While we may have plans for our lives, God can set us on a different path—one we might have never expected. The course of our own lives changed in one summer, in Western Massachusetts at Bement Camp and Conference Center. 10 years ago, in 2006. As college students, Matt was seeking a career in advertising and marketing in the USA. I was graduating with a music degree, and had accepted a place on a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education course (PGCE) to become a teacher in Winchester, England.
In a moment of reflection, by a woodland river in Massachusetts on a Sunday afternoon, Matt spent some quiet time. This was prior to beginning a summer serving at Adventure Base at Bement Camp. He prayed: “Lord, I give it all to you. Whatever you have for me this summer I am ready ” He was open to what God had in store for him, and those moments on the way to camp, were a significant turning point for him. On that very same day, at a London airport, I was praying the same prayer. I was waiting for my gate to fly to the USA – giving my summer to the Lord. I was leaving Him with past experiences and challenges and asking God to write my story.
If you haven’t already guessed it, that same day of heart-felt prayers, was the day we both arrived to Bement Camp. God crossed our two paths, aligning them as one journey that the Lord himself would lead. Yes – there were many bumps on the road, challenges serving at summer camp, hurts and failures. There was also lots of camp laughter and amazing memories too. God took ahold of both of our lives at camp and began working on our hearts – for His glory. Our habits changed, our attitudes changed, our social groups changed, our passions shifted and our goals for careers became callings for Kingdom works. It was due to our encounters with God and each other at camp that summer, that our lives are now radically different than we could have imagined or even tried to plan ourselves.
Today, we have the honor and grace-given privilege to have been able to serve in camp ministry at Camp DeWolfe for 5 years now. This was from following God’s leading and creation of relationships, friendships and adventures at camp and youth ministries since Bement Camp. God’s plans took us to South Korea, England, Nicaragua, Maine, Wisconsin, Illinois, Massachusetts, and now Long Island! With a 10-year adventure of meeting people and experiencing cultures from over 30 countries and 30 states, God never has a dull moment for us! As long as we yield to His plans and continue to give up our own selfish desires that is. The Lord further blessed us in 2013 with a camp baby – Madison, who is a gift from God!
When Matt and I pause to reflect on our history as a family so far, it is incredible to remember this all begun when God called us to Him. Each chapter since, God was simply calling our hearts to walk with Him and learn how to love Him and love others. Yes, each season has brought challenges, struggles, attacks, failures, hurts and pains (not from God, but from our own choices and living life in a broken world). But our merciful Lord continues to shine lights into our own hearts, minds and souls. The Holy Spirit provides us the strength to push through life’s storms, that can often weigh us down. In each moment, God kindly whispers to us to lean on Him, trust in Him and take the next step with Him – through His word, in nature and in prayer.
So, when looking back to that summer at a camp in New England – neither of us could have dreamed of the journey we’ve taken so far! This is only the beginning of an eternity with our Savior and each other. It’s scary to think of what God might have planned for the next ten years(!), but we are certainly alive and have life! When folks ask why and how are we serving at a camp – our deepest hopes and dreams are to provide a space and place in nature and community, for ALL youth and campers to experience God’s love, grace, and faith. We hope that everyone can join Christ or continue to journey with Christ, on an adventure where God is the author and main character – always being praised.
One our own most influential camp directors once asked us if we believe camp is a privilege or essential? I always struggled with that question we have both witnessed so much poverty and deprivation in the parts of the world we’ve seen, even in our short lives. However, if camp is a place where God can speak to His children, through the community, the natural setting, the scriptures and others – then camp is essential – for it’s essential for us ALL to hear the loving call of our Father in Heaven and journey with Him back home.
By Emma Tees