Each week of summer camp, we are offering a chance for one of our Summer Staffers to write a post about their experiences. This week’s guest blogger is Kellie Jones, a second year staffer who is working as a Wilderness/Oxley Camp Resident Counselor.
My name is Kellie Jones and this is my second summer to be on staff at Lakeshore, but this place has been a special part of my life since I first starting coming as a camper in 2004. This summer I’m the female Wilderness/Oxley Resident Counselor, which is just a fancy way of saying that I go back and forth counseling at the Oxley and Wilderness camps. Both are smaller camps and I love the community that comes with that.
In middle school I started going to Wilderness as a camper instead of main camp. The emphasis on the outdoors and the closer-knit group atmosphere instantly had me hooked. For most people, sleeping in tents without AC and not taking a shower all week are two major deal breakers. But every week we have kids come to wilderness ready to embrace the aspects of the camp that some find disgusting or uncomfortable. To main camp we are the strange kids that wander into camp from the woods each morning and carry our own unique scent. But to each other, we make sense. One of my campers from my last wilderness week told me on the last night, “We come here and we become a family and then we have to leave. It’s like we’re leaving our family behind.” When he told me that it was a bittersweet feeling. I know what he means and how he feels and that’s hard. But at the same time, I knew that Jonathan (the Wilderness director), the other counselors, and I had succeeded in creating an environment of trust, friendship, and love, which filled me with joy.
Oxley, or our Camp Hope series, also holds a very special place in my heart but for many different reasons. For those of you not familiar with this camp there are three different branches: Hope, Peace, and Grace. Hope is for kids that have been exposed to drug or alcohol abuse, Peace is for kids that respond to situations with aggressive behavior or anger, and Grace is for girls that have been sexually abused. But in most cases, they overlap and you will have all of these instances in one week of Oxley. In my opinion this is the most rewarding camp to counsel, but also, emotionally, the hardest. The trust that we establish in one week and the vulnerability that the girls allow is inspirational. We have a time called Life Skills each day that is devoted to dealing with the unique reason why each child is there. Emily Dodson, the Oxley director, has done a wonderful job using this time to instill hope in the girls. We try to use every possible opportunity to make each girl feel loved, by us and by God. I’ve had to answer many difficult questions this summer, about past circumstances, death, and why God allows these trials to happen. We’ve tried to really encourage questions, because that means they are seeking the Lord. Like Troy said in our last post, this past week was Camp Grace. I had 7 incredible and beautiful girls that I already miss. Goodbyes at Oxley are always extremely difficult and this past Friday was a really hard day for me. After spending a week with them and hearing about their lives back home, it’s hard to just let them go.
The summer is already halfway over and I can’t believe it. My camper Sam a couple weeks ago told me, “I have discovered a phenomena called Lakeshore time. It’s where the week goes by in what seems like a day, but you have enough fun for a year.” I’m making years worth of memories in the couple months I’m here, but it goes by way too quickly. Lakeshore is a sacred place that is able to show Christ’s love to kids in incredible ways. But it also reveals His love and grace to us counselors every day. I know I speak for the entire staff when I say that Lakeshore is a place that pushes us and tests us, but makes us the best version of who we are and strengthens our faith.
Continue to be in prayer for our staff and all the kids that come each week.