Monday, August 25, 2014

Fun and Faithfulness: A Reflection

I’m sitting on my couch as I write this and I am thinking of how God has richly blessed me this summer. For those of you who don’t know, I wrote 6 different blog posts this summer updating my readers of how things were going during my 7 week stay on Catalina Island. Feel free to click on the links below to read any of the updates.

I wrote in the beginning of the summer that God was going to show up at Campus by the Sea. He didn’t just show up, he was waiting for us. He knew exactly what he had in store for us before we even got to the island.
This was the view from my bed at sunrise. I slept on an outdoor deck every night.

       If you read all of my blog posts from the summer you know how blessed I was to be able to work with the Kindergarten age group and have such an amazing teaching partner. I went into the summer wanting an older age to work with but God obviously had different plans for me! I also had an idea of who I wanted to work with. Although I had these plans of my own, I loved working with the 4 and 5 year olds and it was such a joy to work with my partner Seth this summer.  Some of our friends on staff would comment on how great Seth and I would do in class but we give so much credit to the kids. We were so blessed with so many amazing kiddos that were so eager to learn and have a fun time! I learned so much about kids and how they learn. Occasionally things didn’t go as planned during class time, but those unplanned moments gave me and Seth the opportunity to be creative! Our favorite moments of class were the times when a child would take their clothes off in the middle of class or tell us how they have seen a live dinosaur. A lot of the times we would question what went on in their little heads but their crazy stories and prayers for each other would keep us laughing. We were both so pleased to be able to work with a fun and silly age group! I was so blown away with how the entire elementary staff worked so well together. We all connected so well and did a great job serving our campers!
This is Jojo! Two years ago she was rescued from the Congo
and week 6 she was in our class. She was one of our all-stars!
Getting them together for a photo was so difficult.
My teaching partner, Seth, and little Brandon!
       God has blessed me by putting so many amazing people in my life. Living in community with so many people for an extended amount of time can be difficult at times but we experienced very little drama despite having a variety of personalities. I was so impressed with how many people on staff were on fire for God. Everyone that was part of the staff had such an amazing heart for serving people and putting others before themselves. In the morning, the beach would be flooded with staff members reading their bibles and spending some time in prayer. I loved being in such a Christ-centered, encouraging community this summer. I have been back for a full week and I have already seen a group of my camp friends two times. Even though we live a far distance from each other, we all makes an effort to spend quality time together. It was so refreshing to wake up to so many smiling faces of people who were ready to serve and have fun while doing it. Without their encouragement, loving personalities, and their love for Lord, I wouldn’t have been able to make it through the summer. All of my camp friends will always have a special place in my heart.

A few of us dressed up as ninjas in preparation for a birthday skit!
Not everyone made the photo but I LOVE these people.
       There were many fun times this summer, obviously, but I will narrow it down to just a few. Our summer was filled with fun meal times, pranks, paddle boarding, dancing, teaching, snorkeling, games, hikes, nights of sleeping under the stars, and inside jokes. Did you notice how I didn't list "spending time on Facebook" or "Talking on the phone"? Thats because the cove that the camp is in has no cellphone reception and no internet access for summer staff and campers! This allowed us to focus on each other and have fun without being distracted by technology. One of my favorite memories of this summer was night snorkeling on a Saturday night with everyone on staff. We all put on full-body wetsuits as we prepared to go into the black water. We were armed with our mask, snorkel, and dive lights as we swam around the creepy water.  I knew that I was not going to last long because of my fear of the dark, but my good friend convinced me to stay out until the end. It was so exhilarating and I’m so glad I stayed for the whole experience. We spent a rainy Saturday swimming in the ocean and doing our beloved “rain dance”. Another fun memory I’ve cherished was going on a plethora of staff hikes. We had a 2 mile shore hike, a 4 mile night hike, a 9 mile hike called “Lone Tree”, and a daily 1.5 mile hike followed by a swim. Those hikes were such a great time for the staff to get to know each other (suffer together, haha)! We had many fun times working in our classrooms this summer as well. I have multiple pages in my journal that are full with things our kids would say in class! One morning my friend Christy and I woke up to ants all around our sleeping bags. We didn’t think anything of it until we got to breakfast and heard that some of our guy friends but sugar around our mattresses to attract the ants. We spent our nights with the campers being a part of a gameshow, line and swing dancing, singing songs and having s'mores at the campfire, and reflecting on each week during a "fancy" banquet night. One of the coolest things about this camp was that it was all good, wholesome fun that was free from any drama.

