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Sep18FriSaying “yes” to Salvation Army summer camp changed my life forever. September 18, 2015 by Alex Stoney
My spiritual journey has been a roller-coaster, a mountain trek and a scenic route, all rolled into one interesting but unfinished journey. I'm from Kispiox, a small First Nations village near Hazelton in northern British Columbia. It's so small, we only recently got high-speed Internet.
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I grew up in a Christian home and was primarily raised by my mother and older twin sisters. I was a quiet child (until you got to know me), so it was hard for me to make friends. We attended the local Salvation Army corps in Gitanmaax and I reluctantly went to church nearly every Sunday as a child and early teenager; my mother made sure of that, God bless her. But I never really connected with the service.
After graduating from high school, I followed my sisters to university in Prince George, B.C. They also tried to drag me to church, with varying degrees of success. The corps in Prince George is fantastic, but I still found it hard to make friends. I started partying and it wasn't long before I fell into alcohol abuse on a regular basis. I thought I was having fun, but I always felt unfulfilled.
After barely scraping through my first year, I found myself back home with nothing to do. Then one day, out of the blue, I received a call from one of my sisters' friends, who happened to be the director at a nearby Salvation Army camp. They were in need of a male camp counsellor and had thought of me—based solely on the reputation of my sisters. At the time, it was not in my nature to say yes to such a position, but for some reason I did. Right after I got off the phone, I thought, What just happened? What am I getting myself into?
But that “yes” changed my life forever. Camp Mountainview was where I learned that I love to laugh and learn with children and youth. Camp Mountainview was where I first experienced the full weight and depth of God's grace and love. I was crushed by that weight. It was revealed to me by a true servant of God in the form of forgiveness and a loving embrace.
Working at camp that summer also introduced me to a Christian community that I could grow with and learn from. Nine years later, we live all over Canada, but we share a friendship that time and distance have so far failed to end.
Life after my first summer at camp wasn't a walk in the park. I missed talking to my friends so much that I forgot it was God who put us together in the first place, and it was God who I needed to connect with again.
After my third summer at camp, I moved to Saskatoon with my camp friends. Though it wasn't in God's plan for me to stay long, I witnessed how my friends stayed faithful in the “real world,” despite its temptations. This helped me in my own struggles. It was at this point I really started to follow the path God has for me.
Soon after that, I moved to Lethbridge, Alta., with my now-wife, Adrienne, to be close to her family. In Lethbridge, I found another Christian community unlike any I had experienced before. I was so welcomed that it felt like home. It wasn't long before I became an official member of the family.
My spiritual journey is far from over, but today I believe I am where God has called me to be. I completed a bachelor's degree in education and am now the children and youth ministry co-ordinator for the Upper Skeena Circuit (my home community), where I hope to build up strong leaders and followers of Christ. I'm also the program director at Camp Mountainview. We have been blessed with amazing staff and it's my goal for us to help build Christ-centred friendships that provide the kind of community that sustained me. I thank Jesus every day for the blessings and responsibilities he's chosen for me.