Saturday, June 30, 2012


As I began my job at camp, I physically and mentally prepared myself to deal with difficult campers. Going in, I thought I was prepared. I thought I was ready to deal with the "worst case scenario." I was ready to handle anything that came at me. I was ready to handle the hateful camper, the broken home, the cry baby and even the joyful camper. I was SO sure I was ready.
Going into third session, I was exhausted. After a busy staff weekend including Coldplay and the wedding, I was wiped out. I'll admit, I didn't go in with the right attitude. I hate myself for saying that as I returned to camp on Sunday, I was looking forward to Staff Weekend. Mentally third session was a blow over. God definitely humored himself with my staff placement. Placed in an older cabin, I felt sure that the week would be a breeze. Little did I know that the girls in my cabin, in the camp, would have experienced so much as they have. At 13 years old, these girls have way surpassed what I supposed to be a "worst case scenario." Broken families, broken hearts, and death tore at the girls in my cabin. I so wish that I could have spent more time with the girls than I got to. But from them, I learned a life lesson. Brokenness is a fact of life. We ALL have our stories; we've all struggled; we've all seen/done things that we shouldn't have. These girls are among these. Life has surely dealt them a difficult hand of cards, and it breaks my heart to see these girls return home to these tragedies. In no way did I prepare myself to watch these girls struggle to cope with the things back home. I did my best to constantly encourage the kids in my group, every single one. For every one that I got to know, I learned yet, another heartbreaking story. I can speak for the entire staff when I say that 3rd session, the kids, will forever be engraved upon our hearts. The stories heard, the tears shed, and the kids in general will never be forgotten.
Going on with the brokenness, I have to say that sometimes it is easy to question God, to be angry with him for our struggles. Yet, it isn't God that is tempting us. It's not God, so we shouldn't blame him. I wholeheartedly believe that God cries with us. He gets down by our sides and mourns with us when we face hardships. Through it all, God helps us. What I wanted to leave with my girls, my campers, after this week was that these hardships do not define us. Instead, it is how we learn from them, how we grow.  We will all face our time in the valley. Like it or not, we will all have these things in our lives that have the potential to tear us apart spiritually. Through it all, we cannot let the Devil win this battle. We cannot let him take a foothold, and turn our tragedies into his victory. If you are in a valley, just know that people are here to help you. God will always be there, and in every moment, every struggle, you should always turn to him.

I am broken. We are all broken. Do with your brokenness as you will, but as for me, I will take it, and build myself to be a stronger person.

