Two weeks ago I had am amazing opportunity to go to Youth Camp for the first time ever. This camp was not the typical Church Camp; it was a Mission Camp. Seventeen teenagers and three adults loaded up in borrowed Taekwondo Vans and drove from Austin to Galveston.
Our days were spent volunteering while our nights involved worshiping and learning. The worship band was awesome. They used lights, smoke, and very loud speakers. The room was absolutely electric. Seeing teenagers worship without abandon was so humbling and wonderful to witness. Our speaker was so funny, but right on target. He spoke about having a servant’s heart and reaching out, in love, to the needy. He was able to capture the attention of over 200 teenagers for an hour – an amazing feat!
I loved attending church every night for 5 days straight! It kept me motivated and aware of God’s love and teachings. But the best times I had at camp were during the service projects. We handed out food at the Catholic Charities food bank, we fed the homeless at the Salvation Army, and we helped in the continued clean up after Hurricane Ike at the Galveston Seafarers Center. During these projects, we were able to connect to many different people. I was amazed with the willingness of the teens to do anything asked of them without complaining or questioning. They worked hard, but always had a smile on their face. During evening church times, all twenty of us piled in one hotel room and talked about the day. Listenting to each teenager open up was incredible.
I have to be honest though, I learned so much about myself during those 5 days. First of all, I felt inspired to continue serving on a more regular basis. I have participated in several volunteer opportunities through my church, but now I want to discover my own passion and find a way to serve. Helping those in need is an integral part of my faith, although I just learned this in the past couple of years. I was also pushed out of my comfort zone quite a bit. I am terribly shy and have a difficult time chit-chatting with strangers. But at each service project, I was able to carry on meaningful conversations. In addition, my committment to work with the youth ministry was re-energized. I was feeling burnt out and was considering serving in a different way. Now I know that I am in the right ministry for me.
Even though we spent a lot of time volunteering, worshipping, and talking about God, we were able to have some fun. I had a room full of middle school girls – probably the messiest I have seen! Our room was by far, the worst. I enjoyed being included in girl-talk that lasted well into the night. I felt like I was able to connect more to each of the girls and that the beginnings of trust were formed. One of the girls even talked me into letting her braid my hair – which turned out lovely! I even watched my first (and last) episode of Hannah Montana. On Sunday, we talked the pastor into having ice cream before we ate lunch. We then walked up and down the Strand and acted like tourists. There were trips to the beach, the pool, and even a secret trip to Sonic!
I had a great time at camp and I would love to go again next year!