The heart of GENEVA’s mission is to connect children with Christ. Evidence of the mission’s impact comes through the stories families share with us after a week of camp, in campers’ desires to be baptized or make profession of faith at their home churches, from Kids Hope USA Directors, pastors, and campers themselves. It’s an absolute joy to hear all of the ways GENEVA plays a role in the campers’ faith development.
Yet the impact of camp is seen not only in the lives of campers, but also in the lives of the summer staff. A great percentage of staff hear God’s call into vocational ministry as a result of their time at camp, and even more have taken what the campers and staff community have taught them and refocused their career purpose to impacting people for Christ in whatever field God has called them.
I recently reached out to summer staff alumni asking how serving impacted them post-camp. I hope reading their responses brings you as much joy as it did to me:
Kimberly De Jager: Camp Geneva was the first place I felt completely comfortable in my own skin. The relationships from camp were authentic, loving, and Christ-centered. Many of those friendships that started 16 years ago continue today, including the relationship with my hubby that started way back when! Camp Geneva is also the place where my faith became completely my own. Teaching kids about Jesus, modeling with my own personal devotions, and having many instances where God put words in my mouth in response to the campers' questions set a solid foundation for my faith to move me into adulthood. God used Camp Geneva not only to solidify my major in Elementary Education but also to send me to Guatemala as a missionary teacher after college graduation. I will forever be thankful for my years on GENEVA Staff.
Dominic Palacios: GENEVA changed the trajectory of my life. I began the summer at a very fragile time in my life. By the end, I was a confident leader. I became a Christian right before college. GENEVA was the first time that I was given a significant role in spiritual leadership. After college I went to seminary and I have been in ordained ministry for 8 years. GENEVA played a huge role in my story.
Kara Lepley: After my first summer on staff, I walked away with a community that is still a huge part of my life, a greater relationship with Christ, and an undeniable call on my life for children's ministry. GENEVA was the first place that made me realize that I had the passion and energy to do ministry full time, and this passion is what drove me to pursue my career today. I am now an ordained minister, working in full-time children's ministry, and I am using the skits and games and leadership skills that I learned from three summers at GENEVA. My life would look drastically different without camp, and I am thankful for it every day!
Joel Boersma: A significant experience in clarifying my call to ministry was as a counselor at Camp Geneva. At camp I had the blessed opportunity to offer and embody the grace and love of Christ, and experience the joy and delight of working with young people. Even in times of fatigue, the Lord’s gracious provisions were evident in the profound gift of Christian friendship, conversations with GENEVA chaplains, prayer, laughter, fellowship, and worship. Still today, Camp Geneva remains my most sustained spiritually formative experience for pursuing pastoral ordination.
Laura Veenema: While working as a counselor at Camp Geneva, I learned more about being a friend then I had learned in the first 20 years of my life. My fellow staff members taught me how to listen, affirm, serve, and grow in an authentic Christian community, and 10 years later many of these same people are still teaching me these same things. I'll be forever grateful for the friendships that Camp Geneva gifted me with.
Lucas Tans: Camp Geneva was a place to put my faith in action. I learned what it means to be a part of a cloud of witnesses professing Jesus Christ. It led me to want to go into nursing to combine my love for science and people/children. It was a place where I could lean on a community and be directed towards God when my dad passed away. Geneva led me to friendships and mentors centered on Christ. Without Geneva, I would not be where I am today; I am forever grateful for my time at Geneva.
Stacy Zuverink: GENEVA was the place I accepted Christ when I was young, and I remember talking with my counselor that summer on consecration night just before making that decision. As a camper I was always struck by the excitement counselors had about sharing God with us, and I consider it a blessing that I was able to do the same for a summer. There are very few things more exciting than knowing you played a part in helping someone find Christ, and working at Geneva provided the opportunity for a LOT of excitement.
Angela Grit: I honestly don't know how my life would have turned out if I didn't work at Camp Geneva. The staff spoke so much truth and life over me when I was struggling to find out who I was and what I believed about God's plan for me during that first summer. I thrived in the community and began believe that I was more than what life had told me before. If it wasn't for camp I wouldn't have followed my heart to serve others abroad for a year and I wouldn't have discovered my passion for restoring hope in others. I now am working at my dream job as a recreational therapist. I cherish the memories, friendships, and the words of truth spoken over me during my years at camp. Don't let fear hold you back. You just may discover more about yourself than you knew before.
Troy Nanninga: It was during my summers at GENEVA that I discovered my call to ministry. I am grateful for the shaping the GENEVA community had and continues to have on the ministry God has called me too.
Sarah DeVisser: During my summers on staff at GENEVA was the first time I can really remembering experiencing God and wanting to seek him more. I found myself excited to spend time in the Word and be filled on a daily basis. Being surrounded by the beauty of the lake, sunsets, and the amazing friendships developed amongst staff are truly some of my fondest memories!
Tess Heerema: Working at Camp Geneva as a Day Camp counselor gave me a renewed passion for kids. I had already planned to become a teacher but through working with kids all summer long as GENEVA it became abundantly clear that I not only wanted to teach, but that teaching was what God was calling me to do. I also learned something about leadership. I am not a loud, excited, in your face leader. I don't like talking in front of large groups of people, especially adults, and prior to working at GENEVA I thought this meant I was less of a leader. However, after spending the summer as a counselor I realized that God was using my gifts to be a different type of leader. I thrived when working with small groups of kids, and delighted in quiet conversations. I learned that God was at work through everyone's unique gifts. As I work currently as a teacher I often draw upon these lessons as I let God lead me while teaching my students.
Aubrey Johnson: My summers at GENEVA allowed me to listen to the whispers of God and his call on my life. During those Summers I came to understand what genuine Christian community looks like. I learned about the way I was uniquely crafted to reach this world and how to draw near to the Lord. I thank God for GENEVA and its roll in my life. There the Lord captured me as a camper, guided me as a counselor and challenged me as a coordinator. I would not be the woman I am today without those summers!
Philip Miller: For me it was pretty simple. I knew my undergrad major was always going to be psychology and that didn't change; however after my summers at GENEVA I knew what God was specifically calling me to be. The joke is that you cant be a camp counselor the rest of your life so I figured I would get my masters in counseling so I could be counselor the rest of my life. Having the real and authentic conversations with my high school campers showed me just how much I love teenagers and I knew I didn't want to stop working with them. I feel blessed today to be a certified counselor at Bethany and it is because of my time at GENEVA that got me to this place today.
Jenni Wierenga: Being on staff at Camp Geneva was a clear example of how my life is not about me, but about my role in God's story. You can't live selfishly at camp, and we all definitely need to let God be the one to carry us through the tough parts. Thankfully, God uses the kids and fellow staff members to make the summer rewarding and life changing.
Laura Claus: I just got ordained on Sunday and I think GENEVA really set me on the path to that and to be open to Gods leading.
Sami Long: Camp Geneva reaffirmed what I knew God was calling me into. I've always had a passion for middle school youth ministry and last summer it was crystal clear that was what I was meant to do. I was sitting in the golf cart talking to Chief on top of the Pines hill overlooking kids taking part in Challenge Island. It was this beautiful picture God set before us. These kids who came to camp as strangers were leaving as friends. GENEVA takes your relationship with God and turns it upside down. I will always love camp and the ministry that happens there. GENEVA also has this very special way of welcoming you back home when you have been gone for a little bit. Once a staff member at GENEVA, always a staff member there.
Praise God for the incredible ways He has worked through the summer staff each and every summer through GENEVA’s 68-year history.
Grace and Peace,