When I first found out I had to miss Winter Camp 2019, I was honestly devastated. I couldn’t help but be irritated that I was missing camp for the second year in a row—I had previously promised myself that I would cancel all other commitments to attend camp, but I couldn’t help but wonder if there was another way.
While carving pumpkins on her back porch, I started to ask my leader, Elysse, about the possibility of work crew. For those of you that aren’t too familiar with YoungLife, work crew is a group of highschoolers that come together to serve at camp for anywhere from a weekend to about a month. Miraculously, there was an opening for work crew just a week before my own group was scheduled to go up to camp—within the week, I gave Elysse my health form, my bus fees, and I was starting to pack for work crew. I’ll admit, I was terrified at first; only three other girls from my YoungLife group were going, and I didn’t even know them that well.
It was absolutely nothing like I had expected.
After following several YoungLife blogs for years, I had heard that work crew was a magical experience. From what I could tell, it was fun, yet difficult… that was only the start of it. Our motto for the week soon became “strive for perfection,” which may seem odd coming from a bunch of Christians. As Christians, we know that we’re some of the most imperfect people on the planet who are just trying to follow a perfect God.
Perfection was a tough standard to set. I quickly learned that being a server was 100x harder than I ever could have expected it would be. Being a server at YoungLife means setting up, bussing, serving, cleaning, and feeding hundreds of high school students and adults over the weekend. In my weekend at Lost Canyon, we had over 550 people per meal we were serving in the dining hall—that’s over 70 tables!
We would arrive early each morning to start with a devotional and really get in the right head space before serving. One might not think that you need to pray and think about the day before serving food for several hours, but you’d be surprised. Our morning devotional sparked a desire in me to try to spend more time getting to know God each morning. I was dedicated to filing out prayer cards, bowing my head for people back at home and praying that I could make new connections with those right in front of me at camp.
After a quick devotional, we headed straight to work. Setting tables was oddly difficult and an incredibly particular task. You would not believe the Lost Canyon standard. We truly spent hours (about 12 on our longest day!) setting tables and tearing them down after each meal. However, even though our days were long, our clothes were stained with camp condiments, and we were exhausted, there was no greater feeling than getting to serve my tables—I truly wish I could have spent more time with them. Getting to know my girls was incredible; I ended up with three tables, so in between rushing to grab more drinks or seconds, I tried to engage in meaningful conversations with those at my tables. Even if it was something as simple as asking my girls if they had any prayer requests, I seriously valued anything they said back to me. Throughout the weekend, I truly began to realize just how emotionally draining yet rewarding it can be to invest time in other people.
Spiritually, something that dawned on me at camp that I never would’ve expected was my affinity for helping others—as well as how it can be a blessing and a curse. A huge blessing of being on work crew was getting to grow in my faith in a way that I had never expected before. I have always loved volunteering (especially serving at church or acting as a camp counselor for kids ministry), but I had never embraced such a service-based role in my life. More than that, I never realized that God could use it to help me learn such valuable and applicable life lessons. God has definitely placed it on my heart to have a servant-minded attitude at all times. I absolutely love helping others; I’m sure that it’s in my nature. Sometimes, you can tangibly serve people or play a direct role in their lives—and sometimes, you can’t. I’ve always struggled with helping people who maybe don’t want me to get involved or don’t want me to say anything about their life. After all, it’s not mine. I learned that prayer is just as powerful. Even when I can’t pour directly into someone’s life, I can be sure that God is still listening to my prayers about them and I just need to be still and wait for a moment to reach out.
After all, even though today’s society may encourage it, we’re not mean to be involved in each other’s business. We’re not built to be busy all the time. God gave us freedom and “sabbath” for a reason. There are times when we need to slow down. Sometimes, we need to sit back and see it.
After a long day of serving, work crew would gather to do another devotional and play some games to bond with each other. We were all from various schools around the valley, but all got to know each other pretty closely. Cabin talks were one of the highlights of the weekend; there’s something special about getting to spill parts of your life to people with the same beliefs as you and hear about similar experiences that they’ve been through.
For anyone who is considering work crew, I highly recommend it. I promise you that you’ll never be more tired in your life than you’ll be after work crew, but you’ll never experience anything more fulfilling. Work crew isn’t glamorous, but the growth you’ll experience is incomparable. Whether we were dancing in the kitchen to some 2000s throwbacks, chatting in our cabin after a long day, or tossing silverware into the dishwasher, every moment was so incredibly valuable and impactful. I left with dozens of new friends, another pair of broken glasses (yikes—I almost forgot about that one), and most importantly, a renewed love for my faith.