"They looked at me, clearly bewildered. Why would I show up on a Tuesday morning to clean bunkhouses?"
Staff alumni Mary Beth White recounts a day in May she volunteered at Camp Siloam while she was in town. Her passion for the ministry here was evident.
And it's not just Mary Beth White. Numerous staff alumni volunteer throughout the year and over the summer when they know they'll be in town. They come from out of state to walk the grounds, encourage the staff, and celebrate God's presence here.
Anyone around will tell you something special happens when you come under the stone arch marked "Camp Siloam." We know this is God making good on His promise to gather with those who assemble in His name.
This year, we gather!
Home Team and summer staff alike felt disheartened when the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancelation of Camp last year. Over the months leading up to that decision and in the year following, the Home Team worked diligently to plan a Camp experience in compliance with the strictest health guidelines. As regulations have changed, they have adjusted the plan, and we all look forward to God's continued victory this summer.
Every year, God meets guests for the transformation of souls. He works largely through the summer staff to encounter the guests on a personal level.
"It's hard to put into words," said third-time summer staffer Tim Duncan. "The intentionality of the staffers sets Camp apart."
As I asked this year's staff what made Camp Siloam such a special place, I heard the same answer from each one.
"It's a foundation at Camp Siloam for every camper interaction to focus around an opportunity to share the gospel," Duncan, better known around Camp as Hub Master or "The Legend," continued.
Anna Hudson, first-time summer staffer, echoed his conclusion: "I've been wanting to work here for several years because my first year here as a camper, I was blown away by how intentional the staff was. That's what sets it apart."
God endlessly uses the staff's intentionality to institute change, both spiritually and personally.
"I have seen lives of campers literally saved," said. "We have kids who come with mental trouble or other burdens, and when they share that with a staffer who's seeking them out, their lives turn around."
God doesn't exclude summer staff from His victory stories. His constant presence in the ministry of Camp Siloam and lives of the Home Team leaves a lasting impact.
"It has changed my direction for what I want to do in life," Duncan said. "I have been prepared with soft and practical skills and directed for ministry in whatever form that comes in my life."
Me too, Tim. Me too.
During one of my three summers on staff, God changed the directory of my career goals. After meeting with my staff small group one Sunday night, I returned to my cabin of high school girls going through Camp Siloam's leadership development program, T2. I paced around the room, waving my hands and speaking enthusiastically about what God had been speaking to me and the ways in which He was reaching out to me. When I finished, I looked to my girls who all sat wide-eyed and silent.
Finally, one girl spoke the truth God had been nudging me toward for months: "Rylee, you may be passionate about music, but you will never be as passionate about it as you were in that moment."
I knew. God had called me to teach. Even before I came to this conclusion, the leadership at Camp Siloam fostered this calling, giving me chances to lead staff devotionals and develop curriculum for the T2 program. God transformed me in this place, as He has with so many others.
Even this summer, we have already seen one staff member dedicate her life to the Lord and several others baptized. Look for their story next week.
"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us reveals the fragrance of the knowledge of Him in every place."
2 Corinthians 2:14 (NASB)