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Camp Days

The Hjelmerviks hit a milestone this week as our two oldest went to their first overnight summer camp, and oh what a JOY it was for them! Though I cannot fathom how they are big enough to be left alone at camp and part of me wanted to just weep, I couldn’t cry because they were just so happy, and eager and ready.

What a crazy experience for parents to just drop off your kids overnight somewhere and hope for the best. To parents dropping children off at college this fall - you have my full and complete admiration. God go with you. Seriously. I could barely handle a cute little boxcar cabin in Yelm, let alone college dorms.

At the end of camp, the boys were picked up filled to the brim with new friends, stories galore, and of course, complete and utter exhaustion. It was a wonderful experience for them, and we are so thankful they had the opportunity to do something like this.

Now, on a recent hike, Joshy had asked me, “Mama, I just can’t believe some people don’t believe in God. Aren’t they lonely?”  And I was suddenly transported back in time to my own first Christian camp experience.

I was 21 years old and at the loneliest point in my life. It was in an almost painfully beautiful, remote location in Alaska. I truly could not tell you why I volunteered to go as a camp counselor in the first place. I don’t know if I would have even considered myself a Christian at that time, and I definitely didn’t think myself capable of helping to lead Bible lessons. I bought my first ever Bible because it was on the packing list! But for some reason I signed up, packed a bag with all sorts of foreign things to me (including that Bible), hopped on a plane, rode on a ferry, and found myself in Haines, AK. I started counting down the days to my return home before we even got on the camp property.

Like most camps, in the morning before the campers were awake, we counselors would gather together for a time of prayer and take turns sharing testimonies and a verse that resonated with us. I was thankful that I wasn’t first because I didn’t know what a testimony was besides what one shares in the court of law, and I knew that’s not what the camp director was going for. As much as I could gather from watching others, a testimony in church was a sharing of where you were at in your life spiritually. As I was in a place of suffering that summer, I sobbed through speaking when it was my turn. Then I read the verse that I had stumbled upon the night before. I didn’t understand it all, but it mentioned suffering and that was something I could relate to so I underlined the verse and read it out loud:

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1: 6-7

Camp for me is a really, really long story, impossible to sum up in a blog post. The best I can do here is to say that in June 2005 the above verse made me cry in grief because I did not think having “genuine faith” was worth all that I was going through. By August of 2005, that verse made me cry in joy because genuine faith was all I had and all I would ever need. And in 2007, when I read 1 Peter 1:8 (below), I laughed out loud because in the depths of my great loneliness, God had already written my story with joy in mind. And He is your author, too.

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.

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