-Brooke Reed, contributing writer
When I envisioned my summer, I wanted an experience that would be new to me. My vision included grassy expanses that extended in an endless horizon and long days in the hot summer sun. I imagined getting painful sunburns that would later turn into a fabulous tan around my Chaco straps. I envisioned many days filled with laughter, bonding with people I did not previously know, and those two elements coming together to form a perfectly unified family. It was going to be the perfect summer. Well, I was wrong.
“Just go by and see if she still needs people,” my friend Richard Morris urged me. It was two months out from the start of the summer, and I was still searching for a job. Reluctantly, I trudged towards Nelson Hall, up the stairs, and into the second floor office that would later become “home base” for me over the summer. What I found in that office were three delightful people—hidden gems of our campus—and a job that sounded perfect. I had spent the last few weeks hoping to get a job at a summer camp, but I had let all of the application deadlines slip past me. The job of a Support Staff member was like working camp, but on my own university’s campus. An interview, application process, and one week later, I received news that I had been hired to serve as a part of the Mississippi College Summer Support Staff.
We had a staff of six incredible people: two girls, four guys. Together, we made it through each day; we laughed and fought just like any family. We dealt with conflict, anger, and pet peeves as we grew together, each person bringing a specific gift to the table. Anna Learned brought incredible organization skills that kept us on task; Noah Bowlin brought crazy dancing and an unusual, yet respected, love for ostriches; Lance Crawford brought equal parts of humor and professionalism that kept us laughing and working; Dakota Bibbs brought the music and counseling spirit that built unity; and Richard Morris brought classic humor at unexpected moments and deep wisdom that leveled tension when it was needed most. At the beginning of the summer I considered these people my friends, but after working together for eight weeks, I can tell you we were merely acquaintances then—we are family now.
One of the gems of the Office of Continuing Education, Mrs. Cheli, led us in weekly devotionals. We were encouraged to rediscover how Christ has no beginning or end, and how faithful He is in creating us to be masterpieces of His work. As we were guided through these qualities of Christ each week, we also worked to provide an environment where students could learn about that same God. We had five weeks of FUGE, one week of Super Summer, and one week of Student Life. To run a week of camp we handed out between 200-1,100 keys, answered questions, checked air conditioners, spilled snocone syrup, made smoothies, ran the craziest relay race I have ever seen during FUGE, hauled water coolers, unlocked dorms, and collected those same 200-1,100 keys at the end of the week.
Every Saturday we finished mentally and physically drained. “Never again,” was a phrase we jokingly uttered that usually implied “Never again… until Monday.” Even though we were exhausted every day, the Lord provided a reminder of why we did our job. Sometimes it was a conversation with a faculty member at MC or a student who had just accepted Christ. One night the top floor of a residence hall flooded. As I waited to mop up the mess a herd of campers piled out into the dry side of the hall and proceeded to play worship music using a guitar that was out of tune and a suitcase for a drum. While that wasn’t the most joyful noise, I could hear and feel the sincerity of those sweet campers’ hearts. The Lord was just as present on this campus during the summer as He is in the school year.
I thought it was going to be the perfect summer—I was wrong. The grassy hills and expanses I had envisioned turned out to be the intramural field where we hauled water coolers every morning. The field didn’t extend forever into the horizon, but every day I watched students as they learned about Christ. I did not get sunburned and my Chaco tan is only noticeable if you shine a flashlight on my blinding skin (sunglasses are suggested). The team I expected to laugh with turned out to be people I knew—or thought I knew—living on the same campus each of us loves. My little staff family, now a more unified family, was far from perfect.
Turns out, my summer was not at all what I had imagined. Working at MC wasn’t a perfect summer, but it was incredible and life changing. It pushed, challenged, and tested my every limit. If I had to go back and choose to do it again, knowing about the days full of chaos, stress, laughter, and friendship, I know I would run head first into the experience all over again.