By Jordan West

CLEVELAND, GA., (TMNews) – This summer, a team of 15 TMU faculty, staff, and students spent a week at LaVerne Griffin Youth Recreation Camp in Wasilla, Alaska, serving as counselors and recreational leaders for the girls. The team returned overwhelmingly thankful for God’s provision and the lessons He taught them through the young campers.

Making the most of missionary connections

alaska-2016-1774Havilah Miller, Student Development Coordinator, stated, “The idea for the trip kind of snowballed when Jonathan Morris (TMU’s Director of Student Services) and Cierra Winkler (TMU’s Associate Professor of English) started talking about Alaska, because both of them had great connections there.”

Cierra Winkler said, “I had been praying about sending a team from Truett McConnell to Alaska for a long time, so when a student approached me during fall semester and said she felt led to go as well, I knew God would provide the team and the means if we would step out in faith and commit to going.”

Winkler already had a missionary connection with Laverne Griffin Youth Recreation Camp, as she had served there while doing work for her Master’s degree at the University of Alaska.

Miller continued, “It is a Christian camp, and every week they host a different group – sometimes it’s a boy’s camp, or a youth camp, and the week we went, we hosted a camp for 6-12 year old girls. The students that went on the trip planned the chapel lessons, arts and crafts, and they were the cabin leaders.”

Jonathan Morris added, “Many of the kids come to the camp on scholarship. Without teams coming up to run the camps, there are no camps. It was neat for us to be able to provide a really cool opportunity. The TMU students did a great job.”

Using their strengths to serve

Miller said, “It was great to see our students throw themselves into serving, and everyone was really able to use their strengths.”

She went on, “Our team worked together so well. We come from a culture at TMU where the students are servant-minded.”alaska-2016-844

Chanda Bell, TMU’s Activities Coordinator, shared, “A lot of the kids did not come from great home lives. So not only was it a time for the girls to come to camp for a week, and to have fun and learn about Jesus, but for us to love on them, and for them to just see the love of Christ through our team while learning about their heavenly Father and the way He loves them.”

TMU junior, Olivia Darley, explained, “Day and night, the girls never wanted to leave our side. I had one girl in my cabin and on my team who was blind, but she was not incapable of doing what the other girls did.”

Darley continued, “She trusted in my eyes and my voice to help her around the camp. I was with this precious girl 24/7 for four days. Some people came up and asked if I needed a break, but a break was never needed. I loved every minute of being with her.”

The sacrifices of the team were all worth it. Darley said, “One night, she looked up at me and said, ‘Miss Olivia, I just want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me this week!’”

Growing in the Gospel

alaska-2016-694Winkler explained, “Our theme for the camp was from Ephesians 6, so our purpose was to teach those precious girls about the different parts of the Armor of God in recreation, Bible study, arts and crafts, music and chapel services.”

Grace Henson, TMU sophomore, said, “We got to see and experience the Lord’s beautiful design through exploring His creation, and through seeing the lives of several girls saved while at camp. Seeing their childlike faith and desire to learn more was encouraging and convicting.”

Another TMU sophomore, Jenna Stinchcomb, added, “I had the opportunity to be a group leader for 9 precious girls and I think they changed me more than I ever thought possible. One night, Pastor Stacey Dyer shared the Gospel and what salvation truly means with the girls.”

She continued, “As we were leaving the chapel that night, I turned around and saw that one of my girls had given her life to Christ. I was overwhelmed with joy and a sense of purpose. This is what we had come to do.”

Winkler was confident that God had been at work prior to the team’s arrival. She said, “His Spirit seemed to go before us and prepare campers to hear the Word of truth, and we had four girls make professions of faith by the end of the week! Not only did God prepare hearts, but He also gave our TMU team strength, patience, and joy in leading this week of camp.”

Coming to Christ with open arms

Miller shared, “We had a camper who had been adopted, and whenever something went wrong, she would go run and hide. She felt like she couldn’t go to anybody, and so we had to go seek her out and open that door up to her.”

“We were reminded that this is how God comes after us,” Miller added. “Some of the other campers would get a boo-boo and they would just come to you, crying, with open arms, and that’s how we can be with God. We don’t have to have such a spirit of rejection on us. We can just go to Him with open arms.”

The boys that went on the trip had different responsibilities, and also came back with new realizations. Morris said, “The boys ran recreation, and then in the afternoons, we ran the activities on the lake. It was great to see how well the college boys interacted with the campers.”

TMU junior Jacob Lidh stated, “At first I was a bit hesitant because of the fact that it was a girl’s camp, and little girls terrify me. After much consideration alaska-2016-1057and prayer, I decided this was something I needed to do. From beginning to end, I was much more blessed than I could have ever hoped to bless the girls that I went to serve.”

Lidh said, “The weather was amazing, and the views were breathtaking, but nothing beat the night that an invitation was offered by Pastor Stacy, and the Spirit was obviously working in the hearts of the girls.”

Winkler assured, “The time and attention that we were able to give those campers were seeds sown and I know that God will continue to water those seeds.”

“I saw God working in not only the campers, but also our mission team,” Winkler concluded. “I believe I speak for all of us when I say that God brought a sense of peace and joyfulness to our hearts that week.


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