Charis Hills Camp touches many lives each summer. Our focus is on children but counselors are impacted as well. These are the thoughts from one of our former counselors written to share with other first time counselors.
My time at Charis Hills changed my life.
You’ve probably been hearing that from everyone: from your interview, every day during training, from the repeat counselors, from Rand and Colleen, but it’s true. Charis Hill shapes the lives of all who come in contact with it. The kids. The parents. The staff. And now you.
I realized on day 3 that Rand was right: it would probably be the hardest summer of my life. He hit the nail on the head. Called it! As I sat staring a camper down as we waited for an AOD (Administrator On Duty) to come to WhiteTail-Right long after lights out, I realized that on my own I couldn't do this. Honestly, I was thinking at that moment that I couldn’t do it at all. I couldn’t help this girl. I was angry and scared and that wasn’t what this little girl needed from me.
I learned Grace at Charis. 10 Minutes after my AOD call I smiled at my camper as she said she was sorry and I pretended like the last half hour hadn’t happened. She went back to bed and I sat in the corner of the room listening to the sounds of my sleeping campers. I reminded myself that my job was to give grace, to forgive. The next day no one at camp (especially my camper in the corner still flip flopping around pretending like she was asleep but definitely not asleep) should be able to tell that anything had happened tonight. I had to let go of my anger, of my fear and give love instead. She got a clean slate.
And you know what? I got a clean slate the next morning, too.
It’s easy to say that you forgive, that you live a life filled with grace... until the rubber hits the road and you have to treat the angel and the rebel with the same love. Yet, somehow, God does that exact thing with us. He takes our rants and our rages. He listens to the anger and stands that “watchful but respectful” distance away as we storm off saying we are going “home.” Then he welcomes us back with open arms, forgiven.
As this lesson started to sink in, my heart was ripped in pieces as I watched and listened to “my kids” as they walked away from God and the gift he offered. For the first time in my life, the lost had faces. The lost were hurting people that just needed to look up and see the grace they were being offered. For the first time in my life I struggled with the idea that God was sovereign, that I could only do as much as I could do and He would do the rest. I couldn’t make these sweet hurting kids believe in grace, I could only live the testimony given to me.
That was the hardest thing I had to do. I remember, about half way through the summer, sitting in the back of a church sobbing, completely broken. It wasn’t because of what the pastor said ( honestly, I don’t even remember what he said) but because I realized I didn’t trust God with the hearts of those kids... and I had to. I sobbed as I told my brother that I couldn’t say anything to change my kids minds, nothing I said could answer their questions enough to open their hearts. My faith was in crisis because I felt like all I could do was sit back and watch... and I hated that. I wanted results. I wanted change. I wanted God to save the kids I said He needed to save.
I think God probably smiled as He watched me at the end of my rope, I was the camper shaking my fist and He just sat and listened. Much like my campers, I realized I received grace when I questioned God. He isn’t afraid of the questions, He welcomes them. He wanted me to love His people, both the lost and the found. All He wanted from me was answering their questions the way I knew how. He knew I wasn’t John Piper. He wanted me to give what I had. That was all that was needed. He could use that.
It’s not the heat, or the difficulty of working with campers, that gave me the toughest summer of my life. No, it was learning to trust God with the hearts of the kid I had grown to love as they walked away an atheist. Knowing that simply sharing, trusting, and living the life of a witness was all that was asked of me by my Father and was thus all I could do. The heart of my sweet atheist camper was completely under God’s control and He would save in his time. His time, not mine.
2 years after I worked at camp I still smile as I remember the tantrums, the funny movies my kids made in film and drama, the staff drama, the evening devotions, the hilarious talent shows and the most kid friendly food I had ever eaten in my life. But I treasure the hours I spent sitting with a kid with a hungry heart and got to share and answer questions about what being a Christian was really like. I hold close the lessons I learned.
Living out grace will change you. It puts you through the fire, on the other side it makes you a different person. Grace shapes you, it molds you into something and someone very different than you were before. It won’t just affect you at camp, it will follow you through the rest of your life... if you let it. Let the lessons God has for you this summer shape you. Let Him chip away at the rough spots and then don’t forget the lessons learned at the end of the summer. Live those lessons daily. Walk in a manner worthy of His calling. Walk as though Christ has changed you.
There is nothing I would trade for my lesson. I imagine that at the end of this summer there is nothing you will trade for the lessons you will learn either.
So blessings my friends. May God use you. May God break you. May you rest in Him and Him alone. May the lessons you learn change you forever.
Counselor Amelia 2015
Charis Hills Camp is a place for children with HF Autism, Asperger’s, ADHD and other learning differences can find a place of encouragement where they can safely build skills for life. Located in Sunset, TX, Rand and Colleen Southard teach counselors and campers how to show grace and acceptance to all. For more information go to: http://www.charishills.org