There is something magical about being 1,500 miles away from home for two months spending every minute with people you have never met before. When you first arrive, you are outside of your comfort zone. The only thing you initially have in common with the other staff members is a mutual love for Jesus Christ. The reason you are there is because you feel called to work at a camp in hopes of impacting young campers for eternity and you also desire to grow spiritually yourself. This is the situation I found myself in at the beginning of the summer of 2010 at Camp Gilead. I was an ordinary college student from Southern California looking for an experience that would shape my life and draw me closer to Christ. What would ensue over the course of the next two months would not only rock my world but would set me out in a new direction in life that I previously had no idea was even possible.
Before I arrived at Camp Gilead that summer, I had just finished up my time at Chaffey College (a junior college in SoCal) and was looking forward to re-enrolling at a four year university in the fall. My goal was to complete my degree and eventually become a P.E. teacher. When the time came for me to drive up to the Pacific NW with my parents and youngest sister, I said my goodbyes to my co-workers, friends, kids in my church’s youth group, and my other sister (who served as a counselor at Gilead in 2013). We made our way northward on Interstate 5 towards Washington for what would become one of the best summers of my life. Two days later, we pulled off at Carnation Farm Road and for the very first time I got to see a beautiful place that would be my new home for the next two months. Little did I know back then how big of an impact serving at Gilead would have on my life.
The next two months impacted me in ways that were beyond my wildest imagination. The biggest takeaways I had were the lifelong friendships as well as a newfound direction and sense of God’s calling in my life. The friendships I’ve had have helped me get through the peaks and valleys faced along the way. Although not all have been God-honoring friendships, they have been extremely important to me and that was never more evident than my time on staff at Gilead. The biggest difference between the friendships I made outside of camp with those that I made at camp was that every friendship I made at Camp was Christ-centered. These friends who I grew to know and love desired to see me grow in my faith and strengthen my relationship with Jesus Christ. Talking baseball, playing basketball and softball, canoe jousting in the pond, Sunday night Cabin 12 sleepovers, and attending Mariners games were just a few of the many pastimes I enjoyed with the other guys on staff that summer. Since camp, I have continued to keep in touch and I even asked two of them to be groomsmen in my wedding. The lifelong friendships made with my fellow guy staffers are bonds that will last forever because they are rooted in our love for Christ and the shared experiences we had at Camp Gilead.
The relationship which has impacted me more than any other I made during my summer on staff at Gilead is the one I formed with Melissa, who later became my wife. I am proud to be a part of the exclusive club of married couples who met at Camp Gilead. J Out of all the relationships I formed with people at camp, this one was definitely the most fun. It was very unique working on staff with Melissa that summer based on how I felt about her. This was mainly due to the fact our interactions were somewhat spontaneous based on where we were and what we were doing. When you are working at a camp, you have to be flexible and figure out what times work best to spend time together. Many times it meant a Saturday afternoon date at the local Carnation laundromat while doing our laundry. The time I spent with Melissa that summer built a strong foundation for our future life together. We were engaged a year later and got married two years later. I know beyond the shadow of doubt that a big reason God brought me to Camp Gilead was to meet many amazing friends and my beautiful wife.
The second biggest impact that working at Gilead has had on my life is the new direction and calling God gave me during my time there. Before Camp, I volunteered in my church youth group in California but I had no intention of pursuing a career in ministry and it wasn’t something that I was passionate about. That all changed during my time at camp. The Lord put it on my heart to make youth ministry a passion and it became something I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know it then, but that new passion for ministry would take me on an unexpected journey. Since serving at Gilead, I have taken a more prominent leadership role in our youth group. Through that, the Lord has placed a sincere desire in my heart to become a lead pastor someday. The thought of this makes me laugh sometimes because before getting a glimpse of ministry at Gilead, I was adamantly against even considering this as a possibility. These are the types of things that happen when we fully surrender and allow God to reveal His sovereign will for our lives. He is omniscient and knows what is best for us even when we are opposed to it at first. Since Summer 2010, the Lord has taken me on a journey completely opposite of what I thought I would be taking. However, it has been an incredible journey and I am extremely grateful that He has led me to where I am today.
To sum it all up, the summer I spent at Camp Gilead is one that I will never ever forget. Since camp, my wife and I have continued to stay involved at Camp Gilead by being a prayer partner for staff members as well as visiting camp in 2011, 2012, and 2013. We have aspirations to serve at Gilead on program staff together in a future summer, Lord-willing as Guys and Girls Head Counselors. I also dream of coming back to Gilead years from now with my family and serving as the weekly camp speaker. I can’t even put into words what that would mean to me to see my Camp Gilead experience come full circle. For anyone who may be reading this and considering the possibility of applying to work on staff this summer or a future summer, I could not possibly give it a higher recommendation. God’s working in my life while at Camp Gilead has been incredible. The lessons He taught me were life changing, the relationships He gave me were lifelong, and He reminded me time again and again that Jesus Christ, the founder and perfecter of our faith, is ALIVE. I strongly encourage you to prayerfully consider applying to work on staff at Gilead. You WILL NOT regret it. As the other guys and I often said to each other back in the summer of 2010, “CHIYA!!”
Jake Knight (JK)
2010 Camp Gilead Counselor (Cabin 12)