This photo was taken before Syd's departure.
You can see our beautiful facilities in the background.
This photo was taken right before our night snorkeling adventure!
       God has taught me so much about so many different things this summer. One of them was how I learning how God uses every single situation whether we recognize it or not. There were many times when the staff would rejoice together and times when we would weep together. Through great times and sad times we knew that God had a purpose in every circumstance. We had many illnesses come and go this summer but to see how God stopped those right in their tracks was miraculous and, without a doubt, the work of the Lord. We also saw the way that God worked in the midst of families who were broken and in need of a break from the craziness of the mainland.
Another thing I learned was how God knows my every need. I mentioned in a previous post how I have always wanted to be an elementary teacher. I would tell my friends that I would take any grade except kindergarten. After working with that age all summer, I now feel confident enough to say that I could be a kindergarten teacher! God gave me this challenge knowing it would give me the confidence I needed. After seeing how he worked in my heart this summer, I am so willing to let him use me now. He also affirmed my desire and talent of working with kids. I also learned a lot about patience. Most of the time when kids would act up or misbehave, they were often the ones that needed the most love. Sometimes, they just need to be held! I am so grateful for having the opportunity to work with a partner who was always so patient and willing to hold our kiddos when I couldn't. 
Snorkeling is my favorite

The last thing, and most important thing I learned was how important God’s word is. I have always known its important, but this summer I learned the bible needs to be the guide for my life. It has the answers to questions and doubts that may slow me down.  Since being back from the island, I have made my morning devotions part of my daily routine and I have seen how much it can lift my spirits and give me a fresh start to my day.

Thank you to all my family friends who loved me through this all! I appreciated all the cards, care packages, and prayers that came from all of you this summer. Love you all!

“In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus.
Give me Jesus.
You can have this whole world, just give me Jesus.”


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Camp Berea

For those of you who don’t know, I spent 7 weeks of my summer on Catalina Island serving at a camp called Campus by the Sea, and two weeks serving at a camp in New Hampshire called Camp Berea.
I got to be Princess Ana for one night!!

Eighteen staff from Campus by the Sea headed to Hebron, New Hampshire after being on an island for 7 weeks. We arrived in Hebron on Sunday, May 3rd fresh off of a Red Eye flight from Long Beach California. I have to admit, the first few days in New Hampshire were difficult for me. My body was tired, I was in a new environment, and I was busy preparing a familiar program for an unfamiliar environment. One of the biggest changes for me in this transition was getting a new teaching partner. Unfortunately, not everyone from the Campus by the Sea program staff got to go to Berea so I got the opportunity to work with a guy named Micah instead of working with my previous partner, Seth. It was so cool to see how well Micah picked up the 4 and 5 year old curriculum so fast and did it so well! The kids loved him and he was such a great partner.
Sweet Michelle, I love her life
One of my campers from last year

            There are many differences between Campus by the Sea and Camp Berea but one of the biggest is the children. It seems silly but its true. The kids generally have a harder time leaving their parents for the day. They are less comfortable with us as teachers and the parents have a harder time leaving their kids with us. Even though we had that hurdle, each week ended with the kids being happy to be in class with their teachers and new friends. Micah and I really depended on God to give each kid peace about being in class and we got to see God worked in each of their lives in simple ways. Although I spent, most of my time with 4 and 5 year olds, I also got to invest in the lives of my 6th and 7th grade students that I had last year at camp Berea. It was really great to see how they have grown physically and spiritually in the last year! I also really enjoyed the quality time I got to have with staff. We had great times of running in the rain, finding caterpillars, dancing, and serving campers.