Stepping into that neon green, loud classroom for the first time was a little overwhelming. Kids were laughing and yelling—some playing at the air hockey table, while smaller groups gathered around the foosball table or played board games on the floor. I was told that I could just observe what happened in The Lodge, and not to feel pressured to participate in discussions. So I kept my distance and watched as fourth and fifth graders danced to songs, played silly games, and learned about Jesus.
When I first began attending Summit, I wanted to be invested but not necessarily involved. When my mom (thanks, mom!) suggested that I start volunteering somewhere to feel connected, my first decision was Base Camp— because sometimes I think that interacting with children is way less intimidating than interacting with adults! Flash-forward to today, and that neon green room isn’t overwhelming anymore. And the yells from the kids are more of a welcome greeting than anything else. Each week, I sit on these plush, colorful rugs and talk to fourth and fifth grade girls about how much they are loved by God.
A few years ago, I learned from a parent that one of my Base Camp girls was getting bullied. This girl was so fun and energetic that hearing her story made me cry. But for a little while, I wasn’t sure what I should do, or if I should do anything at all. Then I remembered what it was like growing up. More than just that though, I remembered the kind of volunteers I had at church—the kind I always wanted to be.
I grew up in a church where I thought my Sunday School teachers were the coolest. They were older than us, some with boyfriends and husbands, but related to and cared about us. Growing up in a church where you feel loved no matter how old you are or what your background is, made a huge difference in my life. Because the volunteers cared about me, I believed that I could matter—that I did matter. And not just to them, but to God too.
Some mornings when I walk into The Lodge, I forget about those childhood experiences. Some mornings, I just want to try to make it through a few hours without a student injuring themselves because they thought it would be a fun idea to do something like run and jump over a couch. But when I remember that Jesus saw value and significance in children and, in fact, told us to be like them, I remember why I started volunteering in the first place. It’s not because of the free t-shirts, and it’s not because it makes me feel good inside. It’s because these kids matter to God, and it’s my privilege as an adult to tell them that truth. They need to hear it. Constantly.
I ended up writing that Base Camp student who was being bullied a note telling her all the things I wished someone had told me in fifth grade—that she was smart, talented, funny, and loved by the God of the universe. And I think it was in the moment that I slipped that note into the mailbox that I felt it.
I felt like someone whose life was truly and irrevocably changed by the kids she taught.
We are always looking for folks willing to make a difference in the lives of the children of Summit by becoming a Base Camp volunteer. Find out more information here.
Jennifer Stasak has been attending Summit for over four years now! In addition to being a Base Camp leader, she's in a Connect group, and leads a group of middle school students at Surge. She has a love-hate relationship with running, is a defender of the Oxford comma, and writes for Wycliffe Bible Translators.