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Lincoln County college students study abroad and go back to camp

As college students slip into summertime, many opportunities present themselves. While some continue to take classes, others take a complete break. Some work in offices, retail stores or restaurants. Then some students use their summers to influence others in the world around them … whether through counseling at a camp or completing mission work. These students, who call Lincoln County home, have taken their break to provide a service and, in turn, ended up serving themselves. 

For Ole Miss junior Sarah Rice Warren, mission work is not a totally new experience. Based on her previous experiences, she quickly committed to completing mission work this summer. Warren worked in Cape Town, South Africa, with Lead Abroad, a five-week study abroad program that incorporates service. She has completed two previous mission trips and found the experience extremely rewarding.

“I have always had a heart for service and missions work. I knew I wanted to go on a study-abroad trip because many of my family members have done so. I’ve always been told how amazing they are and how they can be life changing,” she said.

The program was challenging, she said, pushing her away from her comfort zone to experience personal growth. The biggest challenge came from having to accept that her time working with the women and children was so limited. She also knew that after forming such close relationships she may never see them again.

“This program was all about challenging yourself, facing fears, pushing yourself, experiencing self growth in all aspects, leadership, and of course service,” she said. “After only five weeks, leaving the people who left such an impact on my heart and in my life was hard. That goes for all of the local people who I got to know, as well.”

Warren said as she enters her junior year at Ole Miss she is hoping to continue her studies in an area that will allow her to incorporate education and ministry. It is through experiences like hers this summer that she has become more focused on her own future.

“The biggest reward for me from my experience was probably the friendships I made with people from all across the country. These people truly became some of my best friends. We all became so close, we are like a family,” she said. “The experience I had was truly life changing in every way. Without this experience, I would not have learned so much about myself, others, and the world itself.”

Daniel Clark is an entering sophomore at Washington and Lee University with a double major in physics and religion. His story is a full circle one — working this summer at the camp where he spent six of his own summers growing up.

Alpine Camp for Boys, near Mentone, Alabama, was a memorable place for Clark as a young adolescent. His summers helped solidify his relationship with God through Bible study, new friendships and activities. Clark arrived there this summer in mid-May and will work until early August.

“As a camper myself, I remember my counselors being the most important part of encouraging my physical, mental, and spiritual growth,” Clark said. “I wanted the chance to pay that forward and see if God could work through me in the lives of these boys.”

Being ready for anything at all times is an important, and often challenging, job requirement of camp counseling. At Alpine, Clark said the task can be as hard as it is rewarding. 

“I honestly feel like I ran out of energy a few months ago, and though my off nights and staff fellowship have done wonders to get me back on my feet, I can feel fatigued pretty often,” he said. “Learning to lean on God and the Word, as well as using the advice and support of the staff has meant everything to me in terms of staying positive and going forward into my labor with enthusiasm.” 

Clark said the active schedule is a benefit to daily camp life. Campers are kept very busy and active throughout the day. When the moments of peace do arrive, they are put to best use in getting to know the campers, fellow counselors and having quiet reflection time.

“It’s in brief moments of peaceful time that I really get the chance to get to know others and myself. It’s been an awesome and rewarding experience for me,” Clark said.

Like most college students, when looking ahead to next summer, Clark said his plans are still unclear.

“I’m excited to explore my opportunities and see where I end up,” he said. “Hopefully wherever I go it will consist of the things I’ve loved so much about Alpine — like working for God’s kingdom, meeting new people, learning new skills and seeing beautiful sights.”

Olivia Ross has been a student at Copiah-Lincoln Community College this past year and, while on campus, heard about an opportunity working as a month-long intern for Ocean City Baptist Church in Ocean City, Maryland.

Ross’ journey began as an involved student with the Co-Lin Baptist Student Union, where she learned about their summer missions program.

“I decided I wanted to go because I heard several different stories from missionaries from previous years, and I felt the Lord putting this calling on my heart,” she said.

While in the program, Ross organizes and runs an international student summer program that the church offers. The more challenging aspects of the job is the busy work schedule and talking to international students from all over the world with varying English skills.

“Some of them are easy to communicate with, but others are a challenge. Getting to know each and every one of them takes time and can be emotionally draining while of course being completely worthwhile,” she said.

There are benefits to Ross’ job as well. She said she has formed close new friendships that will continue to grow.

“All of the church members are very welcoming and loving, and the international students are so appreciative. I know that I will leave this summer with lifelong friends. That’s the greatest blessing there is,” she said.

Upon return to Co-Lin, Ross will continue her degree in general business. Next summer? She said she would be more than willing to continue work in Ocean City.

“If coming back to Ocean City next year was an option, I would jump on that opportunity in a heartbeat,” Ross said. “I don’t know where I will be next summer, but this time last year I had no idea that God’s plan was for me to be in Ocean City, so you never know.”

Mississippi State junior AnnaRachel Breeland has spent this entire summer working at Sky Ranch Camp in Van, Texas. Again, another camp centered on religion, which is an experience in which Breeland is very familiar. She grew up attending a Christian summer camp and gives it credit for helping mold her into the young woman she is today.

“God was calling me to Texas for the summer, but it was hard to move to an entire other state and into a situation where I didn’t know a soul,” Breeland said. “It put me out of my comfort zone, but definitely for the better.”

Breeland said the duties of counseling at summer camp is very much a job. Her commitment to her campers can be exhausting, she said, but being around supportive peers has made the effort worthwhile. Breeland said God was certainly working in the hearts of the campers with more than 300 youth asking Christ into their hearts.

“Seeing that number grow each week allows us to know our hard work is not in vain,” she said. “The Lord has been so faithful here.”

Upon return to MSU, Breeland will continue her studies in psychology. She welcomes the opportunity to return to work at Sky Ranch next summer, but realizes that summer also presents an opportunity to continue classwork.

“Sky Ranch has been such a rewarding experience and I would love to get to work there again. That being said, next summer I will be entering my senior year of college so I may need to take classes,” she said.

Most college students faces choices with how to spend their summers. But, these emerging adults have chosen to improve the lives and experiences within the world around them and, through faith, make a memorable difference for others.

Story by JoAnna Sproles