This is a story about a highschool girl who went to camp. Her name is Bella, and she’d never been to Hume Lake before. We got together at Starbucks the other day, and she told me about her camp experience over a Double Chocolatey-Chip Frappuccino (that’s really the name – it’s trademarked). I asked Bella to tell me how her decision to go to Hume this summer came about. “Our neighbors next door had been telling me for a long time, ‘You’ve got to go! It’s the best!’ and I knew some other people who had gone, so I knew it would be great.” The only problem was, she didn’t really know any of the other girls who would be going with her.
You see, Bella’s family has only been coming to Arbor Road for about six months or so. It all started with her two younger siblings being encouraged to come to Kids U, our Wednesday night Kids program, by their friends next door. “My mom,” Bella told me, “was raised as a Catholic so that’s where we went growing up, but a while ago she started to feel like she needed to find something else. So, we started to try other churches, but none of them seemed to really be the right place.” Bella’s mom, Shalimar, later explained to me that she had grown disillusioned with the Catholic Church and it was just not inspiring to her. But when they went to Arbor Road for the first time, “my kids said that it was the perfect fit.”
Bella agreed that she really liked the teaching she was hearing in HSM on Sunday mornings but, “I didn’t really know anybody, and so I was kind of quiet and kept to myself.” So, when Bella got in that camp bus, she was surrounded by mostly strangers. She did have the company of a best friend, however. They had known each other since kindergarten, and funnily enough, his mom and dad had first met at Hume Lake. So when his mom heard that Bella was going, she was excited to sign him up, too. Because of this, Bella was guaranteed at least one friend during her week at Hume – just not in the same cabin.
“When I got to the cabin, everyone was so nice. They were really open and welcoming.” In fact, there were two things that really made Hume an incredible experience according to Bella. The first was all of the amazing friendships she made with the girls, and the second was the teaching that happened at camp, what it meant to her, and how it changed her. The point Chris Brown, the speaker made, was that we have to choose between following God’s path or the freedom to do whatever we like. “The first night, he told us to raise our hands if we’d had any of these things happen in our immediate family, and it was things like divorce, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, suicide, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. And you looked around, and almost everybody’s hand was up. It’s sad. But that’s what our freedom has done for us.”
Bella went on to describe how Chris said we all need to decide if we’re going to let God be on the throne in our life, if we’re going to let Him rule over us, or keep taking over for ourselves. “It’s all or nothing,” she said. “Most of us have a selfish relationship with the Lord. We come to Him when we need His help, but then we want to do what we want on our own the rest of the time. We don’t think about Him except when we need His help.”
And then on the second night, Chris asked them to make a choice. Who was Bella going to let rule her life? Who was going to sit on that throne? “He told us, ‘I want you to stand up. Some of you might want to stand, but you’re thinking, I’m ok, I don’t need to stand up, but if you leave here and all of your friends are going back to the cabin and you’re feeling anxious, and your palms are getting sweaty, and you know you should have stayed, then I want you to turn around and come back, your friends will figure it out, just come back.’” Bella said, “It happened to me. I wanted to stand up, but then I told myself, ‘No, you don’t need to. You’re all right, you’re all right.’ But then, we were walking back to the cabin and my palms were starting to sweat.” Bella went turned around and went back to the chapel.
The following Sunday, Bella was back down the mountain, and she was choosing to stand up again. This time she was standing with new friends from camp, in front of her new church family, and her proud immediate family to declare who she had chosen to put on the throne of her life. Bella was being baptized.
“I know that it’s going to be hard sometimes. There are some friendships that I have that I know are just kind of toxic. I’m already trying to back away from some of those people, because some of the things that they are involved in, some of the things that they do and the conversations that they are having, I just don’t need to partake of that.” Bella also knows that she has some work to do to build on the friendships she has started at Hume Lake. “Now that we’re here (at this church), if we’re going to be here, I need to put myself out there and get to know even more people.”
So, this is more than just a story about a girl who went to camp. This is a story about how God introduced Himself to a girl, Bella, and showed her how much she needs Him. This is a story about a girl who went up a mountain, and came down….somebody new.
Written by: Valerie VanWinkle