Chandal Geerdes/News Editor
Many Cedar Falls High School students volunteer, but not many students will get the opportunity to commit two whole months of their summer doing so.
Junior Ellen Jones has already volunteered at many places, working with K-6 graders at her church, leading in vacation bible school and serving on four mission trips. This summer Jones will get the opportunity to spend her summer at the Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp (RLBC).
This camp is run by Dave and Jan McDermott and has been in operation since 1945 under multiple owners since then.
Jones, along with around 46 senior counselors (college-aged) and 20 junior counselors (high school-aged), will be counseling at RLBC.
Riverside exists to provide a Christ-centered camping experience to children and adults of all ages. At Riverside, campers can enjoy prayer, singing, fun, crafts, games, free-time, Bible study, eating, campfires, skits and more. Jones originally got wind of this camp from her brother, Alex Jones.
“My brother started going there his 8th grade year and would never stop talking about it, so when I was old enough I started to attend as a camper,” Jones said.
Jones was a camper at RLBC for 10 years. During her years there she met her best friend and found many supporters.
“Being a camper at Riverside has changed my life. The people there helped me get through my parents’ divorce and have been there whenever I need anything, still,” Jones said.
She has had the opportunity to meet and experience several different counselors.
“[She] has a deep knowledge of what being a great counselor means,” Chris Dahl said.
Dahl is the Associate Program Coordinator at Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp.
“With this experience and her love for Jesus and people, she will be great at engaging her campers each week. Her energy and positive attitude will be infectious with the campers she comes in contact with, and through all of this, campers will come to know her heart and love for Jesus.”
Applying to be a counselor at RLBC was not an easy task. The application found online is filled out like any other job application, but for this job, the applicant must write 10 essays prompted by questions about his faith and life. This application process took Jones three weeks to complete.
“The hardest part for me was just having to think about myself so much and really think about why I wanted to work there,” Jones said.
RLBC has many great applicants for the positions as counselors and other staff members
“Ellen is certainly one of the [great applicants]. Her love for Jesus and for people is evident as we've seen her grow over the years,” Dahl said. “She has an energy that will draw campers and people into a fun and safe atmosphere here at camp. We feel that she is responsible and can be entrusted with this position in counseling students.”
Jones wanted to work at RLBC because it has had such an influence on her life already, and now she wants to return the favor and influence those she will be counseling.
Jones found out she got the job March 30. She received the email during RCT time and could not sit still the rest of the day.
“I went crazy. I got even more excited when my best friend called me after school and told me she got the job too,” Jones said.
As a counselor, Jones expects and hopes to help kids learn about the Bible and what Jesus did for mankind. She also hopes she grows herself as a person.
“At the same time I hope that the staff and even the kids can teach me more about my faith,” Jones said.
As a junior counselor each week, Jones will be partnered with a college counselor and they will have a group of campers. They will lead Bible studies and other activities for the campers, ranging in age from elementary to junior high.
“The main responsibilities for counselors at Riverside is to build strong, trusting relationships with campers,” Dahl said.
Within the cabins this summer, each cabin will have anywhere from eight-14 campers along with two counselors. The counselors spend all day with the campers: eating meals with them, worshiping together, Bible study together, praying for the campers, playing with the campers, listening to the campers, riding horses with the campers.
“Simply being present with the campers, showing them the love of God, and leading them to come to know Jesus Christ. Our counselors are the ones that make camp happen; without them and the relationships they build with the campers, our programming would not be half as strong as it is,” Dahl said.
Jones will start her training as a counselor June 3 and will train for a full week before campers come the following week on June 10. The camp has a new group of kids every week all summer until Aug. 10 when the camp ends. The campers arrive at three on Sunday and leave at three on Friday.
Since Jones aspires to be a youth pastor after college, she feels that this will be a great way to start her work journey.
“I want to see if this really is my dream job,” Jones said.
Jones said she hopes that this experience will shape her everyday life and faith.
“I am hoping that this summer I will become a more well-rounded person and that I will be able to relate to more people and be a better friend," she said.
“Ellen will continue to grow and learn this summer, along with everyone else, how to be a disciple of Jesus, one who desires to know Jesus more and share the new life and joy we find in a relationship with Him,” Dahl said. “She's open to growing along with the rest of our staff, and this experience will be one that will build her into an even stronger leader within the church and her community.”