STORIES from a missionary: Rachel Witbeck

2.07.2015 |

matthew 28:19 says " go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."  Rachel, a senior at Mississippi State University, has a heart the size of the moon for young girls and teaching them the truths revealed in God's word.  this passionate, true disciple-maker spends an entire summer as a camp counselor at Camp Crestridge.   Read her story below:

What if the kids don’t like me? What if my co-counselor and I do not get along, and I am stuck in the same room with her for two months? What if the campers are mean and do crazy horrible things in the cabin? What if they ask questions I can’t answer? These are questions I asked myself before I began my mission. But the real question was… what if they see who I really am, which is a sinner who doesn’t have it all together?

As I look back, I cannot think of an instance where I realized I desired and felt called to go. You or maybe your friends have had a particular moment where the Lord asked you to do something, but my situation was different. I was raised by incredible parents that took major risks to do what the Lord asked of them, and I am so thankful to have seen the blessings the Lord gives to those who obey. I have always been amazed at the way they trust God and depend on Him for all things. Seeing this in my parents and the way their faith and works have blessed others is what has fueled my desire to go, along with the Holy Spirit’s work in me.  Where was I to go? What was the mission? To serve as a counselor in the Black Mountains of North Carolina at Camp Crestridge. For as far back as I can remember I have wanted to work at a Christian summer camp. Due to many circumstances, I was kept from doing that until the summer after my junior year of college- summer 2014. Was it just because things kept getting in the way that it took me this much time? No. The Lord knew I was not prepared for what was ahead until that time, and even then I would not be prepared except for the grace and provision of the Lord.

I understood very little about what my actual duties were as a counselor; I just knew I would be responsible for making sure the kids were where they were supposed to be, and that they went to bed on time. We, as counselors, had the opportunity to lead the campers in Bible study, activities, learning skills, and just having fun in any free period; this was a blessing, however, there were times when things got tough. Sometimes they cried. Sometimes they asked really hard questions that I could not answer. And sometimes they were just unpleasant, hormonal girls. We were responsible for these girls 23 hours out of each day, and I was there for about 2 months. New campers came every 2 weeks, so I only had a short time to love on them and get to know them. This was a very tiring task, but well worth the physical and emotional exhaustion. We were these girls’ mothers for the time they were with us, and we did everything with and for them. I even had the pleasure of cleaning up after 3 campers threw up in the cabin and the shower. This was all in the same night, and the night that my co-counselor was off. That day, and the peace and patience the Lord gave me is a story of its own.

Being with them all day also meant that they saw everything about me from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep. There was no lying about what I did during the day and how much I spent time with the Lord. They saw it…. they saw everything. They knew that I was tired. They knew that I did not have it all together.

My favorite verse for last summer was Ephesians 3:20-21. It says,
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” 
My main focus during the summer was to share the gospel and love of Christ with my campers and others around me. I had burdened myself so much with the idea that I had to help them. I had to share. I had to act perfectly, and I had to have myself together to be effective. I knew in the back of my mind that there was nothing I could do to make them believe, and that their faith rested totally on the Lord; but that was only head knowledge, and it took failure and repeated efforts for me to finally give it up and turn the circumstances over completely to the One who truly has control. When that was done, I was able to rest and know that my job was only to plant a seed in the ear of those the Lord put in my path. It was hard not knowing if it would be effective, or if the girls were even listening, but I truly began to see that He could do immeasurably more. God began giving me words to speak when I felt so unprepared and unworthy to speak. My campers began to open up and tell me things that I knew they had not told many people. They would cry while I listened and did my best to support them and tell them of God’s grace and love, and only because of the work of the Holy Spirit did they hear and understand that things would be okay. Though their parents were in the middle of a nasty divorce, or their dad just cheated on their mom, or their friends made fun of them because of an illness they had; that their parents neglected to show them love or grace, or their father was mentally abusing them by physically abusing their sibling, or that one of their friends had just died in a wreck. The list is endless, and I never thought that I would encounter so many hurting 14 year old girls. I could not ever relate to these girls or the struggles they were dealing with, but the same Spirit that is inside of me was at work inside of them. I barely had to say a word. I listened, and the Lord did the work. What an incredible experience it was for me, after feeling so insignificant and incapable while talking to a camper, to get a letter from her the next week telling me she had decided to give her life fully to Christ and His work. Was I proud because I had done something significant? No. I couldn’t be because I had done nothing, but I was so thankful and humbled that the Lord had allowed me to be a part of His glorious plan. 

Another thing that I learned the most from was the questions they asked. On the first night of each session, my incredible co-counselor and I gave the campers an opportunity to write questions on a slip of paper that was completely anonymous. Many times they would sit there and say they could not think of any, but every session there were questions that blew my mind. We challenged them to write things they have always wondered about, whether it had to do with God, religion, relationships, or any kind of problem they had. Leaving it open to them really allowed them to ask about things they struggled with. I sat down on my bed after devotions and before we would go to bed that night to read the questions. I would open one folded paper and read in their pencil writing, “Is it okay for people to get divorced?” Or, “How can God be three people at one time? How do I be nice to people that are bad without becoming like them? What can I do to help my mom if she is being abused by her husband that is not my father? How do I know that Jesus loves me?” These were the type of questions that the girls would ask. Needless to say, I went to bed the first night of every session with an extremely heavy heart. What was I, as a poor lost sinner redeemed only by God’s grace, supposed to say to help these girls see the love of God? I could study scripture all day and give them the most eloquent speech, but because I had never gone through it, I felt as though my efforts were worthless. But let me tell you this….. No breath is ever wasted when you are sharing scripture or your testimony. It may not be that moment that they accept it, but when the Lord opens there heart, they will always remember the love and time you showed them. My Co and I did our best to answer every question on the last day of the session. This gave us time to get to know the girls, and the opportunity to research scripture about the issues. I was extremely blessed by one of my new dear friends that summer who helped me get a good perspective on answering these questions. She was attending seminary, and she told me that I did not have to worry about sharing my opinion with the girls. The realization that they did not need to hear my thoughts really hit me, and I realized the power of sharing the Holy Word of God. The personal stories were nice and sometimes comforting, but nothing compared to sharing the perfect Word with them. The life of Christ is the only perfect example we have of how to live. Again, the Lord did mighty powerful things at camp and at the same time showed me that He does not need me, but He wants me. What an incredible thing! 

Let me remind you that these girls are from very normal places. They come from places just like where you live. They have real problems and real needs. They will pretend like everything is okay because they want to look like what they see on social media. They do not realize that we all have these feelings, and we need people like you to share and love them. It only takes a willingness to listen and trust God. It is easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself to help them, but don’t think too highly of yourself. Only when we realize that sharing the gospel is our job and not changing hearts will we be successful and at peace. 

to learn more about Camp Crestridge, please click HERE.

up next: Kelly Elmore shares her atypical story in following her husband's call to Kenya as a full-time missionary with Global Youth Missions.  

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