How camp taught me about one of Godís precious promises
By Diane Stark
He was a big fish in our little high-school pond. He was a senior, and I was a lowly sophomore. I’d had a crush on him forever, and when he asked me to come to his house for lunch one day, it seemed too good to be true. Turns out, it was. His mother hadn’t been home, like he’d promised, and his intentions weren’t simply to have lunch and get to know me better. I escaped before anything really serious happened, but I left behind a portion of my innocence—and most of my self-esteem.
This incident happened three days before summer break began—the summer break I was scheduled to spend at Fort Wilderness, a Christian camp in McNaughton, Wis. I’d been a camper there every summer since I was little, and this year, I was going to be on staff. I might even get to be a counselor for a week or two.
But how could I go now? I was a basket case, crying constantly and struggling with guilt and feelings of worthlessness. I was in no position to help anyone else in their walk with the Lord. I told my parents I didn’t want to go to camp, but they urged me to give it a try. They promised to pick me up in a week if I was still such a mess.
My mom called the camp’s director and explained what had happened. So when I arrived at camp, someone was already aware of my struggle. I didn’t have to explain what I’d been through. She already knew, and she cared. She made herself available to talk any time I needed her. And at first, I needed her a lot. Several times, she left encouraging notes and Bible verses on my bunk. She went out of her way for me. And she wasn’t the only one who took the time to care.
During that first week, I told my cabin mates what had happened, and they were all incredibly supportive. No one judged me or blamed me for what had happened, and I truly felt God’s love through these other girls.
If God is Good
Toward the end of the summer, I got the opportunity to be a counselor for girls' camp. I wasn’t sure I was emotionally ready to counsel, but the director and all of my cabin mates thought it would be good for me. They were right. In that one week, I grew more than I had in months of attending my home church’s youth group. It caused me to lean on God all the more. Those girls needed me so much, especially with a little girl named Tara.
Tara was 10, and she had just learned that her parents were planning to divorce. “God’s not real,” she told me. “If He was, He wouldn’t let this happen.”
I swallowed hard, not sure what to say. Then God gave me the words. “You know, Tara, something bad happened to me a few weeks ago, too. But I learned something this summer.”
I opened my Bible to one of the verses the camp director had left on my bunk. I read Romans 8:28 out loud: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I grabbed Tara’s hand. “That verse means that God is in control, even when things get hard. No matter what we are going through, we know that God can turn it into something good.”
Tara shook her head. “How could a divorce ever be good?”
I shrugged and squeezed her hand tighter. “I didn’t think that what I went through could be used for good, but it is. Right now, God is using what happened to me to help you.”
She started crying. “But my mom and dad are getting divorced. How could it ever be good?”
Mourning into Dancing
Diane Stark is a freelance writer from southern Indiana. She is a former teacher and now stays at home with her five children.
I couldn’t answer her question then, but I promised her that God’s Word is true and that He would use it for good, in His time. And, as always, God kept His promise. Tara and I kept in touch, and two years later, she wrote me a letter and told me that her mother had remarried. She now had a stepsister whom Tara had brought to the Lord. “I finally see what God was doing,” she wrote. “It was hard, but God turned it into something good, just like you said He would.” She thanked me for my help that summer.
I knew that the only reason I’d been able to help her was because of what I’d been through. Romans 8:28 is true, and my summer at camp taught me that. God does use all things—even things that were difficult at the time—for His good.