By Ericka Carr |

It’s halfway through September, and we’ve all heard everyone’s camp stories. Whether it’s Pine Cove, Kanakuk, or, in my case, Student Life Camp, the stories share a common theme: a bunch of college students spend their summer acting like weirdos for the sake of Jesus. 

Also, the paycheck doesn’t hurt. 

To be honest, I didn’t want to write about camp because we all know what working camp is like, either through personal experience or a roommate’s incessant retellings of their summer highlights (sorry friends). Camp is a fun and unique experience for each person. But let me ask you this– in all the reminiscing, do you ever tell your friends how hard it was?

As life-changing as camp was, no one prepared me for the spiritual, emotional, and physical tolls I faced. 

I worked at Student Life Camp this summer, a church camp owned by Lifeway Christian Resources, consisting of six teams that travel to different regions of the United States. Like a lot of the staff, I went to Student Life in high school and spent my year counting down the days until it was time for camp again. As if one week wasn’t enough, my church also Staff Volunteered, a program at SLC where churches help the staff run camp for a week. 

I knew how Student Life worked- the schedule, the jargon, the staff roles. But even in the midst of all this knowledge, I didn’t realize how demanding working camp is. 

My day started at breakfast where staff was expected to be by 7:10 a.m.. From there, it was non-stop excitement- preparations for the day, Rise, Mission Huddle, Mission Sites, Free Time, Worship, and meals in between. Each day wrapped up with a staff meeting after Worship and ended around 10:30 p.m.. Five days of camp ended with Loud-Out, about two hours of removing all our equipment and putting it on Penske trucks, then traveling to our next location only to Load-In and start all over again. 

My team did this 10 times. 

At camp you learn that rest is relative. Rest is five minutes of quiet time between getting dressed and leaving for breakfast. Rest is getting a seat to yourself on travel day. Rest is knowing that in your exhaustion, God is faithful. 

Camp was hard. I wasn’t prepared like I thought, and honestly, on my lowest days I didn’t like my job. Did I love being at camp? Yes! Was it the best summer I’ve ever had? Yes! Is it okay to look back and see a not-so-perfect adventure? Yes. 

The highs of camp are mountains, but the reality is that some days the lows are trenches. Be real with people. Tell them that sometimes camp isn’t great, that sometimes you missed home more than you liked being there, but that it was so worth every hard day.