People who hear me talk about Camp Crestridge for Girls often think I was there much longer than I was. That I grew up attending as a camper and later came back as a staff member. But they happen to be wrong.
I spent exactly two summers in Ridgecrest, North Carolina: the summer of 2011 and the summer of 2012. In lieu of getting “real” summer jobs or journalism internships, I instead tramped around a portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains in shorts and t-shirts for three months at a time, often sticky with sweat, with either a video camera or DSLR in hand. I gave up cute sandals for dusty Chacos, air conditioning for the labored whir of Wal-Mart bedside fans, and peaceful meals for the squeals and screams of 250 girls (aged 7-16) grabbing for more chicken tenders and juice.
They were, to put it simply, the best two summers of my life.
My first summer began plagued with doubts: I’m not good enough for this videography job. I’m not an camp/outdoorsy person at all. What the heck am I doing here? GET ME OFF THIS MOUNTAIN! I was convinced the camp had been crazy to hire me.
But God quickly ushered staffers and campers into my life who continually poured joy and affirmation over me. The videography job was not easy– stress and frustration were pretty constant friends– yet there was always someone there to lend a hug, a prayer, or that last hoarded package of peanut butter M&Ms. I can quite honestly say that I have never felt more blessed than I did through those relationships my first CC4G summer.
I spent my junior year of college eagerly anticipating my return to the mountains, and God did not disappoint once I got there. Whereas my first summer was a lot about personal growth and ministry, the second was all about servanthood. While I didn’t get the facetime with the campers that the counselors get, I did my best to continue building relationships and pouring the same affirmation over the campers that was poured into me the year before.
That second summer also taught me how truly heartbreaking good-byes can be. How do you tell an 8-year-old that you won’t see her again next summer? That there’s very little chance you’ll ever see her again at all? I spent every Closing Day in tears as I hugged my precious girls good-bye.
If there was a way for me to be working at camp again, I’d be up there in a half a heartbeat. The work of God is so plainly evident in the lives of the staff and campers there, and it would be such a joy to be a part of it again (Of course, I’m also itching for another Night of Chaos and a banana boat, so there’s that, too).
Camp Crestridge taught me so much about myself, about ministry, and about faith, and the seeds planted there continue to bear fruit in my life to this day. For that, I will be forever grateful. If you ever get the notion to work at a summer camp like Crestridge, I absolutely urge you to do it. You will never regret it.