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An Unforgettable Experience Being somewhat close-minded and shy, I never thought I would make a difference in someone else s life. I have always thought it took a great miracle or an inspirational act to make a difference in a person s life. There have been many great speakers, teachers, ministers, and role models who have spent their entire lives trying to reach others. But I recently learned that even I could have an influence on someone else. It was the second week of June.
Most teenagers were just beginning to enjoy their freedom from school for the summer, but a few from northeast Arkansas and Nashville, Tennessee made a journey to Bald Knob for a fun-filled week at church camp. I was one of the lucky few chosen to be a counselor to these know-it-all teenagers. I was not looking forward to sleeping on an old, smelly mattress, showering with creepy bugs, and being outside in the sweltering heat.
This was not my idea of a vacation, but I could not back out.
Luckily, my only duties were to be a dorm counselor and to be the campfire director. Campfires have always been my favorite part of camps, which I have gone to for thirteen years. I always enjoy singing goofy songs and acting out silly skits. My experience at these camps helped me to I compile a long list of songs and skits to use in my own campfires. As the week progressed, I became more and more discouraged with the camp and the campers, two of which were my own siblings.
I did not think the campers were getting anything out of the camp except some good basketball practice. No one cooperated with the director, and no one participated in the activities. I had just about given up on my campfires when the other counselor and I decided that we would do something special for the last campfire. On Friday afternoon, the last full day of camp, we went into town and bought a large styrofoam cross, five boxes of tea lights, and some brown paper bags. When we got back to the campgrounds, we stuck thirty of the tea lights on the cross with florist s tape. Unsure whether or not it would float, we walked down to the pond and placed it in the water. Fortunately, it floated beautifully. We carefully carried the cross back up to the building, but as we walked through the door it caught on the frame and broke into two pieces. Upset, we quickly picked up the pieces and tried to put them back together.
After about twenty toothpicks, some superglue, and a hot glue gun, we finally got the cross to stay together. Skipping supper and evening activities, I went back to my dorm and planned the campfire. I wanted it to be serious, but I also wanted the campers to enjoy it. After deciding on about twelve songs, I looked up scriptures about lights. I found what I wanted, and I asked each camper to read a scripture at campfire. With only a few moans and complains, each agreed. Next I had to light the trail. The other counselor and I gathered up the tea lights, paper bags, and matches, and we headed up the trail. I didn t realize how long the trail was until we had put out more than sixty candles, but we both agreed that it was worth it.
Our next task was to get a wooden Jesus to stand on the opposite side of the pond. Since the base was missing, we had to dig a small hole for it to rest in. We filled in the hole, hoping the wind would not knock it over. Knowing that it would be dark, we carefully placed it on a hill and strategically placed flashlights on the ground below. As time for the campfire drew near, a storm approached. The winds picked up and the sky grew dark. All I could do was pray that our efforts would not be wasted. I was worried that we would be stuck inside and would not be able to have our special campfire. Miraculously, the rains didn t come, but the winds did stay. When the campfire finally began, we led the campers along the trail. Singing songs and holding hands, the campers showed compassion and love for one another for the first time. As we approached the pond, each one quietly took a seat along the edge. I walked over to light the cross we had prepared, but the wind would not allow it. I got upset and said a prayer, but nothing happened.
Regretfully, I walked back to the campers and continued with the campfire. After the songs were sung and the scriptures were read, I asked for testimonies. A few campers volunteered their thoughts about the week at camp and thanked everyone who helped out. When all had finished, the camp pastor stood and gave his own testimony. He said everything that needed to be said. Mentioning the unlit cross on the bank, he talked about his past and told each of us that he had not always been a Christian and that his light had not always shone. At that time, I played the song Go Light Your World and asked each camper to place a floating candle in the water. Seeing that their candles would light, I walked over and lit the cross. I pushed it out into the water. Emotions filled me.
I could do nothing but cry and watch as the cross slowly made its way across the water. Noticing that the campers were watching the cross, I saw them hugging each other and crying. I never thought I would see this group of teenagers show any emotion, but it was clear that they had been moved by the experience. One by one, they came over and offered me a hug and their heartfelt appreciation for my efforts. Each one said it was the best campfire they had ever had, and they each felt closer to Christ. There are lots of ministers who spend their entire lives trying to reach others and spread the Word of God. Through my small efforts, I was able to touch the lives of a small group of teenagers. Each one of us has the ability to influence someone s life, whether it be spiritually, mentally, or physically. By just giving up a little time and putting forth a little effort, we can all make a difference.
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