Radical Acceptance (by Reid Hansen)
I have always gone to church. My parents made sure to raise me there, and it most definitely has helped shape me to be the person I am today. But I wouldn't say it is the sole reason I am the Christian that I am today. As I child I was extremely shy and even a little bit dorky (imagine that). The first year I went to Camp Glisson, though, I was accepted. The counselors, and even my peers, made me feel at home. It didn't matter if I was a little quiet or a little bizarre; I was loved no matter what. And that is the same reason I still go to camp. However, this past year was a little different.
Instead of going to Glisson as a camper this past summer, I applied to the Experiential Leadership Institute (ELI) to be a counselor for the Grow Day Camp Program. I remember all four weeks I served as a counselor, and I absolutely cherish every moment. I met this new group of peers, and we literally became like family in just a few hours. I still keep in touch with a lot of them, and we even have a reunion every few weeks!
More importantly, the children blessed me beyond belief. I knew I was having fun every week sharing God's love with these adorable children, but I didn't really get the full impact of what I was doing until the end of my fourth week of service. I remember sitting during the closing ceremony in Rome, Georgia, watching the video, and listening to the song 10,000 Reasons play in the background. I actually teared up for a few seconds. Out of nowhere the impact of what I had done over the summer hit me. I took what I had learned from camp, and I passed it on to children of all different backgrounds.
One thing that I have really taken away from this past summer is the concept of "radical acceptance." It has helped me become who I am today, and being able to pass it on to my campers is just amazing. Sitting there, I began to realize that during my time as a counselor for Grow Day Camps, I was able to be me. I didn't have to pretend to be anything I wasn't.
Now, I know what I want to spend my life doing. I want to go into ministry after college. Specifically, children and camp and retreat ministry areas inspire me. I feel like God is calling me to do this, and I know a life doing something I am truly passionate about is a life well spent -- especially if it is potentially changing the lives of others. My ELI experience has blessed me beyond belief and has pointed me in a whole new direction that I never imagined.
(Reid Hansen, 2013 ELI Participant, is a junior at Collins High School and attends Lawrenceville First UMC. He attended Glisson for seven summers as a Village camper before participating in ELI during 2013.)