A Different Kind of Summer Camp: a Fellow’s Story
Summer camp. When I heard the words I thought of the typical weekend retreat –– the one where you have a lot of fun, write down some good theological notes, sing really loudly during worship, and feel really close to the Lord; the one that you completely forget about a few months later except some vague, pleasant memories. Summer camp. I knew it well. I had no idea that this summer camp would change my entire life.
When I arrived with my suitcase, bags, and social anxiety, I could instantly sense the difference in the atmosphere. I worried about getting to know my peers, and wondering if I would be miserable for a week, but those worries were quickly interrupted during the first minutes of the first talk and replaced with excitement –– they were talking about social justice, a term I knew well. Both of my parents were social workers, and I had been exposed to the world’s justice problems since I was little.
Then, I dove into the intense, life changing week. In the mornings we had a learning session on the topic of the day, and in the afternoon we had a hands on activity related to what we had learned about that morning. After dinner was a time of musical worship and small groups. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience.
Over the course of the week we heard stats about racism, refugees, prison inmates, and homelessness. We watched documentaries and heard stories from people who had the very experiences we were talking about. Nothing was sugar coated. Everything was given to us as it was. For the first time, a group of teens really knew what was happening in the world around them, and it made us sad, angry, and confused. We didn’t know what to do, but the leaders were prepared for that.
They prayed for us, talked with us, and most importantly, they listened. Truly listened. They didn’t leave us in that position of hopelessness and despair. Rather, they inspired us, built us up. They told us how we as teens could make a difference and help those around us, how we could be the light in our own communities.
I was in a safe place to learn, to cry, to share my story, and the teens around me were doing likewise. They were like me: they cared about what was happening in the world around them and they wanted to make a difference. They loved God, and they loved their neighbor. I made friends that I still talk to today, that changed my life and told me that I was loved.
Six8 Fellowship taught me what was going on in the world, and empowered me to help change it. I met lifelong friends and mentors that even now help me navigate the world. Six8 changed my life in the best way possible, and participating was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
words by Alexandra Furlong, Six8 Fellow