On a sunny Fourth of July, two months after my college graduation, I followed the cornfields to Eureka, IL for the first time, opening a new chapter of life. For four weeks I would work at a Christian day camp, Camp of Champions USA (Camp). Little did I know that one month would turn into nine years.
Nine years that would grow and change me.
Nine years of hard things. But good things too.
After those four weeks of Camp, I was still looking for a teaching job. The recession was in full swing. Too many graduating with teaching degrees, they said. I had an opportunity to coach basketball, sub in several schools here, and a friend needed a roommate, so I stayed. Adventure, I thought.
The plan once the school year was over was to continue to look for a position teaching and to move back to Kansas City with my parents after I worked at Camp for just a few weeks, because I loved it so. Yet, still no education job and Camp needed positions filled every week, so I stayed.
There were rumblings at the end of the summer that a full-time, year-round Ministry Coordinator position would open at Camp of Champions. It seemed intriguing. Perhaps I would be able to use more of my gifts than teaching. Praying about the possibility on the way to a wedding in Kansas, I decided that I still very much wanted to teach and determined that Camp would need to pursue me if that’s where the Lord wanted me. Several hours later the phone rang; Camp asked me to consider taking the position.
In the moment, that was clarity.
So I decided to stay and take the job.
For nearly five years, I stayed in that role. But after the first three, I began struggling with burnout. Beyond the long hours, and various other scenarios that caused stress, I wrestled with how para-church organizations should interact with the Church.
Always a lover of art, when I moved to Peoria I began making contacts with people who were handing me graphic design jobs. Freelance opportunities were in abundance. My portfolio was growing. As I began considering what life after Camp would hold, I wanted to find a job that would be flexible enough for me to be involved in local church ministry in a greater capacity.
Freelancing, it seemed, was the ticket.
So for the last three that’s what I’ve been doing, not without a part-time job here or there.
It’s been good and hard and good. And I’ve learned a lot and grown in my craft in away that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And because of my flexibility I’ve been able to give myself more intensely to my church, whether women’s ministries or Bible study or counseling or jr. high youth group.
But underlying the last three years of freelancing, has still been the question of what’s next?
(Because in the long term, freelancing solely is not practical when providing for oneself.)
Seeking the Lord with mentors and disciplers, I’ve been asking is it teaching? Is it further ministry training?
A year ago I started taking steps towards attending The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and through various promptings and a job offer from a Christian school in Louisville (where Southern is located), it seems like the right season to go.
So I’m standing on this precipice.
About to jump. About to leave a place I love.
Central Illinois is where I became an adult.
And came to the full assurance of my faith.
It’s where learned the meaning of discipleship.
And how to study the Bible for myself.
And the spark of affection I had for the Church in high school was fanned into a flame as I was exposed to the dark and light of ministry.
It’s where I understood how to love. To truly love.
And how to lose. And to grieve.
It’s here that I’ve experienced sweet friendship and community.
And have havered and hashed out life and loss and theology with the dearest of souls.
While change can be exciting, there's sorrow in closing a chapter that's been so beautiful.
C.S. Lewis writes that our desires for home are ultimately longings for a better, more perfect world. They serve as a reminder that we are strangers, aliens, living in tents, headed towards a country where there is no pain, sadness, or suffering. One of eternal joy where we will see Jesus, our friend, face to face. Forever.
In nearly a week, I will say so long to the cornfields and journey on to Kentucky to begin the next leg of art and life, learning and teaching and ministry. Still, simply sojourning. And all the good that may be found in the bluegrass state in the next nine years will be incomparable to all the happiness that’s in store eternally.
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
- C.S. Lewis.