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faces of the 2017 summer

Ben Camp, a former full-time staff member, came up in the middle of the summer to do a film photography series of summer staff. He didn’t warn them that they were about to have their photos taken and the idea was to give them the prints on the last day of camp. He told them, “I want you to take these home so that you can remember that the person in your photo is the real you and what Christ did in you this summer doesn’t have to end because you are leaving camp.”

“An authentic smile. This is real. This is me and I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I am in God’s love. I am surrounded by people who love God and I am so sad that it is coming to an end. This picture was taken mid-summer, mid-week, in the middle of cleaning some pans while hoping I would find the leftover key lime pie from Tuesday night. I was told to stand against the wooden wall and that a picture was going to be taken of me. I smiled, I became me, thinking, ‘Umm shouldn’t they have warned me.’ Normally, I would be ready, with my hair down-curls popping, eyebrows threaded , edges laid, and lips moisturized. However, when I saw this picture at the end of the summer and what the purpose of it was, I came to a realization that I lived wanting people to see the ‘upgraded me,’ the girl who is so confident in her smile, but on the inside is yearning for approval from others. I lived 19 years and 5 months of my life defining who I am by what others thought of me. I allowed others to give me my energy, my happiness and my worth. This summer that changed. It wasn’t an easy adjustment either. I was Hurt. Broken. Destroyed. Most of all, I was empty. However, as I emptied out, those lies drained out as well. What I learned: the only approval that I need to seek is His, the only one who gives me worth is God himself, my creator and my savior. I am the clay , He is the potter (Isaiah 64:8). So why fake it to make it in a world where ‘making it’ is the end goal. Making it to have strength and control shouldn’t be our end goal. It should be surrendering and depending on our creator. I am filled with gratitude for what the Lord has done this summer at Camp Highland. I pray that God continues to overflow me with his love and that in the midst of all the distractions in this world that you will also be able to find the Truth, Jesus himself.”

“Batman. A nickname that started out as a joke became something much more impactful over the course of a few months. This past summer, hundreds of kids got to know me as Batman and allowed me to invest in their lives. As they listened to The Truth that I was able to share with them, I got to see them enter into a deeper relationships with Christ Jesus. Being able to join the cabins at meal times, bible study and hearing about how they have learned so much about God brought me pure joy. And that takes me to this photo. That smile on me once was lost to despair and loneliness after years of a tough upbringing. But after experiencing God’s love personally and watching it work in the lives of our campers and staff, I couldn’t help but smile. Now, in this photo, I have an eternal reminder of His eternal love and the awesome work that He can do through us when we are faithful.”

“This was the best summer of my life. Not because of the activities, not because of the dance parties, and everything that makes up camp. It was the best summer because I was able to walk with the Lord, leaning on him and learning from Him- as we fought for the hearts of His children. I will forever remember this summer of walking with the Lord. I am eternally grateful for who He provided to walk with me this summer, the community and friendships that I gained is unmatchable. In this picture I am the purest version of myself. Completely stripped of what the world says I should have or should be. At first glance, there’s not much to see, but at a second glance I feel as if I am seeing myself how the Lord sees me– whole, authentic, original, redeemed and beautiful. All of these things change this picture into a priceless moment that can never be duplicated. These are the moments that Camp Highland creates- ones of intimate moments with the Lord, that are what molds and shapes you for the rest of your life. I love you Camp Highland- no amount of time will ever be enough.”

“This summer really taught me a lot about myself, God, those around me, and how God is working in my life. Coming into the summer as a returner I had expectations of how things would go, but this summer went well above anything I expected. I found better connections with people around me and was just happy. That brings me to this picture that was taken out of the blue after we had just judged cabin calls. I’d say it’s probably the most authentic picture of me I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s me wearing a ridiculous silky shirt from the 70s and flip up sunglasses while I’m picking my hair out. The reason I think it’s so authentic is because of how ridiculous the whole thing is. It really captures my goofiness, which isn’t something I really showed as much last year. Something most people probably don’t notice in the picture is the bracelet I had on my wrist. It is to honor an Auburn football player who died a few years ago. It says ‘I know God’s working, so I smile.’ This is something that really hit me this summer. I think I was visible happier knowing that God was working and that I was in a place that I loved and where others truly cared about me. While driving down Camp Highland Road on my way out of camp, on the last day, something hit me. I realized that this had been the best summer of my life.”

“This picture isn’t one that I would normally put anywhere. No post on Instagram. No social media platform. And honestly, I probably normally wouldn’t have even taken it…

I like to be prepared with straightened hair, neutral makeup, and the right angle to capture my “best side” in order to give off a certain image. But what I didn’t realize was all of this was on purpose. The backwards necklace, the natural hair, and the smile from true laughter instead of having to create a fake persona of joy. The only picture that would capture my true self in the midst of the chaos. No posed smile, no perfect outfit, and no image to uphold.

