Staff members form friendships, grow in their relationship with Christ at camp
Epworth Forest - Staff member A.J. Austin can’t even remember what his life was like before camp. After five years as a camper and six years on staff, Impact 2818 has played a crucial role in A.J.’s growth as a leader and in the maturing of his faith in the Lord.
Even before he was old enough to attend camp, A.J. was at Epworth Forest every summer with his family. His father, a pastor in the United Methodist Church, directed a week of camp every year. Instead of selling lemonade in the summer like most kids, A.J. would sell hugs and kisses to campers for 25 cents.
“I can’t even think of myself without camp,” A.J. said. “It’s been so crucial to me. Camp is part of who I am now.”Throughout his time at Epworth, A.J. has played many different roles and experienced the program from a variety of perspectives. The mountain-top experience as a camper provided him an opportunity to rejuvenate his faith, but as a staffer, A.J. learned what it truly means to be a disciple of Christ and to walk with the Lord daily.
“I started to learn what it is to live that faith out every day. Not just to have highs and lows in your walk with the Lord, but how to live that continuously,” A.J. said. “I’ve learned to be a disciple and what it means to be a servant.”
A.J. began on staff working in the Beach House and on the paintball field, but he later took on more responsibility as an activities coordinator. Through the positive experiences and crazy schedules of camp life, A.J. has learned the importance of leadership and servanthood.
“It’s really a place where you can be mentored. Running those activities, I became a leader and learned what it means to be a servant leader here, and also how that plays out in real life,” A.J. said. “Camp has taught me how to glorify God through everything I do.”
He has also learned the importance of focusing not on his own abilities but rather on the power and sovereignty of God. Even through stressful weeks and schedule failures, A.J. has learned to have confidence in the fact that God works in all types of situations.“I’ve seen so many miracles happen here that it’s not us, it couldn’t be us. There’s no way that what we do as a staff could even come close to what God does here,” A.J. said. “That fact is so incredibly present.”
During his time at Epworth, A.J.’s coworkers have become his support team, accountability partners, and some of his most treasured best friends. All of his closest friends were made at camp, a fact A.J. isn’t surprised by at all.
“With the ins and outs of camp and the way the job works, you really get to see who people are,” A.J. said. “You get to see their love of Christ. You get to see their servants’ hearts, and that’s what makes you understand who they are.”
A.J. is encouraged by the Christ-centered atmosphere at Epworth and how it benefits both campers and staff members throughout the summer.
“Camp is a place that has one focus, and that’s God,” A.J. said. “That’s what makes it so beautiful and such a unique place. We’re able to put those distractions aside and just focus on Him.”
For A.J., camp will always be a place the Lord uses year-round to draw him nearer.
“It’s given me the tools to become a Christian,” A.J. said. “The tools to become a disciple. That’s what camp has given me.”