My name is JB, I am the newest member of the team here at camp! I first began working at Redwood Glen back in 2012 as part of the summer staff crew. My first summer I worked at Discovery Camp assisting in the program office, then I spent the next couple summers backpacking with the Outdoor Adventure Camp, or OAC as most of you probably know it. I officially joined the program team this last April as the summer OAC director and have now transitioned into my full time position as Program Specialist. I do not get the opportunity to introduce myself in person all that often since I spend a good chunk of time running around in the woods and hanging up in the trees, fortunately managing the camp blog is also on my list of to do’s, so I am taking advantage of the opportunity to introduce myself here! I want to take a bit of your time to begin to share some of who I am, my heart for camp ministry, and my vision for camp, that way the next time you see me I’m not such a stranger. So without further ado, here we go!
Let me start by telling you three very important characteristics about myself that dictate about 85 percent of the decisions I make.
#1 JB is very easily embarrassed,
#2 JB will avoid confrontation at all cost
#3 There is not a whole lot that grosses JB out more than when her food touches.
Because of the strife these situations cause in my life, I spend a good portion of my day trying to avoid activities that will compromise any of these areas of my life. Unfortunately they are all at some point unavoidable and on my worst of days all three characteristics are challenged at once, which leads us to a story of my very first camp memory.
I could not have been much older than 5 when my mom sent me to my first YMCA day camp. I don’t remember much regarding that week, I know there was a bridge over wildflowers, a playground with wood chips and some type of craft with popsicle sticks. There is one memory from that week however that is seared into my mind so well it could have happened yesterday. It was my first time making hobo stew and everything that could go wrong, did.
For those of you who have never experienced hobo stew before it is fairly simple, you throw a hamburger patty, a bunch of veggies, and maybe a starch into a foil envelope toss it in the fire and in just a short time you have a wonderful little meal. As a picky first grader, I appreciated that I was allowed to choose what went in my foil, the idea of all of my food mixing in one envelope however was not ideal (remember food touching not my favorite). Unfortunately my fear of confrontation began at a young age, so there was no way I was planning on voicing my concerns any time soon. I carefully placed my potatoes as far from my corn in the package as I could, handed it to a leader and watched as they closed it up and placed it in the fire.
We did some sort of activity to distract us as our lunch cooked and then when the food was ready our leaders called us over to the picnic tables. I listened carefully as they called each camper’s name to come grab their little foil lunch, but mine never came. “Well,” I thought, “dodged that bullet.” I joined the other campers at the table content with the idea of the peanut butter and honey sandwich mom would make me when I got home. Just then a man came up to me and told me all about how my lunch had fallen in the fire and was completely burnt and he felt so bad but…..“It’s okay, we can split mine” he said.
Looking back, I realize this may have been just about the sweetest thing to say, and my response to a situation like this would probably be similar. In that moment however, as my cheeks began to flush and the embarrassment of having to share a meal with this creepy stranger set in, I could not have been more traumatized. He scooped me up, sat me next to him at the “cool” leader table, and handed me a fork. I was now the weird kid whose food fell in the fire, eating the most horrific mix of touching food, and I could not voice my concerns for fear I would hurt his feelings. It may not sound that atrocious to you, but to wee JB it was the worst day ever….to this day I still have flashbacks of the anxiety it caused when I see foil.
By the grace of God and an extremely persistent mother, I have overcome my fear of both hobo stew and camp (obviously). I never went back to YMCA camp but it was the beginning of a long tradition of attending summer camp with my cousins. We started going to Mountain Lakes Bible Camp (MLBC) as soon as we were old enough, and never missed a summer after. By the time I was 12, I was working at day camp and by high school was spending the majority of my summers volunteering for weeks at a time. Camp was my second home, infact, staff would say welcome home when myself or my cousins would show up. After high school God orchestrated it so that I was able to continue working at camp during all four summers of my college years. It is crazy to believe that this last summer season marked my 12th year in a row working at camp.
There is something so powerful and beautiful about the relationships you form at camp, the ministry opportunities it provides, and the atmosphere for spiritual growth that it cultivates. When God offered me the opportunity to work in camp ministry full time, the decision was simple. God has been using camp to stretch me beyond my comfort zone and teach me more about who He is even since my very first memory. I am excited to continue Ben’s work in developing OAC and creating a safe space to challenge teenagers. Using camp to encourage them to reach outside their comfort zones and discover what their identity looks like when they place it in Christ.