Dear friends and family,

I have no clue where to start. I had already begun to formulate this letter before I ever even left, thinking I could say something like, “Friends and family, I had a wonderful time, I learned a lot, and I made dozens of amazing friends. P.S. I enjoyed teaching at the 5-day club.” 

Yes well, most of that is true. But there are hundreds of words I could say about each of those statements.

“I had a wonderful time…” I did. Although not wonderful in the conventional sense of the word. It wasn’t exactly “wonderful” the way I thought it would be. I hadn’t gone to CYIA with the purpose of having fun (thank goodness), but I did assume that…well, I’m not sure what I assumed. Last year, I heard at least one or two testimonies about kids who came to Christian Youth in Action for a fun-and-games type of a week. I thought I was ahead of the crowd by going prepared, knowing that I was there to train, not to have fun. And you know what I found out?

CYIA was not easy. CYIA was not always fun. And at first, I didn’t even think my time at CYIA would give me any confidence. My thought as I arrived was this: “Either this camp will make me or break me.” By the end of the first day, I was convinced it would be the latter. Brittany dropped me off around 9 AM on Tuesday, June 9th. By 10 o’clock that evening, I was discouraged and overwhelmed. More than anything, I wanted to sit down and have a good cry. But who could I cry to? I was so stressed that I hadn’t been able to eat lunch or supper — and along with the physical weakness that day came spiritual weakness. I began to doubt that I was really saved — after all, if I was a Christian, then why couldn’t I explain the gospel better? Did I even really grasp the meaning? And why was I so discouraged?

At chapel that evening, right before bed, our speaker (without even knowing what I was going through) talked about a time in his past when he’d had the same doubts about salvation that I was currently having. When the final prayer came at last, after everyone had closed their eyes, I left my seat as quietly as I could and fled from the room, tears spilling from my eyes. I had been having doubts about my salvation for a while, and I had never worked up the courage to tell anyone. So when I was at my weakest, Satan attacked me with fear and confusion. But you know the cool thing about weakness? Not only does Satan work best when I’m weak, but God does too! “…for My strength is made perfect in weakness,” He says. And I agree.

But I didn’t see that right away. The following morning, I couldn’t eat breakfast. I went into the women’s bathroom and threw up. And when I came out of the stall, I saw a sparkly blue paper taped to the wall (which hadn’t been in there the day before), and I read it. The handwriting wasn’t perfect. In fact, the reference “Isaiah” wasn’t even spelled right. But I didn’t care. It was the words slanting down across the page that caught my eye.

Isiah (Isaiah) 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; 
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I stared at it and thought, “Well God, You couldn’t have been clearer than that!” God sometimes speaks with a still small voice. Other times He speaks with handwriting on the wall. 😉 I went out and ate breakfast, my outlook completely changed. (Which isn’t to say I didn’t have tough days after that. I did. But the worst was behind me.) Every time I was discouraged after that, God would use someone to show me His love and sovereignty. All in all, CYIA was wonderful…but in a different way than I expected. After all, when you think of being stretched to the limit, being yanked out of your comfort zone, do you think of the word “wonderful”? And yet it was.

To go on with what I originally planned to write to you…

“…I learned a lot…” That was slightly under-exaggerated. A lot? More like a TON! Lessons, lectures, demos, and practicums packed my day full, until there was hardly a moment to spare. During the first week, I took recreation time only twice, because I was studying like mad during every break I could get. (Which actually wasn’t as smart of me as I thought it was.) Every day was filled to the brim with learning, stuffing our brains, and taking tests, none of those things being anywhere near the top of my “like-to-do” list. I was stressed and blessed at the same time.

“…and I made dozens of amazing friends.” Okay, so maybe not dozens. But there were some pretty awesome people there. One girl had known Brittany from when they were both there the year before, and Brit had decided that I would definitely like this girl, if I was ever to go to CYIA. And sure enough, I liked “this girl.” Her name was Amanda, by the way. So anyway, Amanda ended up being on my LOL team (my Labor of Love team, not my Laugh Out Loud team…although we ended up laughing out loud quite a few times…), my “chapel team” (I’m not sure what that team was actually called, but she sat with me and another girl in class and evaluated me on my tests), and on my club team (on the second week we taught at the same 5-day club). Pretty much the only thing we didn’t have the same was that we were in different cabins. Another friend and I were able to keep each other accountable on several different things we were both having trouble with, and we prayed for each other throughout the week, which was really special. And another girl was very encouraging to me whenever I needed it most, and I appreciated her a lot!

