I was born and raised in the Episcopal Church. At age twelve, however, I began to question the tradition and values of the church, and began to hate being made to go there every week by my Mom.
When I was fourteen, my best friend Emily took me to a nondenominational church service. It profoundly affected me and for a short while I was fine with God, but the incident was forgotten with the passage of time- But my hatred for the episcopal church continued to fester.
At sixteen, I decided to reject the church completely and became a Wiccan. It was a religion that made sense to me. Ironically, my three best friends in high school were all Christians. One friend, Monica, took a particular interest in my new religious beliefs and was determined to make me a Christian. She constantly took me to her youth group, where other members of her church asked me to explain why I believed what I believed.
Toward the end of my Junior year, Monica began talking about her church’s summer camp. I tried to distract her from the subject but she was stubborn as a mule. When I told her it cost too much, she told me to apply for a scholarship. Begrudgingly, I applied in hopes of getting her off of my case.
I found out later that I got a full ride.
I packed up my things and headed out to the camp.
On the bus ride there we sat together, occasionally talking but mostly reading, eating, or watching the movie playing on screen. When the four hours were up, we all gathered our luggage and began to find our way to our cabins.
The camp theme was “Making All Things New”, and the camp itself was a lot of fun. They divided everyone into teams to compete against one another in various competitions. From eating 32 scoops of ice cream, to scavenger hunts, and even organizing a flash mob (which I choreographed, by the way.). It brought out the best in everyone. The food was amazing, too. The only downside to me were the religious aspects- including nightly worship services.
The last night of camp everyone gathered in the hall for the last church service before returning home in the morning. The pastor preached about Manasseh, the evil he did, and how God forgave him. I still had yet to be shaken from my faith.
Near the end of the service, the pastor had all the counselors and staff come up toward the front by the stage to pray over everyone. While standing in line, Monica told me that I had a choice to make, and that nobody but me could make it. It disarmed me so completely that I was quiet until she moved ahead of me in the prayer line. When that happened I was on my own and froze for a minute before hesitantly approaching the person who was supposed to pray for me. Without warning, she wrapped me into a fierce hug and started praying.
I couldn’t hear what she said (the band was still playing right by us), but it struck me like nothing had before that this person who I didn’t even know cared so deeply about me. It broke down my walls and I started to cry.
In that moment, I accepted Christ as my Lord and savior.
I was passed on down the line, and when I reached the end put my hands in the air in worship. When we gathered outside for s’mores afterward, I excitedly told Monica what had happened to me, and when we got back to our cabin she gave me my first bible. To top all of it off, our team won the last competition and were the camp champions.
I became a Christian on June 1, 2012.
It was the camp that changed my life, and I have never been the same since.