By Tyler Kovacs, Guest Contributor
My Aunt and Uncle work full time at Mount Hermon and were always trying to get me and the rest of the Texas cousins to fly out for camp. The summer of 2005, my 8th-grade year, my parents relented and I went to Redwood camp with my brother and cousin.
I went to Ponderosa each of the next five summers and began to slowly get to know Jesus one week at a time over several years. Camp was my favorite place in the world as a student. The week I spent at Pondy was my Disneyland, Super Bowl, and Christmas all rolled together, only better! The campers and counselors were more genuine, loving, and free than anyone I had ever met. God used seemingly normal interactions with these people to bring me to Himself.
Andrew, my counselor for three summers, had the greatest influence on me. He saw me differently, he spoke to me differently, and I genuinely wanted to see the world the way he did. Through Andrew and other staff members, I experienced the love that the speakers at camp were always talking about. The summer before my sophomore year of high school a gospel message delivered in the forum cut me to the core, and I gave my life to Christ later that night on the rec field looking up at the stars.
I met Jesus as a camper, but it was as a summer staffer that I got to know Him deeply, wrestle with Him, rely on Him, and see Him change my heart week after week. Those years I needed my fellow counselors to sustain me more than I needed anyone ever in my life. There I met many of my closest friends and learned what having true brothers and sisters in Christ could do for my faith.
After camp, I never settled for shallow friendships ever again. Throughout my summer staff experience, God taught me about the power of vulnerability, humility, trust, love, and freedom.
My experiences at camp propelled me into youth ministry throughout college and helped me realize my passion and desire to work in full-time youth ministry. In the summer of 2015, my staff counselor from my first two summers at Redwood offered me my first full-time job at Canyon Creek Church. I accepted knowing that I wanted to spend my life providing support and direction to students while pointing them to Jesus.
Now that I am a full-time youth pastor; I love bringing my students to Ponderosa Lodge for summer camp and Fall Frenzies. Bringing students to camp is a surreal experience for me. Every tree and trail I see when I am at Mount Hermon ties to a memory of Jesus revealing Himself to me. Offering the same opportunity to the students I love, gives me chills. My camp experience has come full circle, and I am so thankful that God has woven my faith journey with the roots of those redwoods.