Two years after I became a Christian, I made an exciting decision. My second summer at university was coming up and I really wanted to work at a Summer camp in the USA. It always looked so much fun in the movies, and I have always felt a strong connection to American culture; probably all the movies and sitcoms growing up.
After contacting an agency and having an interview, I then put my name on their database and filled in some questions about what kind of camp I wanted to be a counsellor at. After going back and forth, I decided I would ideally like to go to a Christian summer camp. Young Christians are rarer to find in the UK and I thought it would be great to not only minister to children but meet other likeminded Christians from all over the world.
I had an interview with a Christian summer camp in New Jersey and before I knew it, it was time to get on a plane to America to live there for three months. Getting on that plane was probably one of the scariest things I have done. I was going to a brand-new place all by myself with no idea what it was like or who I was going to meet. However, it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
“I learnt so much about myself as a Christian and my faith by attending summer camp in the USA.RE Harper
The whole experience from start to finish was incredibly rewarding. Not only did I get to minister to children who wanted to know more about my faith and Jesus, but I also got to meet some amazing people, some who remain my best friends to this day. There was worship and bible study every day, alongside pool time, ball games and so much more.
A few weeks in to camp, the worship leader gave a devotional one morning about how we need to make sure we are using the gifts God gives us and not holding anything back from God. That sermon really set me off on a journey!
I’d never questioned my faith since I’d accepted Jesus into my heart and I just thought it was a given that he knew me better than anyone, but that sermon made me consider how much was I prepared to give him? I’d been hurt so many times in the past that I really struggled to reconcile that to my new life as a Christian.
One of my favourite hangouts for some alone time when I wasn’t working was the basketball court under the staff dormitory. I used to go down there by myself; shoot a few hoops and sing loudly and proudly about how I felt to God. Yeah, I know you’re probably thinking of Zac Efron in High School Musical; I get the irony but there was just something about shooting hoops and singing that relaxed me. While going through the difficulty of surrendering all to God, down there one day I wrote an angst song to God trying to tell him how I felt (as if he didn’t already know!). The lyrics went something along these lines:-
‘You want my heart, you want every little bit, but I’ve been too scared and hurt to want you to have all of it. Take me as I am Lord; isn’t that enough? Cause I think I’m running out of love.”
Boy, did I pray over those next few weeks, I prayed that God would give me an answer to questions such as ‘God do I really need to give you my whole heart? What if I can’t? You know I love you, but I’m still scared, is that ok?’ It took what felt like an eternity for God to answer.
I was walking along the field one afternoon, on the way to the toilet of all places when I stopped dead on. I felt God speak into my heart and command my attention. He said “Rachael, if you can’t give me your whole heart that’s ok because I love you so much, I want you to keep it.” I broke down in tears, I’d never felt such love before. God met me where I was, even in my disobedience and loved me anyway.
“The love I felt from God that day was incomparable. I felt like he was saying my child, I see you, I hear you and I love you as you are no matter what you give to me or do for me.”RE Harper
Not only did I feel I could give him my whole heart after that, because if he was prepared to love me that much, how could I give him anything less? But I was able to do a devotional to my fellow co-workers at summer camp on it. Telling them of how we shouldn’t let the suffering of this earth interfere with our relationship with God, because he loves us so much more than anything earthly thing could compare to.
Later on in the summer, I performed in the staff talent show and sang a different song about God. It was basically a complete 180 in comparison to the angst song I wrote many weeks earlier. It went:-
“I don’t need understanding, I don’t need to know, I just need you Lord, show me the way to go. I don’t need to be clever; I don’t want to be vain; I just need to know that I’ve been saved….the rest will come from you”
That summer changed my life in more ways than one, but it taught me one of the biggest lessons I have learnt as a Christian. It doesn’t matter whether you’re angry, sad, hateful, alone or hurting, God will meet you right where you are, and he loves you more than you ever know. Too often we blame God for the source of our suffering, instead of looking to him for the answers. He doesn’t just want to watch you suffer, he wants to help you through it and show you how much he really cares, but he could only do that if you let him in.