In March of 2008, I was told that I would be going to summer camp.
Naturally, I was nervous. I had never been to the mountains and the thought of being surrounded by people I had never met gave me chills. But nevertheless, I was excited about the prospect of learning new things and having a summer full of outdoor activities. As the school year came to a close and I learned more about what I would be doing at camp, my excitement grew and I even invited a friend from school.
What I need to point out before I tell you about my camp experience is that I was a very shy twelve year old girl; I mean, I was painfully shy. I could go weeks without speaking a word unrelated to a very basic greeting. I often felt very alone and isolated, and although I spent many Sundays in church, I had trouble feeling connected to God. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t believe in the existence, but I certainly felt like I had been forgotten by him. I couldn’t understand why I’d seen the things I had seen and felt the things I had felt already, at twelve years old, if God really loved me.
The day to leave for Camp Alkulana finally arrived. As I walked toward the bus I would board for camp my mind started racing.
“I’ve never slept in a cabin, what if it’s too cold?”
“I don’t know these people, what if they hurt me?”
“What if I say the wrong thing?”
“What if I’m not good at any of the activities?”
“What if I have more nightmares? What if I can’t sleep?”
And even as I was greeted with a big warm smile, and a reassuring wink, I had a very strong urge to run. But I didn’t. I walked onto the bus and closed my eyes and prayed, genuinely, for the first time in a very long time. And even just sitting on the bus, I instantly felt safer. But that was nothing in comparison to how I felt when I arrived to camp. The drive to Alkulana was beautiful, but there was something very peaceful and comforting about actually being there. The counselors were all lined up smiling and laughing, greeting us warmly and making sure we felt at home.
Fast-forward nine years, and I hadn’t been back to Alkulana since that summer. This past year in particular has been very difficult and transformative, and in all of the chaos, my relationship with God suffered tremendously. Throughout the year, I received notifications that Camp Alkulana was hiring, but ignored every post, because I was, as I thought, too busy. But one day, after seeing about ten within a span of an hour, I took the hint. I realized that God was no longer asking me to go to Camp Alkulana, but outright demanding. And who am I to question that?
This past summer I had the opportunity to help give children a safe place, physically and emotionally. Having the opportunity to serve God through the hearts of children was not only enriching, but I felt as though I was giving back what I had received. If anyone were to ask me how I felt about Alkulana I would tell them these things:
It is where I feel the closest to God.
It is where I feel the most loved.
It is where I feel safe.
Written by Charra Cosby