Last month in our “60 Years of Heart” blog we talked about how God grew the small seed of an idea into the tree of ministry known as Heartland Center and Camps. Since then, the Lord has planted thousands of seeds at the ACA (American Camping Association) accredited camp and retreat center.
This month we’re sharing the seed stories of two of our newest summer staff members. In the summer of 2017, God called Jana Life and Jenna Lillian to serve at Heartland Camps.
Ohio native Jana Life was torn between getting an internship that would help prepare her for a job after college and working at a new camp. When Jana came across the Marketing Internship Program she felt she had found the best of both worlds. After Michael Megraw the program director got back to her right away, Jana thought to herself “I guess I’m going to Missouri!”
When asked to share a specific moment or camper story that made the most impact on her she said:
“I want to share it all, but for now I’ll talk about the week I counseled. Because I was on the media team I didn’t get to counsel all summer, but I was very thankful that I got to be a day camp counselor one week, and the Lord made sure that that week was jam-packed with wonderful kids and a wonderful co-counselor. My favorite story that week was about Eli who due to a disability had to have a stoma in his throat. I was expecting the youth to be a shy kid who didn’t want to come to camp, but when he showed up he instantly humbled me. He had the biggest smile and he was always the first one to want to read or play a game. Eli couldn’t speak or sing songs very easily, but he was able to make up his own repeat-after-me-song with me at lunch!
Due to his stoma, Eli was afraid of swimming because if water got in it he could drown. However, by the end of the week, he was up to his belly button in water and was able to splash and play due to the co-counselors patience and encouragement with him. Seeing Eli go from being scared of water to playing in the pool with the other kids was a beautiful transformation—Coming to a really safe space where you can try new things and eliminate fear, and grow, that’s what camp is all about.”
Jana is currently wrapping up her senior year at Kent State University. She shared “I think about camp every single day, not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it. I still sing all the songs all the time. It just happens you know, you see a verse that’s a camp song, and then the rest of the day it’s stuck in your head. The internship was incredible, I learned so much that has been helpful to me at school by working in the field. But further than that, there were so many things the Lord taught me that summer. The Lord really opened my eyes to how much I love camp ministry in general. This could be something I could do for the rest of my life, and it’s been solidified ever since I've been away from camp. I miss Heartland, I miss the people, I miss the atmosphere the most. I keep thinking “ Man I have to be a part of camp life in some way.” God was really faithful to foster my gifts and speak to me about the gifts he has given me, whether that’s working with children, or photography and marketing. There are few things that make me feel more alive than being behind the camera and photographing kids that are loving on Jesus.”
In regards to what Heartland did for her faith, Jana shared, “There’s a lot I could say, but for sure camp really taught me while God works and simultaneously and intricately in loves, he’s also so vast. He continually showed me through the summer the details of my plan, while orchestrating such a grander plan. I learned so much about God’s sovereignty and his ability to bring so much glory to himself and out of me throughout seemingly hard situations. Things that happened at camp will affect me for the rest of my life.
Jana is currently discerning God’s next plan for her future post-graduation.
My first summer was after 2nd grade—12 years ago now! My mom signed me up to come to Heartland Camp. I came with my friend Jenna. We both really liked it and came every year after that.
When I was old enough to do so I decided to work on staff. I was always curious what it would be like to be on staff. Camp feels like a second home to me. There is always the sense of home and being where people knew you well. I was craving that feeling after being away from home for a year.
In college it’s easy to stop going to Bible study or church, to lose your faith a little bit, but being on staff has impacted me because you’re constantly around people rooted in their faith. They make your faith better, with impromptu Bible studies, etc. It’s helped me grow deeper in my relationship with God this year. I was inspired by the practices of other staff members who strived to do better at staying in touch with God.
I loved working with the kids. When they ask hard questions, even if you didn’t have the answers they stayed curious about it and you knew they were going to go home and stay curious about that and their faith. You can tell they want to grow deeper in their relationship with God. It’s cool to see especially when they weren’t as interested in camp but they left saying, “Oh wow, now there’s this cool God thing.”
My experience at Heartland has me crave being in the Word more. At camp, people help you get in the Word and you realize how rich it is. I read the Bible more often now.
Heartland’s been in my life so long and I can’t imagine it not being in my life. I'll be volunteering even when I’m not on staff—it has played such a large role in shaping who I am today.