My name is Eric Rupp, and I am currently serving as the Youth Program Director at Miracle Camp and Retreat Center. One of the highlights of my job is overseeing the summer camp program each year—a program that changed my life a few years ago…
I was about five or six years old the first time I got to experience Miracle Camp. My dad was a volunteer bus driver for our church and my family and I often rode along with him to drop kids off for their week of summer camp. On those Sundays, I got an up-close glimpse of Miracle Camp: the smiles of joy on campers’ faces, the beautiful lake, the amazing activities, and of course, how incredible the staff seemed. I could not wait until I was old enough to go to camp myself.
My first time actually attending Miracle Camp was when I was in third grade—and it was everything I hoped it would be! I quickly realized, though, that the thing that made Miracle Camp special was not the fun, the energy, or the games (though all of that was awesome!), but that God worked in this place. Every day, I had time set aside for reading my Bible, memorizing verses, cabin devotions, and chapel sessions. I felt like I learned more about God in this one week than the whole rest of the year! This was different than anything I had ever experienced before—everyone at Miracle Camp was excited about knowing God more and living in a way that glorifies him. The college counselors that modeled this in their lives were a huge encouragement and blessing to me in my faith.
This growth carried over into my life once I got home from Camp. I was genuinely excited to go to church and read my Bible for myself. I will always be extremely thankful to my parents and my church for making it possible for me to go to Miracle Camp.
Miracle Camp quickly became a second home to me. I developed friendships with people from different churches all across the midwest, and I looked forward to seeing them each time I came back. I attended many retreats all through junior high and high school and eventually got to serve on staff for four summers while I was in college. Those four years I served on summer staff absolutely changed my life. I still look back on those summers fondly and to this day they are some of my favorite memories of all time.
As I reflect on my summer staff experience, I have to say that it was the greatest leadership training I ever received—and none of it took place in the classroom. I learned it all through actually leading. Each and every day, I was challenged to die to myself and put other staff and campers’ needs above my own. I worked longer and harder than any other time in my life, and I had to work through a lot of mistakes as I figured out what did and didn’t work.
The lessons I learned weren’t the only thing—the people I worked with back then are now my closest friends that I know I’ll have for a lifetime. And the ways that I grew to trust God more during each of those summers have formed me into the man of faith that I am today.
I know that working at summer camp is not the only place God works or teaches these lessons, but I also know how incredible my own experience working on summer staff was and how much I learned and grew as result. So for those reasons, I hope everyone considers working at summer camp at some point!
To give you a little taste of what working on summer staff is like, check out this video of the 2016 Summer Staff!