2017-05_LT-SummerCamp

My Culture/Summer

How to Make the Most of Your Week at Summer Camp

If you’re anything like I was — which I think at least two of you out there might just be — you’re counting down the days until you leave for summer camp. Whether you’re excited and cannot wait to get yourself out to Covecrest, Hidden Lake, or Golden State, or you are little bit apprehensive — I was surely a mixture of the two — prepare to get your socks rocked, because Jesus will radically transform your heart through Life Teen summer camps — if you let Him.

In the summer of 2016, I was getting ready to fly to California to serve as a summer missionary out at Camp Golden State. I never went to camp in high school, and had no idea what to expect – which I imagine is probably similar to how some of you may feel. Being an already anxious person made matters much worse, and the closer I got to my departure date, the more my stomach twisted in knots. Y’all. I’ll be real with you here. I was a mess. I felt that I wasn’t “prepared” or “qualified,” that I wasn’t going to be good enough, that I couldn’t spend five weeks apart from my loved ones, that I’d be missing out… The list goes on.

Maybe you’re like me and the thought of leaving the comfort of your home to spend a week at camp is daunting to you. Maybe it’s your first Edge or Life Teen camp experience (or any camp experience, for that matter) and you’re just unsure about the whole thing. I’ve been there. But you don’t have to be like me.

In fact, I challenge you to surrender all of your anxieties to the Lord in prayer and say, very simply, “I trust in You.” Even if your heart doesn’t fully believe it yet. In order to get the most out of your week at summer camp, you have to try to fully enter in, which means fully trusting Him. For me, that looked like repeating those four little words to Jesus over and over again.

As you prepare to leave and pack your duffel bag, ask Jesus to put your heart at ease, and most importantly, to open your heart to all that He wants to give you this summer. And when you get there, try to remember these little tidbits of advice to make the most out of your week at Life Teen summer camp!

Be Present

This is definitely easier said than done, but it is SO important that you constantly remind yourself of this truth: Jesus wants me to be right here. While at camp, it can be very easy in moments of tiredness to let your mind wander to what and who is waiting for you when you get home, or to wish you were back in your cabin falling asleep, or wish that you had just like five minutes of introverted alone time please… Wait, just me? In these brief moments, it is tempting for us to cling to what’s comfortable, but when Jesus brings us to summer camp, He is drawing us away from the familiar on purpose. He’s asking us to trust that He has brought us to this time for a reason, and for us to just let Him love us.

Imagine for a moment you are trying to convince your parents to let you go to the movies with your friends one night, and they just stare down at their phones texting. And no matter what you say or how you say it or how complex and enthralling your argument is, they refuse to listen and keep their eyes glued to the screen. It’s the same with Jesus. He can only speak to you if you keep your eyes fixed on Him and listen. Jesus cannot convince you of His love for you if you’re physically present but your mind is floating elsewhere.

Jesus is asking you of you one thing: to relish and rejoice in this gift He has given you. The gift of this time, just you and Him. Please don’t waste this gift. Ask Jesus to give you the Grace to be fully present in every moment. For me, this meant taking a few moments in between all the camp activities and away from all the commotion to just be by myself and acknowledge Jesus.

It was difficult for me to be present at camp as my mind whizzed about and thought of home and who I was missing, but the more I focused on why I was there, the more it became apparent that Jesus was just asking me to just be there with Him. To take each moment as it comes and be thankful for it… Everything would still be there waiting for me when I got home, but this moment right now, I could never get back.

Let Go

The beauty of summer camp is that it is a chance to truly live in the freedom of Christ. Nothing can ruin a week of camp more than a closed-off heart. Try your best to approach this week with an open heart and no expectations. Ask Jesus to do what He wants, and really mean it.

For me, that looked like actively reflecting on my reservations toward camp and what I was struggling with. I had to evaluate all the things that could possibly distract me from my relationship with the Lord while I was at camp — my relationship with my boyfriend, the confusion I felt toward the future, the kind of missionary I wanted to be, the kind of image I wanted to exude, to name a few. All of this, I realized, didn’t really matter. I needed to let go of these ideas and expectations in order to let Jesus do what He does best.

