By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director
There are those who go through the motions when it comes to their faith, and then there’s junior Jonathan Douglas, a member of the Concordia tennis team. As Douglas puts it, “I'm all in for serving God with my life and that is all that matters.”
The faith displayed by the director of Christian education major pours out in obvious ways even when he answers questions about his play on the tennis court. So obviously the chance to serve as a counselor at a Christian summer camp felt natural.
“I loved the idea about working at a Christian sports camp,” Douglas said. “I have a huge heart for sports and an even bigger heart to serve God with my life. This also seemed right down my alley because I'm hoping to get a degree to be a director of Christian education and this is an awesome opportunity for me to work on showing Christ's light while working with kids.”
Douglas, or “J.D.” as he is typically called, just completed a 10-week run from June 27 to Aug. 10 at Kamp Kanakuk K-2 in Lampe, Mo., situated on Table Rock Lake. The camp, as described on its website, is “a place where teenagers come to play, train, laugh, learn and grow so that they can return to the tough world of teens refreshed physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
While the goal is to positively impact the lives of the campers, counselors are not shielded from experiencing powerful moments. For Douglas, one such moment made him realize exactly why he decided to be part of Kamp Kanakuk. It happened when he helped convince a boy named Dakota to essentially commit to his faith.
“I went through some of the main points of the Roman Road, the gospel, with him and in that next moment I led him in the prayer of surrendering his life to God,” Douglas said. “Immediately following, we went up and rang the bell, symbolizing Dakota’s decision to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. As soon as he rang the bell, I knew that was why I was a counselor.”
These joys overshadowed the fact that Douglas and other counselors were not permitted to use their cell phones and other electronics, except for days off. Douglas was mostly unfazed despite living in a world in which young adults are often glued to their smart phones.
“This isn't hard for me because I realize the sacrifice is totally worth it and each week we have a day off and we are allowed to use it,” Douglas said. “The only hard part about not having it is not being able to talk to the significant people in my life like my family and girlfriend.”
While the camp is much about the pursuit and celebration of faith, Douglas describes the experience as much more. It’s a place where campers go to dances as part of nightly activities, play sports and socialize with their peers.
“Dances are a blast because the majority of the people at the camp don't know how to dance, but everyone just goes out there and has a blast,” Douglas said. “It is a fun way for the kids to hang out with their buddies while also having a safe dancing environment that is way better than dances in the outside world.”
As a member of the Bulldog tennis squad, the sports portions of the camp represented another highlight for Douglas. The Fenton, Mo., native, along with teammate Joe Vanderveld, has had the opportunity to both play tennis and provide instruction in Lampe.
Says Douglas, “We spend three hours, six days a week playing tennis. It’s awesome to be able to pour out my knowledge onto the kids and be able to see them grow in just the short time that they are there.”
In addition, Douglas enjoyed great accommodations, living in an air-conditioned cabin and eating food he says is the best he’s ever had at any camp. He may have been disconnected from family and friends for periods of time, but many occurrences have reinforced that the good outweighs the inconveniences.
“The most rewarding thing about being at camp is seeing the kids have that light bulb moment of realizing that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life,” Douglas said. “Seeing them finally understand that Christ died for their sins and being able to help lead them towards giving their lives to God makes all the hard work worth it.
“One of the things I never expected as I thought about working at camp was that the more I help the kids in their walk with God, the more the kids help me grow in my walk with God.”
Douglas will not return to K-2 next year due to a summer long internship that will allow him to earn his degree in director of Christian education.
Catch Douglas on the tennis courts this spring as he competes for the Bulldogs.