Emma (far left) and fellow Pine Cove Counselors
For six and a half weeks in the summer time, my name is Nana, short for Jack Frost Nanananana. During meal times, we stand up and cheer when anyone on stage says “Alright”, “Okay”, or “Cove Kids”, among other key words and phrases. Sometimes, random characters will run through the dining hall or around camp doing silly things. Sometimes parents will ask a guy in a large panda suit to wake up their teenagers at 7am on a Friday. Every Thursday, grade school kids journey out to a mud pit and attempt to take down as many counselors as possible. On Fridays, moms and their teenage daughters compete against one another in Powderpuff Football while dads and their sons compete in an original game named “Turkish Delight.” This is Family Camp. This is the Woods. This is Pine Cove.
Now, what exactly is Family Camp? The idea sounds odd- at least that’s what I thought before I started working last summer. Pine Cove Family Camp is a camp designed for an entire family to get away from their everyday lives and grow together as a family centered in the gospel of Jesus. Family Camp is a unique environment where the entire family can experience fun things like zip lining as well as wake boarding.
Week One, I was given the pleasure of working one-on-one with a little girl named Lainie, who happens to have Down Syndrome. Behind this 3-year-old girl was an incredible story. About a year and a half ago, her parents adopted her from Bulgaria and since then she has been given more love and care than she saw in the first two years of her life. As I began to get to know Lainie, I found that she is a brave little girl who loves riding ponies, splashing in the pool, and strumming the ukulele. I thought this was how she had always been. However, during a conversation with her parents, I came to realize that Lainie had experienced incredible growth in the past year. She was learning how to trust, love, and truly be free. She had been given a new life where freedom through love is the main ingredient. Lainie is a beautiful child and I began to see the true miracles in her life and how precious she is. This is just one story from all of the incredible kids I got to work with!
As a Cove Kids counselor, I worked with children ages 0-4. This means I changed many diapers, played countless games of “Red Light, Green Light”, and loved on tons of kids that I wish I could claim as my own. I saw the perfect joy in these kids’ eyes that I forgot existed, especially while distracted by the chaos of college. I found myself hoping to mirror the zest and joy I saw in my campers.
Two of the Orange Jackets’ tenets are service and leadership. I don’t think I truly understood what “servant-leadership” was or what being “servant-hearted” meant until working at Pine Cove. I remember rocking hysterical, crying babies essentially begging them to sleep, while I, myself, was crying internally (and sometimes externally) because I was exhausted. I plunged a few toilets, cleared a few drains and changed a few exploding diapers, praying that I wouldn’t be too grossed out to complete such tasks.
Every OJ has a different reason that empowers them to serve - mine is my faith in Christ. The mission statement we lived by at camp was, “Pine Cove exists to be used by God to transform the lives of people for His purposes and His glory.” Sometimes I didn’t want to do the things I did this summer, but I did them because I knew that I wasn’t working for myself, but for others and ultimately, God. If I could relieve a mom of some of the daily stresses of caring for her screaming baby, then by Golly I was going to love and care for that screaming baby. I was, and still am, working to glorify God. Being servant-hearted means serving without needing to be recognized or glorified. It means serving without the thought that you will get a pat on the back, a compliment, or even a thank you. Being truly servant-hearted is just plain tough, but it’s worth the struggle!
I will always cherish the opportunity I had this summer to grow as a person in a safe environment like Pine Cove Woods. I will never forget the miracles I’ve seen, the relationships I’ve formed, and the kids I was blessed to meet. I am beyond excited to serve alongside Orange Jackets with this new perspective on service!