Just after I finished grade 11, a friend invited me to volunteer as a cabin leader at InterVarsity Pioneer Camp Alberta. I figured I knew what was best for me, and camp was NOT it, but my parents said yes, so off I reluctantly went. But after my first week volunteering, I stayed for another week. And then another.
At camp I found Christians my age who lived out their faith in a meaningful way. I came back from camp on fire with the Spirit and renewed in my relationship with Christ.
After grade 12, I had no idea what or where to study. So I applied for Pioneer Alberta’s LEAD program—an eight-month work and leadership development opportunity. I learned how to deliver a speech, unclog a toilet, share the Gospel with kids and how to support others through the dark moments of life.
The fall after LEAD finished, I headed to the University of Calgary, having discerned during the year that God was leading me to study Communications. I was nervous to move back home; I was returning changed after 14 months that brought me deeper into a relationship with Jesus and an understanding of who I truly am.
The fear and nerves I had around returning to the city were abated, however, because I knew that InterVarsity had a strong campus presence. My directors were even staff at U of C. As I stepped into InterVarsity on campus, I grew closer with those I already knew and kindled new friendships with those I didn’t. Being familiar with InterVarsity gave me comfort right from the beginning.
Out of My Element
I realised that many of the lessons I learned at camp were applicable on campus – maybe not in specifics (as I have yet to saddle a horse on campus), but certainly in the core truths behind leadership, community and serving Jesus.
At camp, I learned how to think on my feet and adapt to changing circumstances. I learned how to share my negative emotions with others in a way that was helpful and could bring positive energy into a hard situation. Vulnerability was commonplace, and I became more comfortable with holding space for others to be open. These skills are extremely helpful for campus life! Being able to support others, sit with them during bad days and journey with them toward Jesus is so beautiful.
When I was out of my element or overwhelmed at camp, I learned that the fear of asking for help often led to a worse situation, and that I don’t need to go at it alone. Everyone was willing to help each other out. Now, I strive to live that way on campus—to foster that atmosphere in our student leaders’ meetings and bring the energy of love, support and teamwork that camp instilled into my soul into every classroom, lecture hall, hallway or common space.
My experience with InterVarsity at camp and on campus have taught me that leaning on others for support, for help or offering aid to them is not weakness – it’s strength. Whether at camp or on campus, my teams have looked out for each other, and that has allowed me to have grace for others and for myself.
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