A Personal Story - How Camp Changed My Life
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By Lieutenant Loreen Hamilton
At the age of 12, I wanted to be an oncologist. A strange career choice for a kid; but I had heard that oncologists helped cure people from cancer. What a great job! Healing people and helping them live their life to the fullest when they had been given a death sentence! I thought nothing could be better.
At the age of 17, I wanted to be a music teacher. I loved singing and music – always had and still do! I thought there could be nothing better than helping others find meaning and helping them live a life of singing, music and laughter.
At the age of 19, I didn’t know what I wanted to be anymore. I was finishing my freshman year of college and had no direction. I knew I wanted to do something meaningful, have an adventure and help people become who God created them to be; but that was it.
At the age of 29, I am a Salvation Army officer. I have been serving God in this capacity for five years and am married to a man who loves God and works hard as an officer alongside me. We have a 6-month-old daughter who is a miracle in our lives. I spend my life loving other people, helping them find Jesus and enjoying music all at the same time.
So where did it all come together? It all came down to one day, when I was in college. I was wandering through campus and happened upon a camp recruiting fair. The wheels started turning in my head… what a fun way to spend a summer! Working at a camp!
I was recruited to work at The Salvation Army’s Camp Arnold, near Seattle, Washington. I figured I would spend a summer with kids, teaching them about Jesus and loving them the way they deserved to be loved. But I was in for a huge surprise. Camp Arnold was filled with so much more than I ever could have known! My eyes were opened to the fact that The Salvation Army was full of people who wanted to love the world and win it for Jesus. Best of all, they reached out to the people who needed it the most, and they loved music! It was like a match made in heaven.
There are many things about camp that I treasure. On the surface, I remember the silly songs, the theme days, the crazy messy carnivals. But there was so much more to it—things like the friendships I made that have become lifetime friendships. I look back and see kids from my cabin who have grown and changed from 11-year-old girls trying to figure out who they were, to strong young women who stand up for what they believe in and follow God no matter the cost. I realize that the difference I got to make in kids’ lives those two summers pale in comparison to the difference they made on me. The change that I see in their lives is only a sliver of what God has done in my own life.
My life verse is 2 Thessalonians 5:23-24. It says: “Now may the God of peace make you holy [blameless, pure] in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.” (NLT) I love the whole thing, but above all, I love the promise at the end – God will make this happen. In the NIV, it says “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” I look back on these last ten years and I see a common theme of God’s faithfulness.
I truly believe that God, in his faithfulness, used camp to save me. God used camp to bring me to a more full relationship with him because while I always believed in him, I didn’t always understand how to follow him with my whole life. He used camp to bring me a mentor and friends who constantly help me understand my worth and my giftings. Through camp, I also learned that God wants me to always become more today than I was yesterday. God used my summers at Camp Arnold to lead me into a life of ministry to the world that I never could have imagined without The Salvation Army. And now every time I have the privilege of returning to a Salvation Army camp – especially Camp Arnold – I spend time reflecting on my time at camp, who I was and who I am now. Then I thank God for his never ending faithfulness in my life. Because without him, who knows where I would be today.
And for the record, I really love where I am today.