REYOAD counselors serve, grow from camp experience
Epworth Forest - Each year, nearly 25 selfless volunteers spend a week of their summer caring for adults with special needs at REYOAD, a camp for Remarkable Youth and Adults at Epworth Forest. For one week the campers are greeted with warm smiles and showered with love and compliments, all while worshipping and learning about God.
After six summers of volunteering at REYOAD, 24-year-old Becca Richman has not only established lifelong relationships but has realized the calling God has placed upon her heart. As an Elementary Education and Special Education double major at Eastern Michigan University, Becca did not realize her passion for the special needs community until she experienced REYOAD.“Before I came to this camp, I never imagined myself working with this population, and now that’s my whole life. It truly is my passion, my driving force,” Becca said. “I would do anything for them. REYOAD completely changed my life. It changed the direction in which I want to go.”
After spending time with the same campers over several years, Becca and other REYOAD counselors have developed meaningful and positive relationships with many of them. They have watched the campers grow in Christ as they realize God’s unconditional love for them and experience that love through the REYOAD staff. For Becca, watching the campers grow is one of the most rewarding parts of camp.
“I’ve seen people who never would have spoken about God, shared their feelings, or prayed willingly really open up and their attitudes have changed,” Becca said. “Now they’re really happy and enjoy being around people, and they are the ones trying to get the other people involved. It’s really cool to see that change in them.”The campers have offered Becca their own bit of wisdom as well, encouraging her to be outgoing, live simply and love unconditionally. When she first began volunteering six years ago, Becca was more withdrawn and removed. Now, the campers always encourage her to be more open.
“It’s really neat to see them be so open and willing to share. Since coming here, I myself have been more open and willing to put myself out there,” Becca said. “It’s so easy here because they encourage you and they love you for doing it.”
The campers’ view of life has been influential to Becca’s thinking, both inside and outside of camp. As she explains, their simple and caring attitudes have taught her the importance of patience, hope and unconditional, unwavering understanding.“When I’m here I really open my eyes and am able to see the miracles God creates. When I leave I’m able to take that to my personal life and really try to carry it out,” Becca said. ” I try to keep the love that they show me going forward.”
Between campers, REYOAD staff, and Epworth Forest staff, the love and compassion shared on site during Camp REYOAD is palpable.
“I can definitely feel God’s presence in this camp. I feel His love more here than anywhere else, from both the campers and all the staff. It’s amazing,” Becca said. “There are so many things that happen at camp that I witness and I can say, ‘Wow, God is great.’”