At summer camp I learned where my voice comes from. I started coming to Eagle Lake Camps as a REZ(ident) camper when I was 11. In high school I did the Crew Program. Two years ago I came back as a REZ(ident) counselor. Last summer I got to be a REZ(ident) Program Coach and will be returning next summer to do the same. That adds up to a good 10 years to see myself grow up with the backdrop of The Blob and the sounds of camp songs.
The Tali who entered camp for the first time was so very different from the Tali who exists now, and a big part of that change took place at camp. Because of camp, I found out where my voice comes from.
What I mean by that is that much of growing up for me involved a lie that I didn’t have much of a voice – shyness and timidity made me feel like hiding. It was hard for me to see myself as social or capable of boldness. I didn’t think I could be “that” person who could talk freely, make friends, or be known. In elementary school, I was known as “shy and nice” and my default mode was to assume everyone else was cooler, smarter, or more fun than me.
How grateful am I, though, that faith in our loving God contains the power to make us the most we can be. The beauty of my experience is that there’s a clear difference between the shy, quiet Tali that first entered camp in 2009, and the Tali that gets to speak into a microphone in front of a T-Dome full of kids in 2019 and gets to make friendships of a depth I hadn’t known possible. More than that, I can see my voice in being a person called into being a communicator through words, art and people. The difference is undoubtedly Jesus.
My first time at Eagle Lake was when I was 11 and my friend Corinne convinced me to come along. My parents drove me up and I remember wanting to hide under the car seat from the crazy counselors welcoming us through the spirit tunnel. My friend and I were placed in Buttercup, and our counselors wrote the theme verse in Expo marker on the back window, out of which you could see the pre-Waldo Canyon Fire (2012) green pines and cross.
It took me a hot second to adjust to camp life, but after a bit I felt freer than I ever had. I couldn’t quite pinpoint what the difference was until I sat with my counselor on Wednesday on the big boulder by the camp store and asked her about what this difference was, talking about how much I had lived afraid of so much, especially of God. She discussed with me the reality of Jesus loving me, and that this was the real love that everyone at camp had been talking about. This concept had been conjectured to me in many ways previously, but in that moment looking out over the lake, I could sense something simply more alive about the place. That love was being lived out all around me. Sitting on that rock, I prayed with her and genuinely made the decision that my life was for Jesus for the first time. It was simple, but I have never been the same.
That day, walking back down to the lake for the rest of free time, I remember the feeling of a weight being lifted off of my shoulders. Joy entered my life in a way that was completely transformative. That week at Eagle Lake, this verse began to spin into motion in my life:
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
-2 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV
This fanning into flame started that week, but I had a long way to go. It took me a while to figure out that God wasn’t just at camp, but that he was so present in my life down the mountain as well. This truth became clearer as my other counselor also prayed for two best friends for me when I entered middle school – that prayer being precisely what happened. The friends I met back home knew the Lord, helped me hold onto my faith, and have been there consistently through middle school, high school, and college, through deep pain and great joy. I would later return to Eagle Lake with them as campers and then as counselors.
God not only showed me my voice then, but also over time a passion for encouraging voice in others. There’s a Madeline L’Engle quote I love that reflects this transformation for me:
“We have to be braver than what we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are, to see through plastic sham to living, breathing reality, and to break down our defenses of self-protection in order to be free to receive and give love”.
I can see this breaking down of my defenses as the Lord continued to draw me back to Eagle Lake. I never would have guessed that I’d come back as many summers as I have, but it has felt so natural to return and grow in my walk with God and the voice he’s given me. My camp summers give me a vivid picture of the transformation – memories of moments I spent growing up tucked in the mountains, whether sweeping the Upper-D in Crew, leading “warm and fuzzies” with my campers as a counselor, or busting the doors open for camper rally as a P.C.. They have allowed me to see that all along, the Lord has been giving me a voice.
Timidity once overruled my voice, but at camp I found Jesus, and in my time I have also found boldness in that. Camp to me is the backdrop for realizing that I can give and receive love, and that all of this aliveness comes from faith. When I think of camp, I think of the quiet times with God sitting around the misty lake, the first time I ever really danced and not cared, long talks with incredible, Christlike people, hikes among wildflowers, and vividly seeking God’s faithfulness.
From meeting Jesus as a camper in 2009 to approaching my second summer back as a Program Coach in 2019, the Lord has shown me such steadfastness in leading me out of timidity and into the reality of who I am – someone he’s made and filled with passion, given a voice and the daily opportunity to choose to live fully in Him.