t go back home. I had a very good friend who’s a missionary now. She loved me a lot and so did her parents – I had lived with them for a while. She suggested that I go work at camp, she encouraged me to call the director Dave Harder – she had already spoken to him about me. I phoned and he wanted me to come, so I cam to Kadesh.
That is where my journey began. This place, that summer changed my life. It was a critical point in my life – I was dishonouring God and my parents in the choices I was making. In a sense I knew better but I chose to rebel against what my parents had tried to teach me during my growing up years. They didn’t know what they were talking about and I knew better than them – I knew what I wanted. I chose to do what I wanted. I was a mess – partying, drinking, living away from home, hanging out with the wrong people, dishonouring God with my body and my life. I came here lost and hurt.
When I got here, the director had me memorize the Armour of God scripture in Ephesians. So here I was, the first time ever at camp at the age of 17 – Dining Hall Supervisor over in the Quonset. What a summer of discovering who God really was. Everyone at camp was wonderful – I made great “right” friends and I was part of a great family – I was in a different world. There were many great examples around me and every week testimonies were shared. This was the first place I ever shared my testimony. There was a drama one night about a girl sitting on a fence – on one side was her Bible study group and on the other were her partying friends. It was completely black in the Quonset and a spotlight shone on one group at a time – each trying to convince her which to choose. Then suddenly there was utter darkness and a shrilling scream by the girl – time had run out and she couldn’t choose and now it was too late. That drama impacted me so greatly – that girl was me. I knew I had to choose and that night I chose God. I shared my testimony and rededicated my life to Christ. Afterward I phoned my mom, whom I had hurt deeply, and told her that I was coming home. I told her I had chosen God and I asked for forgiveness. The director had given me his personal Bible to take home with me, which impacted me greatly as well. My missionary friends’ parents asked me to share my testimony in their church when I got home. Wow!
When I got back home to reality, it wasn’t easy in any way. Was life perfect after that? No but it was the beginning of a wonderful journey – a summer I’ll never forget. I came back the next summer for work for 2 weeks and brought a friend with me to work as well.
What I want to say to all of you today is in spite of what you’ve done or where you’re from, God is using you and you are on a journey. Be aware of the example you are to those around you and how you are impacting these lives around you. You are constantly being watched by those near you. Where will you be 15 years from now? How will what you’re doing here this summer impact you and affect your future? No only are you teaching the lives of the campers around you but you are touching and impacting each others lives as well. I don’t know where you’re at or where you’re from but I know that God loves you and is using you right where you’re at today, right now. You’re not perfect and you may be hurting but God is still using you. Someday he will bring your life full circle – from where you began and it will be so wonderful to see how God has moved in your life and how He has used you. I wanted to share this with you in hopes to encourage you and strengthen you in some way. Remember your example and the impact you have on others through the rest of the summer. Be the friend that loves enough to see when your friend needs God and who needs you to bring them to a place like this.
A verse I would like to leave with you is from Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
My niece shared this quote with me after reading this testimony:
“If you have an embarrassing past you’ve gained victory over, don’t fear it. Paul had one too; instead of hiding his persecution of the church, he let God use it to bring Him glory. Some may have pointed, but more believed.”
Lord you’ve worked a miracle in my life. Don’t let me be shy in sharing what you’ve done.
Thank you for listening and may God bless you greatly today and the rest of the summer.
After sharing this, one of the cook's shared with me the journey she was taking with her daughter. She said my story really encouraged her and gave her hope as her daughter was not living at home at the time and was very young. I thanked God at that moment that I followed His leading in sharing my story because she may have been the only reason that I shared. Only God knows who my sharing really impacted. Later that day, a worker at the camp also approached me about the journey she had been taking before coming to camp and the wrong choices she had been making. Her and I spent time together talking and praying, she said my story really encouraged her. We still keep in contact with each other, I pray for her when I think of her and we are developing a friendship - she has been a real blessing to me. My niece had also been there with me that week as well looking after my 2 girls as I cooked in the kitchen. It was hard for me to share in front of her because I was revealing details of my life that she'd never seen before, it was very humbling. It was a step out of my comfort zone but God blessed me for it. My niece said things to me that really encouraged me and blessed me. I thanked God for her.
I hope this is an encouragement to you to share your life with others. God directs us in His word to bless others and share with them and encourage them. He always puts people in our lives that are going through challenges in their life that we've already gone through. So many times He's put people in my life that have gone through tough times that I'm going through or have gone through and they've always been such an encouragement to me and many of them have prayed for me. My prayer is that I can be an encouragement to others when I see them going through journeys that I've travelled through before. God is there, He will help you through your journey of life and He will send others to be there alongside you as well. Trust Him.
May God bless you today!