So I invite you to take a good, honest look at yourself and things that might hinder your freedom in seeking Him. Ask the Lord to help you detach from those things to which you cling to and let go of whatever it is that takes your focus away from Christ. Dance around the bonfire like a fool with your friends, sing at the top of your lungs and raise your hands in praise and worship. Do that thing that scares you — whether that be jumping off the dock onto the blob or going to new heights on the ropes course or going to Confession for the first time in forever. Jesus wants to do big things for you while you’re at camp — but you have to meet Him halfway. You need to be free, to be open enough to relinquish everything and put all of your trust in His hands. Once you do that, Jesus can and will move.

Invest

Go all in. Talk to the campers from other parishes you see hanging out in the art barn. Introduce yourself to the summer missionaries. Take what you learn in the sessions to prayer and ask Jesus to reveal to you what He desires for you to take away from this. Go deep in your small group time, and don’t be afraid to share what’s on your heart. If you ever have the teeniest pull to share, do it. That is the Holy Spirit inviting you to be vulnerable, and trust me, it usually means that someone else in your group needed to hear what you just said, struggles with the same thing you do, or will know how to help you. Invest in the people around you. The community you’ll find with your fellow parish teens and the staff at camp are SUCH a joy and a blessing, and if you are able to fully invest in those relationships and allow Christ to take you deeper with one another, you’ll never ever regret it.

Don’t Compare

I don’t know about you, but I struggle constantly with comparing myself to others, and in the context of camp, the evil one surely uses this weakness of mine to get to me. In what seemed like crowds of people who are extroverted and on fire for the Lord, it was easy for me as a teen to feel like everyone around me was “getting it,” and I wasn’t. I was a “Life Teen kid” — I had the shirt and I bought the sticker and did the conference thing — but I felt like I wasn’t quite there yet. In small groups, your friends may share things that they’ve received in prayer or experienced that day, and you might (if you’re like me) feel down about the fact that you didn’t “receive” anything or “feel” anything, or maybe you didn’t cry in adoration or have this big moment… THAT IS OKAY.

Please never feel like the Lord is abandoning you or that your prayer, or your camp experience, isn’t good enough. And please please never thinking that you are not good enough for this whole “camp thing.” The Lord wants to meet you, YOU, exactly where you’re at, and will always have something to give you. Sometimes the most radical ways Jesus moves in your life is through the things you don’t notice until years later. These small, little movements refine your heart in ways that are truly huge and radical. Trust that Jesus is moving.

Leave!

All of a sudden it’s Saturday, and you have to pack up your things and say goodbye. You want so badly to just stay here forever…You dread the reality that awaits you back home. Camp is fun! All your new favorite people are here. You may never see that super rad missionary ever again. You don’t have enough words to thank the staff and the host for all they’ve done for you. They may never know the impact they had on you. You may never feel this close to Jesus ever again. All those feelings you felt in praise and worship, that experience you had in prayer…You’ll never get it back. “Say what?”, you’re saying, “But I just got here!” I know. All good things come to an end, right? WRONG!

The things you experience at summer camp DO NOT END HERE. The Jesus you encounter at camp is the same Jesus that resides in the tabernacle at your home parish is the same Jesus that longs for your heart in that Confessional; the same Jesus you meet during every “normal” Sunday Mass. It’s easy to be just like Peter at the Transfiguration who wants to pitch a tent for Jesus and just stay on the mountain top forever. But these glorious mountaintop experiences only better prepare us for the valleys that lie ahead. And Jesus calls us to go further than that. He calls us to go forth with what we’ve experienced and share with the world the joy we’ve received. Jesus asks of us the same thing He asked of His disciples – to go out and make disciples of all nations! What better way to start than with your family and friends back home. They’ll notice you smiling. They’ll see the difference in you.

And when they ask that simple question: “So, how was camp?”, be prepared to answer. And not just “Oh it was fun.” Be bold! Tell them about how Jesus moved in you. What you did, what you saw, how you felt, how you’ve changed and why. Want to know how to make the most out of your camp experience? Leave camp.

About the Author

Laurie Medina

I am a Saint-in-progress with a missionary heart and a passion for merging Catholic ministry with mental health care. I love going on outdoor adventures, making art, listening to Penny & Sparrow, and surrounding myself with people that are way holier than me. As you’re reading this, I’m probably curled up on the sofa with a blanket reading Joy of the Gospel…or rewatching Gilmore Girls. You can find me on Instagram @wrappedinhermantle.