Long Time Traveller

For starters, I apologize that it has taken me so long to post. Things have been chaotic to say the least and my hour off is truly designated for sleeping, not blogging. Much has happened since first session, but to keep this as organized as possible, I'll start with 2nd session.
2nd session. WOW. I was head counselor of W2 with girls that averaged about age 13. 2nd session is a 2-week, so I was completely surprised that I was chosen to counsel. So many things happened this session, and I was never ceased to be amazed by how God was working. The first week was great! My girls were so sweet and kind, basically just excited to be at camp. By Outcamping though, I truly began to struggle. As we left for outcamping, the sky was rolling with thunder. No matter what, rain or shine, the staff was determined to make this outcamping a great experience for our campers. Through quiet time, collecting wood, and even dinner, the rain managed to hold off. Literally 2 minutes after every child had eaten the skies opened up and we were soon experiencing a major downfall. Immediately the staff's reaction was to have our kids put their belongings under one of the two pavilions. As the kids were scrambling to get their belongings together, I, along with several male staff members, began to focus on the fire. Throwing on logs, sticks, and anything that was possibly burnable, we built the fire until it was unbearable to stand within three feet. By this point, the kids had began to congregate around the fire mumbling and complaining of the rain. We as a staff were determined to make this experience great, so spontaneously, we broke out in song. Silly songs, children's songs, and even random songs, the staff and campers began to dance around the fire screaming our lungs out. The storm raged on for about 30 minutes, but our craziness was incredible. When the rain finally broke, we had night devo and took the kids to bed. Laying under the pavilion, surrounded by 40 wet, scared girls, I was doing my best to focus on my girls. But the longer it rained, the worse I began to feel. Suddenly a light began to approach us, and Jared was asking us if we were ok. Ty had radioed and the other groups were going back, but as long as we were dry, we were staying put. I mumbled a response, and ran into the woods suddenly. In the downpour, I began to dry heave. I have never needed to throw up as bad as this night, but try as I did, my food refused to come up. As if the moment couldn't get any crazier, I soon learned that one of my girls was having an asthma attack, and immediately needed her inhaler, which was back at the fire pit. Already soaked to the bone, I began to run to the pit to get her her inhaler. Scrambling and still sick, the chaos around me raged. I couldn't find her inhaler, so in a panic I just grabbed the entire medicine tub. Splashing through what I thought was a river, I managed to get back to the girls tub and give my girl her inhaler. I still felt horrible, but I thought the worse was over. We received word that we would soon be heading back to camp. I looked at my watch and saw that it was 1 in the morning. Now we patiently had to wait our turn to return back to camp. To entertain our girls, the women's staff sang everything from Christmas carols to Boyfriend. Finally, we got to head back.  As we began to head back, the storm raged on. Suddenly my girl (the one who had previously had an asthma attack) had another full-blown attack. I cried out to God why his timing would have to be as we were still so far from camp, but I was determined to get her back. Half carrying her over a creek, and dragging her as I coached her breathing, we made it back. I got her to the nurse and by 2, all was well. This night was so crazy, but so memorable. The rest of the session was full of memories. I loved every moment with my girls.  My patience was tested for sure, but I persevered. I pray that God used me to impact my girls, but I'll never know. One thing I know for sure, I gave my girls everything I had 2nd session.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Staff Weekend

1st session is complete! It's remarkable how fast time goes by. For now the staff is staying at the Spencer's in Paris, Texas. Their home is so cozy and comfortable. All around, 44 staff members are sprawled out, sleeping on whatever surface is available. Our curfew was 2 on Friday night, but we were in much earlier. We began with a dinner at the Spencer's and then after a great meal, Kelci, Maggie, Kiele, Maryn and I decided to take a small paddle boat out on their small pond. The picture was beautiful as the sun was setting behind the trees. In poor thinking, we took the boat out only having one, rotted paddle. It proved almost useless, but it still helped us. Joking in a small fit of hilarious rage, Kelci through the paddle, into the middle of the pond, leaving us with nothing. What an adventure is was to use our hands to paddle back to shore. Afterwards, we came inside and watched multiple Disney movies. Right in the beginning of The Fox and the Hound, we spontaneously decided to go to Braum's and get shakes. With newfound energy, we then decided to go climb the Eiffel Tower in good 'ole Paris, Texas. Surprisingly, it wasn't as large as I had thought it would be. But, still once I began climbing I realized that I wouldn't be able to reach the top. Several people did. At the very top is a cowboy hat, and several people successfully reached the top to touch the hat. Beautiful, fluorescent lights shined all over the tower. It was truly a sight, a night that I will never forget. The first night of my first Staff Weekend was a blast. I look forward to the following staff weekends to come. :)

