Seven years ago, I welcomed my first group of teenagers into Monhegan, the cabin I'd been assigned as a counselor. One of those girls was Sierra, a quiet 12 year old who participated cheerfully and enjoyed the 5-day camp program she'd signed up for. We convinced her to return for one of the three week sessions and the rest was history.
Sierra came back every summer. There's something special about having a girl start in your cabin, as if she's your kid in some strange way. So we got closer and closer as the summers passed.
Sierra's last year as a camper, she was almost a fulltime worker too. She led the surfing trips with me and I was impressed repeatedly by her leadership and her kind attitude towards the younger kids. I also watched her mature in the faith that she'd adopted through her time at Chop Point, and when that final summer ended, I crossed my fingers that she'd stick with it once she was out in the big world.
Another girl came for her first year of camp one year after Sierra, but I would never describe her as quiet. Raelyn was outgoing and creative, talkative and goofy. While I claimed Sierra as mine because of our summer in Monhegan, Raelyn became mine because of a severe food allergy that brought nurse and camper together rather frequently.
During that first summer, Raelyn started a relationship with Christ, and we spent many hours talking about life and God and faith. She had an emotional and spiritual depth to her that isn't common in teenage girls and over the next few summers that she came to camp, she and I walked through the good and the bad, leaning on Christ together.
This year, 2013, is a special year for me because both of my girls are back at camp. But they're not little campers anymore; they're counselors. It's come full circle - the teens that I poured my heart and soul into for so many summers are now pouring their hearts and souls into the lives of new teenagers. Sometimes I watch them from afar and find myself grinning a huge grin. Those are my girls and I am so proud of them.
There's a verse in Deuteronomy that says, "I have put before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God and listen to His voice and hold fast to Him." I don't have biological children, but I have what I call my camp kids, and my prayer has always been that they would choose life, the way that I have. Sierra and Rae have, and I can't wait to see how many girls follow them because of that choice.