Working with children full time can be a challenge but working with children with Autism, Asperger’s, ADD, ADHD or other learning difference can be extra challenging. When we look for young people to be counselors for Charis Hills we look for young people that have a love for children, a love of serving, and a love of sharing the gospel. Below are some thoughts from one of our long-term counselors, Marlee.
When I first came to Charis Hills, I probably felt the same way many of our campers do - nervous. I’d never even attended a summer camp before, much less given my entire summer to serving as a counselor at one. I didn’t know any of my coworkers yet, and I wasn’t sure if I would like all of the activities. But just like our campers often feel after their first week at camp, I quickly learned that Charis Hills was somewhere I could feel loved, accepted, and valuable.
The staff from top to bottom is fully dedicated to making sure every camper hears the gospel in a way that makes sense to them while they are at camp. It was beautiful to see this happen in many different forms. For one kid, maybe it’s in the way their counselor is patient and accepting of their desire to catch frogs as a nightly routine. Another camper might really understand the gospel in how their archery teacher explains sin as missing the mark, but Jesus’ sacrifice as the perfect bullseye in place of our own target. Or, maybe it’s a teenager who never quite feels comfortable at church or in youth group, but at camp they get to sit outside and squirm around a bit while listening to a Bible lesson, and no one seems to mind. I cherished getting to see campers live into the freedom of being loved each and every week, and I even got to see several kids and teens accept Jesus into their lives for the very first time.
All of the campers at Charis Hills also come into their stay at camp with certain goals to work on, usually related to social behavior. Most of the kids and teens who come to Charis Hills have a diagnosis that impacts their development socially. The smaller, tech-free camp environment provides a unique opportunity for our campers to truly make friends, and counselors can help facilitate the social cues like introductions, two-way conversation, and detecting others’ emotions that most of us take for granted. The encouragement that our campers receive while at camp gives them confidence that they really can talk to and connect with others. Some of our campers are the kindest, most thoughtful friends I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and seeing friends return year after year as bunkmates was always so sweet.
I love Charis Hills because of the opportunities it gives children with special needs to hear the gospel and to make friends, when so much of the world outside of camp is not built around them and their unique abilities. I am also so grateful for the role it has played in my own life as a former staff member, teaching me more about who God is and what He has uniquely crafted me to do, not to mention giving me life-long friendships with like-minded followers of Christ. Charis Hills is such a blessing!!
Marlee, Counselor 2015-2017
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