Story: Katie W. - as told to Holly Poole.
The past year was hard for Katie - a sixteen year old student who had recently dealt with a substantial amount of loneliness. She didn’t see her dad much because of his new job, her sister married and moved out of the house, she had switched schools three times, she faced bullying in her new school, and she had switched churches. All this time, she felt really alone among so many changes and adjustments in her life. She had lost more than just her friends or the comfort of her family life— she had really lost who she was.
At the beginning of this summer, Katie began to realize that she was no longer feeling or hearing from God. It was around this time that a friend of hers had passed away, someone that she considered to be a good person and undeserving of dying at a young age. At this point, she was angry at God. She decided that she was “quitting God,” because “if God is love, I can’t believe in love so I guess I can’t believe in God.”
On the first day of NOW camp, a christian Youth Camp that she attended with her church, she sat with her arms crossed not wanting to be there. She said to herself “it’s not happening this time.” She didn’t want to have that “church camp moment” that she had experienced before. After all, she had “quit God.” Then she describes how God had “dropped a bomb inside of her.” He spoke to Katie about how she had a hardened heart and would have to be softened before God could do any work in her life. Before she could hear him and feel him again, she would have to open up her heart that was rejecting love, and let in the very love she was trying to keep out. Katie started praying for God to change her heart and let her see people how she used to see them, with love and compassion. A worship leader began to speak a word he had received from God that sounded much like what Katie had felt in heart. It was a confirmation of faith and a confirmation that God was speaking to her once again. God completely changed her heart that night.
“It was a breath of fresh air… I felt my heart melt and I heard God again and saw him again. He said to me, “I didn’t leave you through this, I was leading you through,”” Katie says about her experience on that first night. “Really for me, it has been a process. He opened me up on the first day [of camp] and showed me things I didn’t see before, and the last night he really showed me what I could become and what he had in store for me. He showed me a glimpse but I am still searching,” Katie says that she has not stopped hearing from God after that breakthrough.
Because God had healed Katie’s hardened heart, she was able to open up to people again and made friendships with other young people and reach out to them. God showed her that love does not hurt, it heals. Katie’s life now has become about looking for the opportunities to be an example of Christ and convey what she has learned. “Before my life was full of doubts of God's plan, but now my life is seeing that I have a purpose, and now I have a hope,” Katie says that this change did not come from church camp, but only a true encounter with God could cause this beautiful contrast from darkness to light.
I asked Katie, who has been raised in a church and in a Christian home all her life, about faith-based programs such as these. She says, “I think programs and camps are great, but sometimes you go through the motions and you don't always have these breaking points. To really get something out of the programs and camps you have to go beneath the surface.”
Instead of getting Jesus into her head, she allowed Jesus to get into her heart and this is what made this program stand out for her. It was an experience with Christ.