Each summer for the past 10 years Life Teen has helped teens have the best week of their life. However, the experience of summer camp would never happen without the joyful service of hundreds of college-aged faithful Catholics. This summer, we’re asking you to consider being a summer camp staff missionary.
Let’s be honest here for a second. We really need men to join. We get lots of female applications but we need more balance at camp. Plus, older men in the faith make great role models to younger teens and middle schoolers.
There’s only one week left to get your application in, but consider taking on the challenge that will change you to your core. Here’s a couple of small testimonies from former summer staff missionaries explaining why they chose to be apart of the best week of a teen’s life.
As human beings, there seems to be something ingrained into the depths of our souls to do something great. People hike up mountains, compete in triathlons, and climb up cliffs that most people wouldn’t think about going near.
These kinds of “great” things are extremely difficult, taking months of preparation, pushing people to their physical limits. We are drawn to those who are unafraid to push themselves to the brink. It’s fascinating and we wish that we could do something like that.
In the summer of 2009, when I was going into my sophomore year of college, Life Teen gave me the opportunity to do something great, something that would stretch me to my limits: Summer Staff.
Being at a summer camp and hanging out with teens all summer perhaps may not strike you as something impressively great or challenging. Well, let me tell you some of the amazing ways that being on Summer Staff called me to greatness and challenged me.
As a Summer Staffer, I was not simply just a “camp counselor.” I was, and I still am, a missionary. I was a worker in the vineyard of the Lord. The goal wasn’t simply to make sure that my campers, chaperones, and youth ministers were having fun and being entertained, but also that they met Jesus Christ, fulfilling Life Teen’s mission and in fact the Church’s mission. There is no greater calling and no greater gift that I have ever been able to give than to allow someone to encounter Jesus through me by simply being me.
In order to be able to give people Jesus, I first had to have Jesus. Prayer and a sacramental life was a priority when I was on Summer Staff. Before being on Summer Staff, my prayer life was inconsistent at best. However, that soon changed once I was at camp. I was immersed in a rhythm of prayer.
Each morning, we began the day with Adoration and Morning Prayer, celebrated Mass during the day, and closed each night with Night Prayer. Prayer actually became a consistent part of my own life. Daily prayer and constant availability of the Sacraments gave me the energy and strength to serve all those I encountered at camp, as I would be exhausted by the end of a day at camp. I learned not so much to rely on my own strength, but instead on the Lord.
Additionally, you are on this mission with a bunch of other college students who are just as eager to serve those they will encounter at camp, as well as missionaries and staff. The support and encouragement I received through my own Summer Staff and through the staff at camp was incredible. The staff and my Summer Staff I rightly call “family.” Honestly, the people I met at camp are some of the closest friends that I have.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his address to German pilgrims who came for his inauguration as Pope in 2005, said, “Christ did not promise an easy life. Those who desire comforts have dialed the wrong number. Rather, he shows us the way to great things, the good, towards an authentic human life.”
Being on Summer Staff is not comfortable. It is not easy. It will push you to your limits and force you outside of your comfort zone. But God does not desire you to be comfortable or mediocre. Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, came that we “might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). St. Irenaeus is famous for his quote “The glory of God is man fully alive.”
Summer Staff is an opportunity for you to become fully alive, to glorify God by answering his call to go into his vineyard.
Are you up for the challenge?
In the summer of 2011, I experienced a glimpse of heaven on Earth. That is really the only way I can describe my adventures on Summer Staff. Although I’d never been to Covecrest before, I knew God was calling me out of my comfort zone and wanting to show me His love on the Georgia mountains.
I was blessed to be surrounded by 26 fellow college students. We were strangers, yet when I talk about these fellow Summer Staffers now, I call them my missionary brothers and sisters. The bonds formed among us were nothing less than holy. Even though we came from many different parts of the country and the world, He brought us together as one body in Christ.
As Summer Staffers, our purpose was to love the campers. Not a day goes by I don’t think of those campers. I cannot begin to express the joy I had getting to know them as sons and daughters of God. Simply – heaven on Earth.
Whether it was learning their names, to their favorite movies, to being covered from head to toe in mud, I loved every minute of it. Even more importantly, I will never forget witnessing middle schoolers reaching out for the Eucharist in adoration. I will never forget having high schoolers approach me for prayers and feeling the true presence of the Holy Spirit guiding my words.
Just as Jesus wanted the Apostles to go down the mountain, my fellow missionary brothers and sisters and I had to do the same and go back to our daily lives.
What has impacted me the most is the call to be missionary. I have fallen in love with the missionary heart. Dying to self. Knowing it’s not about me, it’s all about Him. Getting comfortable outside my comfort zone. “Earning my pillow” at the end of the night, yet being refreshed and rejuvenated by Christ in the Eucharist. Experiencing new and glorious encounters. Being overwhelmed with His love and grace. I could go on and on.
After the summer of 2011, I felt even more on fire with Christ’s love and I was empowered to be able to bring glimpses of heaven to all parts of the Earth. Veni Sante Spiritus!
I recommend being on Summer Staff because from my experience there is no better way to spend your summer!
Being on Summer Staff was such an enriching experience of growth for me, but that was only a fruit of the selfless service that was asked of me.
It’s the most unique mission that the Lord has allowed me to take part in so far. I was able to live in a community that supports and strengthens your faith while loving and serving teens in simple ways.
It’s one of those experiences that you never want to forget. I was so aware of my growth that summer. I couldn’t escape this growth because that whole summer was such a challenge; it tested my strengths and weaknesses, but at the same renewed my heart.
Sometimes during camp all I had to give was from my poverty like Christ asks us to in the Gospel. Whether I was poor in spirit, or just plain exhausted, these are the times when I saw that my heart was growing the most.
When I continued to give of myself to the teens in the games, skits, small groups, talks, or just random conversations with individuals, I realized that the Holy Spirit had given me such a greater capacity to love than I ever knew I was capable of! He gave me His love to love with.
His love is infinite and His desire to use us is infinite and I was able to experience some small part of how magnificent those two things are together when I simply said yes! It’s such a tremendous gift to give yourself away to be used as His vessel!
The summer at Covecrest influenced me tremendously because I came away with a new understanding that if the Holy Spirit gives me the capacity to love this deeply at camp with His teens, then who am I to not try to fill that capacity and love just as hard every single ordinary day of my life.
Since camp, and because of the lessons I took away from it, I haven’t had another ordinary day in my life.
When thinking back on my summer, and what I learned from it, I think this quote from Mother Teresa sums it up pretty well.
“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy, I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” – Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta