There are so many camps out there, so I don’t know what drew me to City Camp. Maybe it was the mission that drew me in or maybe it was the timing, but camp found me at a very strange time in my life. I was around 16 at the time, on the cusp of childhood and advanced childhood (aka adulthood, but I still don’t feel very adult) and really struggling. My early teenage years left me feeling angry and disillusioned and very alone. I definitely needed guidance, but from where? That’s where CC came in. In fact, a lot of the friends I’ve made from CC share the same narrative. We all just kind of stumbled into this looking for something without ever being quite sure what it was. I’m not sure of much of anything in my life; I do know for sure that nothing happens by accident, and every one who works with CC is called there for a very specific reason. We might not know it at the time, but we’re all looking for something to make our own life make sense again, and CC is the vehicle for the journey.
I don’t really know how CC does it, but it’s a life changing experience—ask anyone. I think CC is so transformative because of the service we do. One thing that really helped me on my journey was the way my worldview expanded once I started here. As a girl who previously spent all her days in suburbia, walking into North Philadelphia was a culture shock. I’ll be the first to admit that I when I arrived I that “white savior” complex around service—the one where privileged people come into what they assume to be underprivileged areas to “save the world”. However, at CC you quickly learn that this world doesn’t need saving. The people you’re serving may be in need, but they are not needy. They may have struggles, but they are not struggling. And you may be in a position to lend a hand, but you are not a savior. You’re not here to change the world; you’re here to learn from people. And you learn a lot from everyone you encounter.
City Camp is also different because of the knowledge you gain here—not only about the world but also about yourself. Maybe surprisingly, the kids are the biggest source of wisdom here. I learn from them as much as they learn from me and I don’t think that’s something you can get out of every camp. They have taught me so much about myself not only because they push me to my limits of patience and compassion (and sanity) each day, but also because they ask questions that make you think about yourself and the world and God and everything under the sun. I’ve been lucky enough to watch these kids grow each summer and find that when they grow, you grow. They are smart and caring and teeming with untapped potential. I can’t explain the feeling when you finally see one of your kids discover a talent they never knew they had: singing, reading, writing, leadership, painting etc. It’s all so beautifully rewarding for both of you.
I think what makes City Camp really special though is that you can feel God everywhere. There’s definitely something so reparative once you truly feel His presence all around you. It puts your work in perspective in a way nothing else can. After that, the anxieties and things that weigh on you in life don’t seem so big. Through His presence I found peace and inner strength to get through anything I face. I didn’t notice it at first, and I think a lot of people don’t, but there’s something magic that happens to you once you see God. It sticks with you in a way I can’t describe. I don’t think I would have ever found that without City Camp.