Emma didn't like camp. Her parents made her come for two weeks every summer. The first year I met her she tripped another counselor in Gold Rush on purpose. Five years later that counselor still has a scar. Emma went to sleep early every night to avoid devotions. She wouldn't wake up in the morning till the sixth time I cautiously approached the bunk ready to dodge the M & Ms she would throw at me. Emma tested my patience.
In the second week of the CILT (Camper In Leadership Training) program each camper leads a devotion for their adopt-a-cabin. We have a planning session in the morning to brainstorm topics, find applicable bible verses, and choose songs. We bounce ideas off of each other and by lunchtime everyone has a plan of what they're going to do.
After lunch during Emma's session we headed back to the cabin for a much needed rest hour. The kids were tired and it was a hot and humid day. We walked into the air conditioning and everyone headed straight for their beds. Emma stomped to her bunk, kicked off her black boots, and threw down her binder on a pile of dirty clothes. "This is stupid. I hate this," she mumbled.
"Hey Emma, I'll help you finish your devotion if you want," Grace said from her top bunk.
Grace is one of those kids you wish could stay in your cabin all summer long. She is constantly positive and energetic. This was the 3rd summer she had been my camper and dozens of my favorite memories as a counselor involved her- creating Gerard X, leading serenades, sharing in devotions, and competing in an interpretive dance competition. Grace loved camp and life with every bit of her strawberry blonde hair to her freckled feet.
Emma looked across the room at Grace who was waving her over to her bunk. She tentatively crossed the space and climbed up beside Grace who was holding her Bible.
I sat on my bed and watched the pair whispering instead of falling asleep. I heard Grace patiently explain how books, chapters, and verses work. She showed Emma how to find verses in the index. The amazing, beautiful thing was that Emma listened. She soaked it up. She asked questions. The girl that had told us she wanted nothing to do with God was engaged in this conversation. I couldn't stop watching them.
On the last night of camp each camper says what they're going to take away from camp usually listing new experiences, renewed faith, and best friends. When it was Emma's turn she said, "Uh, this year I think I changed a lot. I guess I might want to try this God thing."
Emma spent multiple summers sitting through chapels and devotions but for her none of them significantly changed what she thought about Christianity like the rest hour with Grace. There is no doubt in my mind that the time Grace spent talking with Emma on that bunk made a huge difference in her life. It would have been easy to ignore Emma's frustration that afternoon- she was always in a bad mood. Instead Grace chose to be patient and kind. She reached out to Emma who desperately needed a friend and the choice to put her faith in action made all the difference in Emma's life.