In 2011, I worked as a counselor at Camp Wakonda in Wisconsin for the first time. All week long, I watched as a group of girls laughed, learned and grew spiritually. Halfway through the week, I learned that Vanessa [actual name withheld], one of the young ladies in my cabin, had a rocky relationship with her father, and I was asked to give her words of encouragement.
“God, this isn’t funny. Who am I to talk to this girl about how to get along with her own father when I only speak to mine on Christmas and Father’s Day?” I asked.
The challenge plagued me all week. I had no clue what to say to Vanessa. Friday night rolled around. This was the night, the moment every staff member waited and worked for all week. We were going to ask the campers to take the most important step in their life, to invite them to give their heart to Jesus and allow Him to lead their life.
I still hadn’t opened the “Pandora’s box” with Vanessa, and I only had one more day in which to do it. As I spoke with all of my girls and handed them the commitment cards, they began to make their decisions. As they handed the cards back, I noticed Vanessa’s was missing.
On the walk back to our cabin, she spoke. “I want to get baptized, but I’m afraid my dad won’t let me. He’s not a Seventh-day Adventist.”
I told her the very truth I wish someone had told me when I faced the same dilemma at her age. “Vanessa, I would be lying to you if I told you that once you choose to follow God your life will get easier. It won’t; it will get a little harder before it gets better. But this I can promise, and I live by this truth: God will use you to do amazing things. Once you give your life to Him, there will be so many surprises and you get to be a part of the story. Stay close to Him and nothing, not even a father that doesn’t agree with you, will stand in God’s way. Trust Him who loved you first.”
I left Vanessa alone to make the decision of a lifetime and prayed with all my heart that God would show her His mighty hand.
Much sooner than I would have liked, camp ended and real life began. Every once in a while, I took time to pray for my campers and hoped someone out there was praying for them, too.
The next summer Vanessa was, once again, in my cabin. She said, “I have to tell you something.” I noticed the glow and nervousness on her face as she told the story and sang a new song. “Well, do you remember how I was scared of getting baptized last year? Well, I did. And I sang this song. My dad was there. Now he goes to church with me sometimes. He told me he cried when he heard me singing.”
My simple, every-once-in-a-while prayers were heard and answered. I hope Vanessa’s father is the first of many who sees her new life and decides that if a tween camper can have this kind of faith, nothing should stand in the way of letting them do the same.
- Elkid M. Álvarez-Maldonado
[This article was originally published in the August 2013 issue of the Lake Union Herald: http://luc.adventist.org/Herald%20Site%20PDFs/Vol105-08.pdf]