This week we are humbled to share these well-crafted words by Bridge Builders and MYLA camper Hanisi Smith.  Hanisi’s faith and the words she has to share this week provide leadership for us all to follow. We thank God for the work God is doing at LWM and in the lives of  young leaders like Hanisi!

I used to believe God could only be found at church or in the bible. I was blind to the multidimensional parts of faith that bring God to life. I felt insecure in conversations about Christ because I measured my faith with my ability to memorize Bible verses. I struggled to connect with my faith and I felt like an outsider when I went to church. Because of this, I often felt unsure of my relationship with God.

The first time I felt sure of God was on a beach during Bridge Builders. Holding hands with people who had turned from strangers to family in a matter of days I looked out at the crashing waves. As we stood in silence I remember being moved to tears as I listened to the water roar. Wild and free I could feel God’s presence and I relished in it, knowing this was a rare moment of absolute confidence. God was here and I felt it in every fiber of my being.

I have always believed in God but my ability to recognize and nurture that relationship often varied based on life events. When life gets busy and we get caught up in the chaos it is easy to become disconnected. But going to camp, established a connection to my faith that would remain constant throughout my life.

I remember arriving at camp and hearing an elated cheer as a girl came over and welcomed me with a hug. I had never seen her before in my life and I assumed she was a counselor, because welcoming people like this is probably their job. But to my surprise she was just another camper like me, and her bold ability to shamelessly love a stranger astounded me. Throughout the week this girl would continue to be bold in her affection and I watched as everyone around her matched her energy. That week a community was formed, one designed specifically to lift each other up and embrace one anothers uniqueness. I remember thinking this is how the world should be. God loves us unconditionally and embodying that love to share it with others was something I wanted to do.

As I returned home from camp I arrived with a new ambition. I wanted to make everyone I interacted with feel loved. This was a large goal, and I am still working at it everyday but it changed the way I practiced my faith. Now I see God come to life, I find God in the faces of other people. I may still struggle to memorize Bible verses and I am inconsistent with attending church, but now I see God everyday. When I greet a neighbor on a walk in the morning or I pause during a bike ride to say hello to a friendly dog I am reminded that I am not alone. God’s creation is beautifully and wonderfully made and we are surrounded by this phenomena all the time. Camp showed me what it means to love your neighbors and it gave me a community who will walk with me as I journey through life. As I experience new highs and new lows I know God is with me, often in the form of a call from a camp friend.

Hanisi Smith
LWM Camper