Junior Camp

 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Phil. 4:13

I spent Monday to Friday this week at the Salvation Army’s Junior Summer Camp in West Scotland, as a member of the staff team. A couple of months ago I was thinking of ways I could volunteer to get more experience of working with kids before trying to get a job next year, and it suddenly occurred to me to look into whether any staff were still needed for Junior Camp. I didn’t hear anything until about a month later, when I got an email asking if i was available and willing to be part of the staff team. I jumped at the chance to do it – I thought it would be fun and at the very very least, it would look good on my cv! About 2 hours after agreeing to go I went into a panic though. I’d never done anything like that before – what if i wasn’t any good at it? What if I wasn’t good with the kids? What if they didn’t like me? What if a kid was sick?! (vomit phobia, for real!!) Those were just a few of the ‘what if’s’ going through my head, but I tried to shut them up and hope for the best.

This worked until about 2 days before camp started. Being a staff member on a kids camp was a big deal for me. My shy, quiet nature and lack of self-confidence made the idea of being a responsible adult the kids looked up to a terrifying thing. I’ve had limited experience of working with kids, and even when I help at kids club or Sunday school, shy, self-conscious Roslyn often surfaces and I just feel a bit awkward. I was so scared I wouldn’t be good enough. I felt physically ill everytime I thought about it for the couple of days leading up to camp, and particularly the morning of it starting. My heart would pound, my pulse would race and my stomach was permanently in knots – even as someone who worries a relative amount, I hadn’t felt as anxious as this about anything in a long time.

A good friend who knew how nervous I was recommended one of Rob Bell’s podcasts which she’d listened to and liked and thought would be helpful, and I listened to it the day before I went. In it he spoke about how to accept the fact that the worst could and sometimes does happen, but that we should be grateful that we get the chance to try things and have different opportunities. Accepting the fact that it could in fact all go wrong helps us to dig deeper and give more, compared to worrying about the ‘what ifs’ and worst case scenarios. You know when God uses people to get his message across to you? Well, I firmly believe that in that moment, God used Sharon and consequently Rob Bell to reassure me that everything would be okay, and that I could do it and that even if it all went wrong, then at least i’d given it my best shot.

I drove to Junior Camp on Monday trying to keep this reassurance in mind, combined with some false confidence (there’s something to be said for pretending to be confident and knowing what you’re doing – sometimes you can even end up convincing yourself!), but was still pretty anxious. However (and you might have guessed that this was coming) the week went really well, and I had (almost) nothing to worry about. (Even if I did spend a lot of Tuesday in a panic because three boys had been sick the night before, and another girl was sick during the day which left me hiding in the staff room and avoiding a particular dorm for a while, but I managed to act like a sane adult for the most part!)
The kids were all great – friendly and kind and accepting and they made me feel at ease pretty quickly. In fact at many points, I felt way more comfortable being myself around the children than I would at Summer School around young people my own age!! I even co-led a teaching session on Thursday, which was my most nerve wracking moment of the week. Interacting with the children one-to-one or in small groups was one thing, but addressing them all at once, with the whole staff team watching led me to be physically shaking before hand!! It would be nothing for a lot of people, but for me it was terrifying, and it’s something I never thought i’d be capable of. I’m actually quite proud of myself for managing it – the Roslyn from a few years ago would never have been confident enough to do something like that. It went really well and the kids responded well and seemed to enjoy it!

All in all it was a fantastic week. The kids were lovely, the staff team were great, I had a fun time rock climbing, abseiling and gorge walking, and even the food was pretty good! But the thing that impacted me the most was the way the children interacted with the worship and teaching about God. They were so open to learning and accepted things almost at first hand – there really is something special in the way children just accept and know that the truths about God are real. In our last session yesterday the kids were asked to discuss in their teams then report back to the group one thing they had learned during the week, and their responses were great. Some said they had learned more about God’s love, others had learned patience, how to listen to others and to work well together in a team, while one boy said he’d learned how to make a sandwich (which is indeed a good skill to have haha). Some of the responses though literally brought tears to my eyes:

“If you have courage, you can do and achieve anything”
“No matter what you do, God will always be there for you”
“God’s love is there for everyone”
“Never give up, no matter how hard things get. God is always helping you”
“Keep going..”

The way the kids said these simple statements with such a truth behind them really struck me – they truly believed the message behind what they were saying, and that was an inspiring thing to see.

I learned a lot last week – I’ve grown in confidence and learned things about myself, as well as learning things about God. It has challenged me to consciously try to learn more about God, so that I can be the best version of myself that He made, and be the best example to people I meet. These young kids know and accept the truths of God and his love, and their example made me realise that there’s no reason I can’t too!

“Draw me nearer Lord, never let me go, closer to your heart, draw me nearer Lord.”

I watched some of the live stream of the commissioning of new Salvation Army officers today, and some of the lyrics stood out in one of the songs they sang. I’m ending this post with these words because despite not having a clue what i’m going to do with my life or where i’ll end up, I know God is there with me, and I really want these words to become true for me!

“I will go wherever your voice sends me, I will walk wherever your light leads. Lord shine through me..”