Yesterday marked the last day for me at Carolina Creek Christian Camps, a journey that began in May 2015. With three summers and a year internship under my belt, eighteen total months were dedicated to that small corner of Texas I have grown to love so much.
I have learned to love much, meeting and greeting in great excess of twenty thousand people over my time there. Whether it was a public school’s team-building retreat, a church event, or a fraternity service project, I have learned to love all who come through the gates of camp. And it overflows into the other areas of my life as well.
I have learned to serve constantly, spending early mornings in the kitchen and afternoons lifeguarding or belaying in the sweltering east Texas heat. God comes first, others come second, I come third. God will supply for my needs in terms of strength, patience, and endurance.
I have learned to sacrifice all – whether that means staying up unreasonably late helping a camper understand that his depression and anxiety don’t define him, or leaving friends and family behind for fifteen months because God called me to a new and strange place and then called me to stay there. Jesus sacrificed all for me, willingly and compassionately, and as I grow to be more like Him I can grow to abide in Him alone and follow His leading.
I have established relationships I never expected to have. I became great friends with my Bible study leader in my first summer – a friendship that continues and thrives – and grew closer with some of my fellow interns and summer counselors than perhaps with the very brothers I grew up with. We have laughed till we cried, and cried till we laughed, cut the heads off of snakes both physical and spiritual, and watched new lives be born in Christ. We have nurtured wounds left by relationships, encouraged each other in our adventures, supported each other in our goals, trusted each other with the few things we own, wrestled with belligerent wifi connections, made late-night runs to the gas station just to be able to talk, built bonfires that make would make Boy Scouts jealous, and become the men and women we were made to be. A man of few friends coming into my first summer two years ago, I now have more than I can keep track of.
I have become the man I wanted to be. With very little of anything noteworthy accomplished in my first nineteen years of life, I have now led countless people into new or deeper relationships with Christ, gone on road trips that seem like they should be in movies, driven a Jeep through a rainstorm with no top or doors, visited the Middle East, climbed mountains, gone skydiving, been to twenty-five of the fifty States, seen the Alamo, blown up a refrigerator, shot a jackrabbit, fixed cars, built websites, bought Chacos, and wrote articles that actually mean something. I became the guy people go to for spiritual advice, prayer, and teaching. I live by a simple faith in Christ and an abiding and sacrificial love to do whatever it takes to further the gospel.
No one could have prepared me for the transformation that has taken place over the past few years. I went from an anxious boy to a capable man, empowered by a living faith in the One who made all things. The chapter that is Carolina Creek may be over for now, but the things I have learned, the ways I have grown, and the friendships I have made will stay for eternity.
Thanks be to God.
On to the next chapter.