Head camp coun­selor Hannah Cote in her element. Courtesy | Dam­ascus Mission

If you returned to Hillsdale ecstatic, I’m with you. But if you came back wishing you did more with your three months of summer vacation, here’s my advice: Spend your next summer at camp. 

Every May for the past three years, I’ve packed the trunk of my car to the brim and made the trek to middle-of-nowhere Ohio, a beau­tiful land of fields and Amish people.

My summer days were filled with cheesy camp chants, tow­ering tree ropes courses, hours at the lake, and in my case, Jesus. But whether the camp is a “church camp” or not, this lifestyle demands sacrifice. 

Chasing middle schoolers at the beach every afternoon demands sac­rifice. Fin­ishing the day with sand in my clothes and mud in my Chacos demands sac­rifice. Braiding all nine of my campers’ hair every single day demands sacrifice. 

Living in a cabin — for three months. It demands sacrifice. 

It’s no easy nine-to-five summer job — working at a camp takes grit, humility, courage, and joy. 

Grit, because when it rained campers wanted to roll in the mud. Humility, because my campers and staff would never know the fullness of my sac­rifice. Courage, because I learned how to live as a woman of God alongside the women around me. And joy, because without joy, my work would become a task. 

My nine sixth-grade girls looked up to me, wanted to win my approval, and called me their best friend — all within the first 24 hours. 

While the affection felt great, I imme­di­ately saw the weight of my rela­tionship with these girls, and I saw how impres­sionable they were. I was the potter, and they were the clay. But rather than soak in a week of their high praise, I knew this week was a chance for me to change their lives with uncon­di­tional love, because I was never meant to be the potter — that’s Jesus’ job. 

Though the first week of camp felt like a dream, I also had campers who hated me, swore at me, ran away from the lake, refused to get out of bed, avoided me at all costs, and stayed far away from all the activities. 

But camp was still a gift. 

When I gave up my first summer in 2019, I learned one thing about the sac­rifice I made — my life was not my own. Instead, my life was meant to be in service to others.

If you want to be pushed beyond your physical, spir­itual, and emo­tional limits, go to a summer camp. If you want to tan­gibly learn how to choose joy in every moment, and under­stand real humility, go to a summer camp. 

And if you want to live out real sac­rifice, go to a summer camp and give up your life for three months. It’ll change your life, and the lives of all those you serve.