The work of Living Water Ministries includes the development of leaders for the church and world in the 21st Century. Our programs aim to create opportunities for campers to discover their gifts, their voice, and who God is calling them to be. It’s not uncommon that campers answer the call of leadership and return to serve on summer staff with Living Water Ministries, and it’s not uncommon that after serving on staff these young adults end up answer God’s call to be teachers, social workers, and pastors. Katie Butler, a former camper and LWM staff member shares her story this week of how she received her call. At Living Water Ministries we are called to be a part of God’s work transforming lives and the world. Katie is an example of someone who has been transformed by God, and will be used by God to transform the world.
I remember the first time I heard a woman preach. It wasn’t until I was in high school, and I remember thinking “Huh. I didn’t realize we were allowed to do that.”
It took me a while to realize that God was calling me to ordained ministry. When I started working at camp in 2014, I remember thinking it’d be cool to get to do ministry stuff for the rest of my life, but I was supposed to be a choir teacher. I could do ministry on Sundays and during the summer.
In the Spring of 2016, I remember a friend from camp saying to me, “Do you ever think about going to seminary and becoming a pastor?”
“I don’t know, maybe,” I responded, fully aware that I had actually been thinking about it for months and told no one.
In the very first week of staff training in the Summer of 2016, I remember sitting on [the Executive Director] C.J.’s living room floor for a devotion, and responding to a question in discussion. I talked for a long time, as I tend to do, and when I was done C.J. joked that I had just preached a sermon.
It took that whole summer for me to acknowledge the call I was feeling. I had meeting after meeting with the pastors that came to camp. That summer, I was in charge of the high school bible study. Every day, I presented the bible study that I had written myself to a group of teenagers and prayed to God that they would get something out of it. Every week, I watched them transform before my eyes. Camp gave me the opportunity to realize that I was actually capable of forming faith-based communities, and more than that, I was actually pretty good at it.
I continued to live in denial. I made excuse after excuse about how seminary would be too much of a hassle and how music was my one and only calling in this world (spoiler alert: most people have more than one calling.)
My big, defining moment came during the closing worship of Bridge Builders that year. I was praying with the small group that I had had the blessing of being a part of during that week, and the adult leaders of the group were going around and praying for everyone in the group. I was the last one to be prayed for, and I stepped into the circle while everyone put a hand on me. Pastor Michael Johnson prayed over me, and I had been talking with him throughout the week about the tug of war that had been going on in my heart and mind. As he prayed for me, he prayed that I would open my heart to accepting my call to ministry. In that moment, I felt chills cover my body. Tears filled my eyes, and I knew. That was it- I was going to be a pastor.
I broke out of the circle and turned to one of my fellow summer staffers, very obviously crying while campers looked at me like I was absolutely insane. She looked at me and smiled. “I’m gonna be a pastor,” I said. “I know you are,” she responded. We hugged and celebrated, and I could not wait to tell the rest of the staff at our meeting later that day- the group of people that cheered me on all summer, knowing exactly how the story was going to end, but giving me the time and space I needed to come to terms with it.
I still get tears in my eyes when I think about that summer. Living Water Ministries shaped me into a leader that I never knew I could be, and has supported me through every roadblock, doubt, and triumph that has come since then. It has given me a community that I thank God for every single day, and I will never stop being grateful for that.
We have a saying at camp- “Camp is for the camper.” And it’s true, every decision made as a staff member is made to ensure that the campers are getting the most out of their experience as possible. But if you ask any summer staffer, they’ll tell you that camp is for staffers, as well. We all leave in August different people than when we got there in June. We grow in faith, confidence, and community. I’m not the only one to have my life changed by working at camp, and I know I won’t be the last.