As Summer approaches, hearts become a little fuller and the sun shines a little brighter. After eight long months, students are finally able to venture out of the classroom and have two sweet months of long awaited freedom. In most cases, you have students who look forward to family beach trips and vacations, time spent out by the pool, sleepovers, being with your friends 24/7 and so much more. Then, there are some like me, who enjoyed every beach trip and moment spent in the sunshine with sweet friends, but the one thing you looked forward to the most was summer camp. For me, that was church camp. And not just any church camp, this was a Christian leadership camp. A camp created to teach young men and women how to be leader’s and workers in the Lord’s church. A camp created to encourage young people to find who they are in Christ and use their new found identity for the kingdom of Heaven. A camp that helped a scared, insecure, and lost little girl find her courage confidence, and purpose.
To Horizons at Freed Hardeman University, this is for you.
To the camp that changed me,
I can remember my first year attending you. I remember the weeks leading up to the beginning of you and all I wanted to do was back out. I was filled with complete anxiety about going alone, to the point of calling and making arrangements to receive a refund. Somehow, a short and simple phone call was able to change my mind and I decided to attend. It was my first time being away from home at a place where all I longed for was a familiar face. This was unlike any other camp I've ever attended. I was used to being 1 camper out of 150. This time, I was 1 out of around 900. I've felt the emotion of fear before, but something about those first couple of days were different. I was scared to make friends, to open up, and let my guard down. I was scared of a lot of things. Once the week started going, those fears slowly began to ease up and my heart was forever changed. Sunday evening I was crying because I had to stay and by Friday morning, I was crying because I had to leave. So Horizons, thank you.
Thank you for always giving me something to look forward to.
To me, there's no sweeter moment than once my countdown until we're reunited finally gets down to double digits. Once the Summertime and sunshine finally rolls around, I'm no longer just enjoying the sunshine. I'm beginning to enjoy the sunshine, warmer weather, and the thought that I'm another month closer to being at my favorite place with my favorite people. Whenever I'm having a bad day, it never fails that I can pull up a picture, encouraging note I've saved in my bible, or something from the many weeks I've spent with you and I'm given a reason to smile again. I don't think I have the words for how much I always look forward to the first day of camp. There's something about being greeted with the numerous bear hugs, often from the same people over and over again, from people you've missed and being back at your favorite place that warms the heart. Something about that moment makes any difficult thing in your life leading up the moment, okay. So thank you Horizons, for being my happy place.
Thank you for teaching me to push through my fears.
Not only did you teach me to push through my fears about stepping out of my comfort zone in a physical sense, but spiritually, you taught me how to step of my comfort zone. Through you, I learned how to pursue, teach others, and serve Jesus in ways that used to make my knees tremble. You taught me to have the courage to stand up for Christ in social settings when serving Him may not be popular. Those hard things that sometimes left my faith shaky, you taught me how to use those for His glory, even if it made me uncomfortable. I learned how to truly open up with others about my struggles without the fear of being judged, but rather with the hopes of encouraging others. Because of you, I learned how to speak and teach others about Him in settings large or small, even if it's through nervous jitters and a quivering voice. So thank you Horizons, for making me brave.
Thank you for helping me see that I'm not alone.
Through you, I was able to see that there were young people like me who were struggling.My eyes were opened to the realization that there were other young people who felt overwhelmed by things in this life while trying to grow up. I was able to see young Christians who were struggling with the same temptations, going through the same life circumstances and dealing with the same emotions as I was, all while trying to live and stay faithfully for the Lord. Through you, I learned how to reach out when my heart was growing weary and how to handle the stresses of life through prayer, God's word, and Christian encouragement. I learned that it's okay not to be okay, but to never lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. So thank you Horizons, for giving me encouragement to keep going.
Thank you for teaching me the beauty of vulnerability.
Because of you, I learned that when you open yourself up to others, beautiful things can happen. I used to have this fear of opening up to others about the struggles I faced as a young Christian, but by attending you over the years, I quickly learned that there is something truly beautiful about the openness and rawness of truly broken and honest Christians. All of those fears of being open and letting your true heart be seen by others soon begins to fade away once you see that there are people who are ready to love, support, and encourage you through those moments that your heart is aching. You showed me that when you allow them to, your brothers and sisters in Christ are willing to help you carry your burdens, making the load on your back a thousand times lighter. So thank you Horizons, for showing the blessings that come from opening up to others.
Thank you for giving me Christ-centered friendships.
Through you, I met some of the most beautiful people, including my best friends. People who went from strangers to mentors, to friends, to family. I met people with a strong desire to go to Heaven who gave me a stronger desire to be there with them. I became friends with other Christians who along this journey have encouraged me, supported me and loved me through the mountains and valleys of life. I learned the importance of having friends who will join you in the garden like Jesus had. Meaning friends who will simply just be there when you ask them to, even it's in silence. Through you, I met other young people who shared the same desire as I did about wanting to go to Heaven. You gave me women who became sisters and men who became brothers. I developed close and personal relationships, allowing me to constantly feel loved from near and far. I met people whose only goal in life was to get to Heaven and bring every person they encountered with them. Because of you, I made some of my greatest friends, have beautiful Christian women and incredible godly men to look up to, and continuous blessings. So thank you Horizons, for giving me a family in my life that I love so much who loves me just as much in return.
And most importantly, thank you for showing me Christ.
I knew Christ before you, but I didn't truly follow Him until after you. Through the bible class lessons, sermons, and worship services, you helped me see Him. You helped me see Him in a different light and with an open heart. You taught me about His constant grace, unending love, and forever faithfulness. You taught me how He forgives as easily as He loves. You taught me how He constantly waits with open arms and never turns His back. You made me look at Heaven as a place I longed to be instead of just a place I heard about from the pulpit. You showed me that the blessings that come from following Jesus outweigh and overcome the trials I may face. You taught me that God is bigger, no matter what the circumstance. Through all of the lessons and because of the wonderful people, you helped me see that Heaven is exactly where I want to be. Through you, I found the strength to take my lukewarm heart and set it on fire for the Lord. And even if it starts to burn out, you gave me the resources to help me start it again. Through you, I was able to find my purpose and my value in Christ. I was able to find myself in Him. So thank you Horizons, for helping my heart back to Jesus.
From the Jerry and Webb wake up calls and the Ray Pack and Chuck Morris hugs, to the daily encouragement from the bible classes and worship services, to the tears shed during the Tuesday night game shows from laughter and the tears of the sweet and tender hearts coming back to the Lord, there is no place I'd rather be than Horizons in the Summertime. So thank you Horizons, for the millions of things that I'll never be able to truly thank you for.
Horizons, I will never stop loving you. Thank you for changing lives and hearts. I will always be proud to be known as "Horizons biggest fan."
*given title of "Horizons biggest fan" by the man himself, Kirk Brothers.*