Abigail Stockton is the Third Place winner of the Share Your Story contest. For this contest we asked past staffers and volunteers to send us their stories about how Camp Barnabas has affected their lives by asking them two questions: “What do you love about Barnabas?” and “How has Barnabas impacted you?” Here is Abigail’s story:
Barnabas to me is a home that I can run to knowing that there will be a community of people welcoming me with open arms and grace in their hearts. My best friendships from all different states have formed at camp and each year I continue to form new relationships that have shaped me into the person I am today. 1 Corinthians 13:4 tells us “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” This perfect kind of love is the same love that I receive each year while I am at camp. Every time I come home from Barnabas, I cannot stop sharing stories to my family and friends about the amazing experiences I had while I was there. I find myself amazed each year at the feelings and emotions I encompass throughout the week. I truly love Barnabas because no matter the circumstance or situation, love is always the answer there.
My mom finally got to see camp for the first time this year and in the short two hours she was there, she realized why I was so passionate about Barnabas. She told me that she could feel a difference in the environment at camp just by walking around and meeting all of the amazing campers, missionaries, and staffers. When people ask me what Barnabas is like, I tell them it truly feels like the closest place you can get to heaven on earth. I have never been to a place where I have experienced as much grace, joy, embrace, and love as I do at Barnabas.
Through Barnabas I have learned how to serve the Lord and put others first before myself. Thank you Barnabas for being such an amazing place to everyone who enters your gates. You have shown me so many elements that I can use in my everyday life and helped me transform my walk with the Lord.
My Camp Barnabas story began in 2015 when my youth leaders decided to load up a minivan with five of our youth group students and head to a small town known as Purdy, Missouri. I went into that week not even being able to imagine the incredible things God had planned for me and my friends. The Lord worked in us and through us in so many ways that week. We all knew that we had to go back next year and we had to bring more of our friends with us. Each year we have been able to increase the amount of students that come to camp with us and this past summer we ended up bringing 21 students who all had their lives changed by their experiences at camp. Barnabas has now not only impacted just me but also my church, my friends, my family, and even my High School. My friends and I are constantly telling our community and students at school about Barnabas and how much it has changed our lives. The campers that I have been absolutely blessed to have spent time with while at camp all have a special place in my heart. It gives me so much joy being able to talk to them outside of camp and even being able to visit with them whether or not they live hours away.
One camper in particular has changed my life and I am so grateful for him and his family. I knew right when I met him at camp that he was someone who I wanted in my life. He exudes absolute positivity and sunshine all the time. He has overcome so many obstacles and won many battles. He has truly shown me what it means to trust God to give you the strength you need it, even when you have large mountains to climb. I visited him in the hospital after one of his serious surgeries and it broke my heart seeing the truth of what our campers have to go through in their lives. When I surprised him in the hospital room after his surgery he gave me the biggest hug and it gave me such a good feeling knowing he knew I was there for him as much as I could be. I ate lunch with him and sat with him for a few hours and in that time I do not think either of us stopped smiling.
A few months after that visit, he and his family drove 7 hours and surprised me at one of my highschool volleyball games where all of my school, coaches, and community got to meet him and see how amazing he is. I would not have been able to meet all of the people that have changed my life if it was not for Barnabas.