I was never really popular as a teenager in the United States. Sure, I had a few friends and my teachers certainly liked me, but I always wished that I was one of those girls who was always surrounded in the cafeteria and who got invited to all the parties. My senior year of high school was probably the worst year of my life - I lost almost all my friends due to a shift in our interests - and I was happy to go off to college and never have anything to do with teens again.
Then I became a summer camp nurse. I was 22 years old, working with 60+ teenagers, and I suddenly discovered that I was popular. Kids genuinely seemed to enjoy spending time with me and talking to me. They wanted me to sit at their dinner tables and to sail in their boats. They cheered when I was added to their team or when they realized I was their van driver.
I was shocked. And quite happy.
Four summers later, I'm still the nurse at a summer camp for 60+ teenagers and every summer, I am still a little shocked to find that I'm popular. It's a mystery to me - why so many kids want to spend their free time on the infirmary beds or on the dock while I'm lifeguarding - but I take full advantage of it.
I recently heard a quote that said, "Popularity is a line of credit to be used in the act of telling the Truth." That's my summer philosophy in a nutshell. I win kids' trust, build strong loving relationships with them, and therefore I am able to speak to them about the truth of Jesus Christ.
It sounds a bit cruel and if any of my campers read this, they would probably cringe, feeling like my friendships with them are just a ploy to create preaching opportunities. But that's not true. I adore my campers; I fall madly in love with them every summer and it's their fault that I come back to Chop Point year after year. There are plenty of opportunities for Truth-telling in Haiti, plently of teens who are hurting and need God's love. But for me, missing the chance to have 3 weeks with even one of my beloved campers is intolerable. So I return.
And when I return, I tell the Truth: the Truth that my relationship with Jesus is the most exciting, most fulfilling, most comforting thing in my life. The Truth that He wants to have that same kind of relationship with every person alive.
My campers listen to me. Wide-eyed and intently, they listen to my stories. Why? Because they love me and they know that I love them. I wouldn't be telling them these things if I didn't believe with all my heart that they needed to hear them. Love wants the absolute best for us; I want the absolute best for my campers.
"Popularity is a line of credit to be used in the act of telling the Truth." I don't believe that it's an accident that my campers and I have gotten so close. I believe that it's God setting up opportunities to speak to His beloved children through me. And for that, I am deeply grateful. To have been entrusted with some of the most amazing teenagers in the world, even if it's just for a few weeks, is an honor and a privilege I do not deserve.
So I will keep telling the Truth. And pray that God will keep using me to love His children. Because in the process, I get to love them too. And that makes coming back to Chop Point more than worth it year after year after year.