Leah Samuelson is a creative. She’s a learner, a faculty member at Wheaton College and she has a background in Christian camping—only with a twist.
“One summer when I was 20, I got stuck,” Leah says. “I applied to be a camp counselor. I fully expected to be awarded the post—I am camp counselor material. I have a blonde ponytail, I love being in the woods, kids’ volleyball doesn’t aggravate my asthma. I am genetically predisposed to be a camp counselor.”
It seemed like the perfect fit. However, the camp needed Leah to fill another position: receptionist. Sequential organization was not a skill she considered herself to have.
She prayed to be delivered from the bitterness and disappointment she felt and decided to accept the position.
“I ended up having the best summer of my life, and my bitterness was miraculously—miraculously—turned into an embrace, a wild and enthusiastic embrace. I went to that camp prepared to commit an act of envy against a bona fide camp counselor, but I fell into step with them instead. I had to live it to believe it.”
And God worked it out for her good. From developing deep friendships with the counselors to engaging in a high-quality community where relationships could thrive, it turned out to be an amazing summer. She actually loved her new job. “I found out some strengths that I didn’t know I had. I found that I work really well under pressure. I found out that I’m really diplomatic,” she says.
Discovering strengths, working as part of a team and learning how to receive feedback were lessons from her summer working at camp. Today she considers those some of her greatest lessons, and they translate well to her profession as she leads and instructs students.
“Since I was 20 years old when I was working at camp, and a lot of my students are around that age, I see a lot of similarities…I had increased responsibility in my role as a camp employee, and the students have increased responsibility in their role as students.”
Samuelson encourages her students to take risks and promises guidance along the way. Much like her experience while working at camp, she supervises her students as they take on new tasks and challenges. She says 20-year-olds need guidance, opportunities to take risks and to have significant tasks. It’s those experiences that help make mature adults.
Before she spent time as part of camp staff, she attended as a camper. She remembers “one of the best things” to happen to her was her first summer camp experience. At camp, she was encouraged to read the Bible for herself as an eight-year-old. “I’ve been reading the Bible ever since then. I like the Bible. It knows what I’m thinking, and it knows what I’m scheming. It knows how God’s world works. I mean, no fancy-pants phraseology here, the Bible changes me. The Word of God changes the world.”
Camp can be such a place where you can explore the Bible often with a different perspective, meet new people and get a glimpse of what God is doing in your life. Whether you are a camper, camp counselor or receptionist, going to a new environment can help you grow in unexpected ways.
“I think every person should go to some kind of camp that’s different from where they came from,” Leah says. “If for no other reason than to get a clearer picture of where it is they came from so they can take stock of their own culture and take responsibility for it…I think people should go to camp their whole lives, actually. Keep going back.”
Portions of this post are from Leah Samuelson’s recorded presentation at Wheaton College titled “Seeing Faithfulness: God’s Work in My Life.”