Yes, you read the title correctly. I was a church camp counselor, and it changed my life.
I worked at Camp Saint Paul, a Greek Orthodox sleepaway summer camp from 2009 – 2014, only taking a hiatus in 2012 when I worked at another Greek Orthodox camp, Ionian Village in Greece. Yes, please feel free to take a second to judge the Greekness and how greatly I feed into my stereotype.
Now back to how church camp changed my life.
I was always somewhat religious—I was in Sunday School for my elementary and middle school years (though frequenting less and less as the years went on). I was part of the youth group at my church as a teenager and even sat on the executive committee my junior and senior years of high school. And you could always find me in church during Holy Week. But that being said, I was nowhere near as religious as I should have been; I had become disconnected from the church. And that’s where working at church camp came into play. Well, eventually came into play. It didn’t just happen off the bat.
Did I become a church camp counselor so I could become closer with my faith? Honestly, no. I did it because my friends were doing it. I did it because I loved children. And I did it because I wanted to get away for the summer. To put it in simpler terms, I became a church camp counselor for no reason at all that had to do with my faith.
Boy, was I silly.
Going to chapel services twice a day, sitting through rotations that included Orthodox Life and Liturgical Hour and of course attending liturgy on Sundays with my campers are just some of the ways I became closer with my faith. Do you know what really got to me, though? It was seeing both my campers and my co-counselors become closer in their faith. There’s just something so powerful about being around people who share the same religion as you—and who aren’t afraid to show it.
Becoming closer to my faith is just one of the ways that church camp changed my life. Working at a Greek Orthodox summer camp made me a better person. It showed me that there’s more to the world than just materialistic items. Do you know how refreshing it is to disconnect from social media for an entire month or two? Do you know how wonderful it is to sit up at night just talking under the stars with someone? Do you know how heartwarming it is to see that one struggling camper finally smile and enjoy the moment? None of these things involve the digital world, but all of these things change your life.
As if all of this wasn’t enough already, church camp also gave me some of the best friends I have. There’s just something wonderfully fulfilling about having friends who understand you—not only do they understand your beliefs, your morals and your values, but they have them as well. I know that these friendships I’ve made will last me the rest of my life; many of them have already survived the college years and the first couple of years of real life.
Yes, I was a church camp counselor. And yes, go ahead and judge me if you want. You can laugh, it’s fine. I’ve heard it all before. But does it matter? No. Because Camp Saint Paul changed my life. I watched it change the lives of my peers, and I especially watched it change the lives of campers. What more could you ask for?
My love for Camp Saint Paul and the positive impact it’s had on my life is so strong that it’s hard to put into words. I look back at those summers and they remain some of the best memories of my life. I am forever grateful for the time I spent in that beautiful place, and will always be proud to have been a church camp counselor.