The Impact of Service Programs on our Youth
By Katy Holmes
I love camp! I have for well over two decades. One of my favorite aspects of the camp I grew up attending and working at is the high school volunteer program. Here at Camp Victory, we call it our CIT Program, which stands for Camper-In-Training. This program is mainly a “behind the scenes” kind of job. As a CIT, there is a lot of time spent setting tables, washing dishes, sweeping floors, and cleaning bathrooms, to name just a few. Often times, these tasks go unnoticed and there are not a lot of accolades that come with performing these jobs.
Twenty years ago, I took the leap and applied to be a CIT, and that was probably one of the best decisions I could have ever made. During my first summer, I served for a couple of weeks and to say that I was hooked is quite an understatement! For a quiet, homeschooled teenager like myself, I had found a “family.” Not that I did not already have an awesome family, because I did (and still do!). In truth though, I found “my kind of people.” We ALL loved camp – we somehow made cleaning fun – and, more importantly, we loved God! I served four years as a CIT, during which my relationship with the Lord deepened. And I also found a place where I felt I belonged, more so than anywhere else. Which, if you did not know, is a BIG deal for a teenager!
Along the way, I also had the privilege of becoming a role model to my campers. And while I initially thought that I might be able to make a good impression on them, I found that they taught me a great deal too! I remember vividly, one night after chapel, the counselor in my cabin had asked me to share my testimony. During this time of sharing, I used the “ABCs” of salvation: Admit you have sinned, Believe in Jesus, Confess that Jesus is Lord. This was used as a way to guide me while sharing how the Lord changed my life. Afterward, one of my campers came over to my bunk. She asked, “What about the rest of the ABC’s – you shared a, b, and c but what about the rest of the letters?” I was puzzled! She continued by saying that one of her goals for her week of camp was to come up with words about the Lord to finish off the alphabet. And guess what? She did! The very next day she came into the cabin looking for me. She had in hand a crumpled sheet of paper and, by golly, she had come up with a word for every letter of the alphabet! She gave it to me “for keeps” and I kept it tucked in my Bible for years. The icing on the cake for that week of camp was that this same young girl also asked Jesus to come into her heart! Not because of me but because the Lord used me and many others to plant those seeds into her life.
As I was writing down my thoughts for this post, I stumbled upon some interesting information concerning volunteer service. I read somewhere that there are studies that say serving in a volunteer capacity as a teenager gives them the boost needed to perform better in school, they gain confidence, and feel like they are a part of something that is making a difference. In my opinion, there is SO much good that can be gained from doing this kind of service at a summer camp. First, you learn the value of doing all this in the heat of summer. (Hello, south Alabama heat!) Second, you learn how to function without constant access to technology. (Can I get an AMEN?) More importantly, at camp we focus on pushing you closer to the Lord. Which, as a child of God, should be our top priority. The list could go on and on with the benefits of serving at a summer camp but I don’t think I have enough space here!
One thing I do know is that I am so thankful I did not talk myself out of applying to be a CIT. I firmly believe that I would not be the same person I am today had I not! It was an experience that shaped me into who I am and now I have the distinct privilege of working alongside the very woman who challenged me when I was a high schooler, so it could not get any better than this. God has chosen to use me, despite my imperfections, to influence current high schoolers, and I am so humbled!
We are all a part of something much bigger than ourselves and I want you to know that a difference can be made for the Kingdom, even while cleaning bathrooms and setting tables. (Obviously not in that order!) And that is what serving the Lord with gladness is all about.
Before I go, I want to share this – a few years ago, my kids memorized a verse found in Colossians 3:13 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (ESV)
Is this verse true in your life? Folks, in case you did not know, we are working for the King of Kings, in all that we do – not for the praise of others.
Heart check time: How are you working? Are you hustling in hopes that what you do is noticed by others or are you working for the Lord? Because He is the reason that we have life, and everything we do should honor Him above everything else.
He > I
Written by Katy Holmes from Camp Victory (CBM of South Alabama). Katy serves as High School Staff Leader/Supervisor, husband’s (Stephen) back-up, & homeschool mom to three. To learn more about Camp Victory’s ministry click here: [http://www.campvictoryal.org]