I remember fighting with Ben Camp when he decided that the best time to take this picture was right after dinner, with all the mugginess from sweaty camp that day layering my skin and frizzy hair. I panicked fast in my mind, quickly trying to think of excuses to wait for a better time when I was more “ready” to have my face captured so close up. To have a picture snapped that I knew could only be taken once, and the one that I wasn’t ready for. However, looking back on it now, I see it more clearly. When are we ever ready to show our true selves? When are we ever willing to be so open and real that all comfort is gone? When are we ever able to step out and say “this is me, here I am”? When are we ever content and confident in coming as we are? Truly as we are, without wondering every second what the person next to us might think. I would venture to say it’s a rare chance. And sadly I didn’t realize the true benefits and joy that come from just being willing. Willing to be yourself amidst the world telling you to be someone different. Willing to be used, even when you aren’t ready. Because if I have learned one thing from camp this summer, it is that you will never feel ready. You will never be ready. But if you are willing, you will be used. I saw this as soon as I decided to set aside my fight for control to uphold a certain image of myself to the world. A fake image that I was so afraid that everyone would see through. But God works through your real beauty & heart. So be willing to live life in the moments, be willing to take time to stop to see the genuineness in people, and be willing to be used when you’re not ready…because that’s when who you are deep down and who you were intended to be comes out, and that’s the best self you could ever put out into the world.”

“As the sun begins to set on another day of camp, I can’t seem to find what I need. I search all the places I know to search, but still come up empty. I finally realize that what I am looking for cannot be found where I am looking. So, I decide that the only way to find what I need is to look for it somewhere else. So, I go out to the cabin bathhouse and I finally find it: a box of toilet paper. Now I can finally restock that stall in the boy’s bathroom that has been sitting dangerously low for the last half hour. As I sit today, three months later, and look at this picture, I remember another gift that Jesus revealed to me at Camp Highland. Another gift that I searched for in the wrong places. A gift that gives blessings that are new every morning and blessings that keep life exciting. I remember the joy that the Lord provides when you truly look to him as your source of strength. A joy that fills me with happiness while washing dishes, mowing grass, or cleaning bathrooms. A joy that can take the most exhausted body and fill it with the most energized soul. A joy that can take a heart that longs to be loved and fill it with not only his love, but the love of an entire community of brothers and sisters in Christ. A joy that even now as I prepare for the start of another school year, keeps me eager to see what the Lord has in store for me.”

“I woke up this morning eternally grateful for the past 2 months of my life. This isn’t the most attractive picture of me. That day I was exhausted, frustrated and responsible for ten 9 year olds. But I was boldly and authentically my full self–stripped to the core: no makeup, heart wide open, showing up in the hard places and offering everything I had to give. The joy that I carried in my heart, and the peace that I experienced is unlike any other. I saw the body of Christ come together like never before and experienced the most rich community. I let go of fear that had been ruling my life for so long, and am still trying to wrap my mind around how sweet Jesus has been. But that’s the thing, he’ll never stop showing up and leaving us in awe. This has been a whirlwind of a summer and I owe it all to him and the people that loved me with such intention.”

“This photo was taken in the middle of the month I spent at Camp Highland. That day it had rained and was very chaotic, so I was tired, wet, sweaty, had lost my contacts, and definitely did not feel photogenic. Looking at this picture now, I have honestly never seen a more beautiful picture of myself. I look completely genuine, free of makeup, and just utterly joyful. The time I spent working at Camp Highland this summer has been the most joyful I have ever felt in my life, and I finally understand what it means to delight in the Lord. I never knew what it meant to be truly loved by such an incredible community of Christians who strive every day to embrace honor and respect and pure, uninhibited joy. The Lord sent me to camp in May with the expectation of it being a familiar experience, but I was completely blown away by the family that was created and the lives that were touched by the staff. Students were changed every week and left with an entire new look on Christianity, and it filled me with an unbelievable peace and excitement that the Lord’s name was being spread. I will treasure this time spent at camp and will always look at my beauty and self worth in a completely different way. Until next time, keep changing lives Camp Highland. Thank you for changing mine.”

“This is the real me. On the clock, a little stressed, and prepping for the next worship session. Right before this was taken, I wanted to catch my reflection in a window to make sure I looked alright and take my guitar off, but Ben said, “Just come outside and leave the guitar on.” There are several things about me in this picture that I don’t like, but I think that might be the most beautiful part. It’s unapologetically me, and it’s how the Lord made me.”

“This picture was taken in the middle of Week 7. In the middle of still trying to meet my girls and understand what God had planned for the week. What I did know in this picture was that my rising 6th grade girls were a little hyper and full of joy. What I DIDN’T know in this picture was that my girls would struggle with sickness and injuries throughout the week. That they would be given challenges to push through and many unexpected trips to the nurse’s nook (which made us best friends with the nurse). That throughout the week I wouldn’t be able to be with my entire cabin and I would worry about each one of them, sick or in good health. BUT in this picture I also didn’t know that on Friday morning while doing TAG time with two of my campers, one of them would decide to give her life to Christ and accept the title of being His daughter. I didn’t know that two of my campers would defeat their fears and go to the top of the Drop Zone. I didn’t know that God could use pain and distractions to bring my girls closer to Him. That every trip to the nurse, every moment of fear, every inch further up the drop zone was a moment when God was with them even though I wasn’t.

Exodus 15:22-27 talks about how the Israelites came to Marah and they couldn’t drink because the water was bitter. Then Moses threw a log into the water and followed what God had instructed him to do even though it didn’t make sense (like how could a log clean water??). The point is that Moses followed what God had instructed even though it felt like he was doing nothing and had no control over the situation. After Marah the Israelites came to Elim which not only had clean water but it had SWEET water. And like seventy palm trees and all these springs and the Israelites were able to camp there and not only survive but THRIVE. My girls that week not only survived but they thrived in the Lord’s presence. My plan may not align with the Lord’s plan BUT THANK GOD IT DOESN’T. No one brought my girls to the Lord except for Him and I will forever praise Him for that.”

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