Favorite camp food?

I was probably one of the few people who never grew tired of Taco Tuesdays. I love tacos — it’s a meal that’s fun both to make and to eat. Even getting seconds of wicked detailed taco orders for campers couldn’t crush my love of tacos.

How did you decide to go on KDSM?

Initially, it seemed like an odd way to spend a summer. When I was finally convinced that a Cru summer mission was a good idea, I had every intention of going to Ocean City, Maryland, with my region. I somewhat impulsively started looking at other projects and stumbled upon the KD page. The working-with-kids-at-a-camp part caught my attention.

I’m a fairly stubborn person, and I decided I needed to be away from home and school to really learn more about myself and God. Here’s the best explanation I’ve ever given: I needed to be immersed in nature with people I didn’t know so I could give myself and God a real shot without any training wheels or safety net.

Communicating my decision to go on a summer mission to my friends and family was interesting — everyone assumed that I would stay in D.C. for a job or internship. The initial choice wasn’t particularly challenging, but defending and sticking with it was difficult.

What did you learn by raising support?

I strongly dislike asking for help, so support-raising was a rather challenging endeavor. I learned I have people in my life who want me to succeed and cheer for me. I learned I have a long way to go in trusting God to provide for all my needs. I saw God take my small belief and do big things.

Why invest a summer serving at a camp?

My goal was to be a light by loving my campers and showing/telling them about God. In the process, I saw Him in and through my kids. Some of them were closed off and disengaged but would light up when we played games or colored with chalk. Other campers were open and clingy. Both types of children wanted and needed love without necessarily knowing how to accept it or to ask for it.

In my campers, I saw the loving side of God, the joyful side of God, the protective side, and many other traits. I also saw the brokenness of the world in them. I saw the brokenness of myself in them. Children and teenagers don’t often sugarcoat things — if something is wrong, they will tell you. I found their (sometimes brutal) honesty refreshing, and it encouraged me to practice transparency.

By the end of the summer, I understood that every interaction was important, whether it led to a child making a decision for Christ or just a planted seed. At school, I work closely with the first-year student population, and my experience on KDSM helped to set my expectations for their development. Many of them are looking to find out who they really are, and I feel prepared to love them and serve as a welcoming, stable presence in their lives.

How did discipleship impact and equip you?

At my school, we have a bystander intervention program called Step Up. For me, discipleship could be appropriately dubbed Step Up B_rizzle! I learned I must be real with myself and God. I once heard a pastor say, “God can’t bless who you pretend to be.” I began to understand God really cares about and is invested in my life.

Discipleship provided a foundation to confront my problem areas and taught me about empathizing with others. Back on campus, I use what I gained from discipleship to navigate through life, explore spiritual truths, and support others who are experiencing similar situations as I am.

Talk to us about community.

We bonded remarkably quickly as a group. We played silly games, worshiped, and worked together. Most importantly, we supported each other in everything, whether sitting on a swing, working through major issues, or bringing a book to the pool so I wouldn’t swim alone.

I felt completely safe emotionally. I knew any of my peers or any staff member would be willing to listen if I went to them. We did everything together — from having dance parties to crying over truth we were learning. Such an environment is seriously priceless. I continue to value it and hope to foster a community like it on my campus.

How have you seen yourself change because of KDSM?

As I faced a number of fears and challenges, I was supported by the entire group. Personally, this was far more significant than the actual activities. My comfort zone was expanded, and I am now much more likely to try new things. Bottom line: I became comfortable with who the Lord created me to be, which has helped me accept people with personalities different from my own.

Any last words?

KDSM is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I learned about myself, about God, and about people. It was also one of the most challenging. I was stretched in so many ways while simultaneously being accepted for who I am. Going on a summer mission is definitely not an easy or light decision, but if it’s in God’s plan, it will happen and rank high on your list of life experiences. Also, if you go, stay for as long as you possibly can — it is just that awesome!

Bria Hilliard

School

American University

Graduation year

Spring 2017

Major

International Studies