Friday, January 31, 2020

Two Bracelets

Today my guest blogger is David Song who has been a member of our staff seasonally since 2014.  I was encouraged as I read what David had to say about his experience here at Evergreen and I trust that you will be encouraged as well.  Here's what David has to say...

Good Day,

My name's David Song, but if you met me at Camp Evergreen, you probably know me as Iggy.  And if that's the case, you'll know me as a loud, energetic, and outgoing staff member who gets creative on the canoe pond, knights people at the archery range, and approaches every single wide game like it might be his last.  You'll also know that I love getting to know people, whether you're a camper, a Pit Crew or Intern, a member of a guest group, or a fellow staff member.

Up until recently, you wouldn't have known me as a guy who likes to wear bracelets.  I never have in the past, and I am horrible at making them myself.  But nowadays, I wear not one, but two bracelets on my right wrist, and I deeply cherish the things they represent.  I'd like to take this time to share the story behind each one.

Let's start with my green bracelet, a standard piece of identification for all Evergreen summer staff.  I don't need to wear it outside of the summer, but I choose to because I'm proud of the work I've done at camp.  Or perhaps I should say: the work that God has done through me.

I've had the privilege of working at Camp Evergreen for six years: three springs, two falls, and six consecutive summers.  That's a lot more than many people get to do, but between financially supportive parents and a God-given desire to invest in camp ministry, I made it happen.  Now when I first joined the staff team in 2014, I didn't think I would enjoy working with children and youth.  I'd never done it before, I was anxious, and the only reason I even signed up was because I had many close friends on staff.

Matthew 17:20 reminds us that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can move mountains, and God used the little faith that I had in 2014 to make a difference.  That summer I quickly became a member of our A-Team, which meant I was responsible for leading various activities like archery and canoeing - and the job fit me like a glove.  Of course, there were also the wide games, from classics like Jug and Jog, to new shenanigans we make up every summer.  It didn't matter how sick or tired I was: I always overflowed with energy and joy when I got to participate in a camp game.

2014 was a fairy tale, a dream come true.  Subsequent summers, however, forced me to learn some tougher lessons.  For all my friends on staff, there was the occasional person I did not get along with.  Someone who chose to judge me without getting to know me.  Someone whose personality did not mesh with mine.  Camp is full of humans, after all, and that means it isn't perfect.  Conflict will inevitably arise, and learning to manage said conflict in different ways has been an invaluable experience.

I also learned that even though camp is an incredibly fun job, it's still a job.  There were days in the summers (and especially the springs and falls) when I was tired.  Days when I did not want to serve food or clean bathrooms yet again.  Couldn't someone else do it?  Couldn't our leaders stop assigning us seemingly unnecessary work projects.  I asked these questions many times, and God had to work on me before I realized the importance of being a good teammate on a hard a day.  Everything we do at camp is in service of the Kingdom of Heaven: even the jobs and roles that appear thankless and needless.

Having said that, camp is more than just a job.  It is a community.  And that brings me to my second bracelet: the beautiful red, black, and yellow one.  A good friend of mine from Evergreen made it for me this fall.  And when I look at it, I am reminded of the other key part of my camp experience: the relationships God has blessed me with.

In 2011, I came to Evergreen for the first time as a 15-year old teen camper with my best friend.  At once, I was welcomed and accepted for who I was.  Not only where the activities and games an absolute blast, but I also embraced the chance to explore my then-fledgling faith.  I knew that God had to be at the heart of such a lively and loving community, and I knew that I had to go back.  Two years later, I made the decision to apply for staff.

At Camp Evergreen, I've met a lot of incredible young men and women who desire to follow Jesus.  Many of them have since moved on, but the impact they've had on me remains.  My camp friends accept me for who I am.  Thanks to them,  I've learned that real friendship is about genuine love and mutual respect.  This has allowed me to move on from certain people in my life, former friends who no longer build me up.  And it's also enabled me to take it in stride when others decide they don't want to be my friend.

Even more importantly, my friends have always pointed me towards Jesus.  Their kindness and integrity are reflective of the traits our Lord wants us to cultivate.  When I feel angry or down, my friends consistently encourage me with kind words and counsel.  And God has used their counsel to teach me more about who He is: a perfectly loving and just Father who is always deserving of my trust, even when I harbour strong doubts about Him.

All these experiences have helped me learn the most important lesson of my life thus far: that God created every person, including myself, fearfully and wonderfully.  I did not believe that for most of my life.  When I looked in the mirror, I used to see a short, overly quirky guy who lacked all sort of abilities that others possessed.  There are lots of people who are more athletic, more intelligent, more charismatic, and more talented than I am.  And years of comparing myself negatively to others caused me to believe that I have little value as a human being.

God used Camp Evergreen to show me that such a belief is a lie.  My camp friends have affirmed my worth.  The camp environment has given me a platform to imply my strengths for good.  Every year, the campers remind me that they don't care how tall I am or what skills I have.  They do care about whether or not I genuinely invest in them - whether or not I strive to bond with them and improve their experience.  And Jesus has blessed me with the desire and the ability to do so.

I know the Lord has used camp ministry to impact numerous lives, and I am grateful to have been part of that process.  Now, it is finally time for me to move on to Indianapolis, where I'll be pursuing a masters's degree - and a career - in sports journalism starting January 2020.  I am hardly thrilled about the idea of leaving my home and community here in Calgary.  And on some level, I am heartbroken about not returning to Evergreen next summer.  (Ranger's note - we will miss you Iggy!)

Yet, I know it is time for me to apply what I've learned at camp.  I know that God is trustworthy, and now I must trust Him.  I know that He provides for me in every way, and now I must be confident that He will.  I know that in my absence, God will raise up new staff to impact the lives of future campers, and now I must be willing to pass the torch to them.

If you're reading this, I hope that you've gotten some idea of what Camp Evergreen means to me.  If you are a camper, it has been my joy to hang out with you over six years.  If you are a campers parent, thank you for trusting us with your children.  If you are one of those camp friends I hold dear, you know exactly who you are.  And if you're a staff member with whom I'm not close, I still wish you the best, wherever you're headed.

Finally: if you're one of the teenagers I've gotten to know through Pit Crew and Internship over the past few summers, get excited.  You are the next generation of Camp Evergreen staff, and I hope you receive the opportunity to learn, play, laugh, and struggle just as I have.  Our Lord will use you to change lives in ways you can't imagine, and He will change your life in the process.  I'm so thankful I stuck around long enough to meet some of you and work with you on staff.  And I will always be rooting and praying for you, no matter where I am.

My two bracelets tell my story.  I can't wait to hear yours.

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid.  Do not be discouraged.  For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. - Joshua 1:9

Thanks David for sharing with us.  And thank you for your continued support.

Bob "Ranger" Kroeker
Executive Director


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