The Power of Camp – Hansel O’Neil


7-10-14 Middle School Camp-45 Last summer (2014) I served as the boy’s counselor of Cabin 14.  I grew up very religious, but by God’s grace, I was given repentance of sin and faith in Lord Jesus Christ and saved from an eternity in hell when I was 17. Last year I graduated from High school and College and was blessed with the opportunity to serve on Camp Gilead Staff. God Has given me the privilege to work in street evangelism, Awana ministry, and more recently, in leading the youth group lessons at my church. While all these are all good and profitable ministries, Camp Gilead is truly special. As far as effectiveness and integrity goes, so often Christians are accused of hypocrisy, proclaiming a Gospel of salvation from hell and transformed life of sin to holiness through God’s work in salvation but are seemingly accused in denying that in what they do. At Camp Gilead, campers not only are presented with the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, but they get to be surrounded by people who claim this salvation, and campers see the validity of this Gospel.  As they are cared for and loved by counselors and staff, campers don’t only hear the truths they might hear in church on Sunday, they can see for themselves the truth, as they witness their counselors and staff.

Not only is the Gospel of Jesus Christ presented to kids who come to Camp Gilead, beyond the constant testimony of the lives of the staff around them, campers are scheduled for 3 times of dedicated Biblical teaching a day. This includes a morning Cabin Bible time led by their counselors where campers can study and have their individual questions answered. There are morning and evening chapels, led by a Pastor, often expounding on the Biblical theme for the summer. Campers may very well be more ministered to from the truth of God’s Word in a week of camp than even the rest of the year!

My own process of coming to work on staff was quite an experience for me. The previous summer I had been taking college classes and been doing evangelism. As the months passed, I felt the conviction of God to work at Camp Gilead. I was hesitant and slow to consider and pray about what was set before. I finally came to the point of submission and applied to work and Camp Gilead. After the interview process I was offered a contract for the summer, in which I still was hesitant. But God is merciful and led me to one of the greatest ministry experiences of my life. I trust by God’s grace he used me to effectively minister in the lives of the campers who came. Some fruit I was able to see immediately as God worked in lives of my campers. This in of it itself brings me joy that I don’t know how I could ever express. But we know from Scripture that God’s Word does not return void, and I’m confident God will bring to fruition good works He started at Camp Gilead that I may never see.

By God’s grace and strength it was not only an incredible blessing to watch God work with campers, but even among my Christian brothers and sisters as well as myself. It is wonderful to together learn, study, and mature in God’s Word together. This last summer’s theme was Proverbs & Wisdom, and every morning at our staff meetings we read the Proverbs chapter corresponding with the calendar month date.   At the end of the summer, the Camp Gilead staff (including myself) had gained so much Wisdom. If someone feels that God is calling them to work in youth ministry, I highly recommend prayerfully considering it.  In a conversation recently when asked about which position I was applying for this coming year, I said at one point “I’m glad I was a counselor there’s nothing I’d rather be!”

Hansel O’Neil

Camp Counselor – Cabin 14 2014 & coming back for 2015!