The Power Behind the Cross

First session is complete. Although I was only there for two days, I cannot tell you how fast it went by. I wish that I could have been there more with the campers, but with the little time I had with them I learned how accepting and welcoming they were. Every time I left and then returned, my girls would greet me with shouts of joy and then share with me everything that I had missed. To know that they noticed my absence truly touched my heart. On Thursday night late in the evening we began what is the most powerful part of the session: Cross Devo. For the first time, I played a role in the devo. While selected members have lines to say, I was simply a member of the crowd. I was told how this could be a difficult time for me as I was one of the people shouting insults at Jesus. I honestly wasn't worried and thought I was mentally prepared to play this role to the best of my ability. The angrier we sounded, the more realistic it would seem to the kids. Yet, as the time came for me to cry out "Crucify" I was dumbstruck by how utterly difficult it was for me to say it. I shouted as I could, but on the inside I was torn. Never has one word seemed so difficult to say. Tears ran down my face as I watched as my friends reenacted the story of the Cross. My friends were the ones playing the good people, the bad people, and even Jesus. As I looked around, I saw just how powerful this message was to the kids as well. While I was struggling on the inside, I saw by the kids' reactions that the story of Jesus was finally coming to life. Seeing their reactions, their solemn faces with tear-stained cheeks, helped justify my feelings. I hope that the following devos are just as powerful. Though I do pray that the wood won't be as soaking wet as it was, preventing the fire from the powerful blaze I was used to. This final part of the session is by far the most powerful. Nothing brings the story to life more than this reenactment. I hope that throughout the rest of the summer that every single camper came experience the cross and truly see the pain that Jesus went through for their own sake. It is my prayer that as we continue the summer that we are able to reach kids, and plant seeds. I know that God is the gardener and he will reap the harvest, but for now I'm the poor farmer simply planting seeds. God will oversee our mission, but I pray that you all will pray for our mission.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Let the adventures begin

Orientation is complete. Yesterday served as an excellent reminder as reality hit me. When the campers showed up, it finally hit me that I, along with about 49 other staff members, are responsible for these kids. For this week, I'm living in the La Quinta. Unfortunately, I will only have 2 days with the kids because I am at A&M. I'm excited to be registering for classes, but I want nothing more to be back in the piney woods with my campers. As Sunday began, Andy delegated Karly and I as the "sign greeters." Let me tell you, the summer sun never shines down brighter than at 2:30 when you are standing on burning asphalt waving at incoming campers. Though it was hot, I like to think that as Karly and I made fools of ourselves dancing and waving, that the kids got a good laugh and more importantly a good impression of Camp Deer Run. Surprisingly, only 2 cars stopped to ask if we were having car trouble. The first was a man and his very young son. Let me tell you, this man gave me the creeps. But, with a smile on my face I had the opportunity to share the mission of Camp Deer Run. So even though I was uncomfortable, maybe his small son will one day camp because they now know the story behind the sign. Besides this encounter, it was a pleasant and cheerful job. Several families got great joy by asking silly questions such as, "Where is Camp Running Deer?" and "Are you the ones handing out ice-cream?" and I like to think that we went along with their good-humor. The first night of silly songs was great. I had the chance to sit with several campers who were new to camp, and I can assure you that after some silly songs they will be back next year. The joy and excitement from the campers is contagious! I love the energy they bring, and I love how with their arrival the woods came to life. I am so blessed to be a member of the staff this year. This is my first year that the roles are reversed, and I now get to see the pure bliss and the joy-filled eyes of all the campers. In one day, it has become a drug. I feed off of their excitement, and I hope that they can do the same. I pray that our first session is successful, and I pray that I will return quickly. In other news, my baby sister is traveling to Europe tomorrow. 16 years old and she's flying to Europe! It seems unreal that she is old enough for a trip like this. I hope and I pray that they are safe, but most importantly I pray that she uses the trip as a way to share her strong faith. I hope that she can share God with several of her classmates and even some Europeans (not those sketchy vendors though!) I can say that after I traveled in Europe, my eyes were opened and were more appreciative of our country. I have never appreciated ice and ketchup more than when I returned from my 16-day adventure. If anyone is reading this, I ask that you life up a prayer for my sister and her friends. Also, pray for my mother's peace. As we are in C-Stat I know that tomorrow will be difficult as she isn't taking my sister to the airport, or giving her a final hug. She will definitely need some peace for these next 8 days. Well the Gambrel family has had many adventures this week, and I'm sure there will be more to come this summer. Count your blessings daily, and thank God continually.
In Him,
Katelyn Ann