“P.S. I enjoyed teaching at the 5-day club.” I did! I really did! Before I attended CYIA, I thought that the second week would be more nerve-wracking than the first…but since the first week had been so stressful, there was no way the second could be more so, right? That isn’t to say that the second week was all fun and games…but in spite of the frustrations (because there were some) and the challenging times (because there were some of those too), it was a wonderful chance to put in action everything we’d learned so far. I found it surprisingly fun to teach the Bible story, and I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I’d thought I would be — which was all God’s doing, none of mine. I loved teaching the suspenseful missionary story as well. I got attached to my starry-eyed club kids, and now, even though I’m no longer teaching in Albion, Nebraska, I still see kids walking down the street that might look a little like my club kids, and I’ll think to myself, “Oh, that must be Kami! I should say hi!” or, “There’s Kadin…where is his little sister?” And then my balloon of hope will pop and flutter to the ground as I realize that I left all my club kids in Albion.

So, an abbreviated version of what happens at CYIA every year… The first week (from Tuesday to Saturday) is filled with training. Every second is used for something…no time goes to waste. Even the rec time we take is useful in that it helps everyone to get relaxed and freshened up for the next lesson. On Sunday, various teams (there were ten or eleven) went out to the church that their 5-day club’s host/hostess went to, so that they could talk with the people they’d be working with the next day. Monday was our first day of club. Every team except one had club in the morning, so after club time we came back to camp to have lunch. Then we’d have some rec time (after our Labor Of Love), have a few more sessions, sit in on a demonstration, etc., and then have a full club practice, where each team gets together and runs through the whole club for the next day. And on Friday, the last day of club, we had the commissioning service in the afternoon…and then we got to go home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Those exclamation marks can’t come close to telling you how excited I was to finally see my family again!!)

The records we kept at each 5-day club were added up at the end of the week…and we found that, through the eleven clubs that were hosted, 180 kids had been reached with the gospel in just five days. 10 of them made a profession of faith!!! And all because of our mighty God working through kids my age! Incredible!! So yeah, it was worth it.

Some interesting facts about my time at CYIA:

*I couldn’t eat breakfast till the last three days I was there, because I was so nervous in the morning that food didn’t settle right. Sometimes I couldn’t eat lunch or supper either.
*Because of fact number one, I lost enough weight that by the end of the eleven days, some of my skirts didn’t fit anymore…they kept almost falling off. Which wasn’t a good thing.
*Almost every single day I was there, I would get comments on my age. No one could believe that I was actually 17. They all thought I was about 12 years old. Some of them were smarter and thought that maybe I was 14.
*The ladies at the gas station in Albion knew who my team was by the end of the first day. I guess that’s what we get for filing in there two or three days in a row to buy donuts, coffee, granola bars, and frappuccinos. “Oh, so you’re the 5-day club girls, right????” Yep, that would be us!
*We found a dead cockroach in the girls’ cabin. Which means that there were some more live ones around, right? I never saw any more after that, but that didn’t seem to matter to some of my roommates. *grin*
*Some bratty guys who were making a lot of trouble had to get down on their hands and knees and scrub the kitchen floor. Bravo to whoever thought of their punishment. It was well deserved.
*Us girls played the awesome-est prank ever on the guys. Ask me about it sometime. 😉 P.S. It involved water balloons.
*Almost every night I heard the girls on the other side of my cabin screaming as they killed spiders or moths. Kinda funny. As long as the girls in my side of the cabin didn’t do the same thing. *smile*
*During a Bible lesson demonstration, one of the staff (it was a “she” by the way) asked the kids — “kids” being all the CYIA students she was demonstrating the Bible story to — what some of the things are that God created. One boy raised his hand and said, “Cockroaches.” Another boy said, “Mice!” And then “Snakes.” And “Fleas.” So yeah. I’m pretty sure some of those boys might have been the ones who later ended up scrubbing the kitchen floor.

It has taken me about five days to finish up this letter. I’m sorry it’s so long…but I guess that’s what you get for saying you wanted some info. Haha! I’ve now been at home for ten days now. Ten wonderful days. Ten relaxing days.

Two weeks ago our church put on a five-day club, and it went well — we ended up having quite a few kids show up! And last Saturday I went to Minnesota with some friends of mine to do two more 5-day clubs in the space of one week. So I think you for your prayers, not only when I was at CYIA, but also this last week while I was in Minnesota. You’ll never know how much your prayers mean to me!

If you have questions, feel free to ask! I’d love to answer any you might have. 🙂

Thank you again (and again) [and again] {and again},