By Ben Herr |

Summer Camp Countdown: 2010 (with Jacob Ragsdale)

In 2010, the Summer Camp Director torch was passed from Dave Bouffard to Josh Foley. Josh, a long-time staffer who got his start in 2004 as a Junior Counselor, would now be developing the summer camp program. For his first summer, he used the theme “In Pursuit” – based on Galatians 5:25:

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (ESV)

Like Josh before him, a young man by the name of Jacob Ragsdale was transitioning from long-time camper to Junior Counselor. It was his second year of JC-hood in 2010, and in the following interview, Jacob joins me in exploring that year’s theme, as well as his personal growth experiences, an experience with a particularly challenging camper, and updates on his personal life going forward.

Patrick: What do you remember about the summer of 2010?

Jacob: I look back on that summer as an amazing and deep time with the Lord in my own life. The summer prior to that (2009) was my first summer on staff, and I was very young at the time. That first summer really impacted me, but it was more a rite of passage, transitioning from camper to counselor.

So in 2010, I really feel like God opened up my heart in new and powerful ways. The sort of experiences that newly-saved Christians describe, I was feeling that all over again in 2010, but even deeper. I felt like I was reaching an understanding about the heart of the Gospel really deeply.

Patrick: Why do you think that was the case?

Jacob: I was coming out of a time where I had been in a relationship with a young lady that wasn’t very healthy or God-honoring. And in coming out of this relationship, I realized that I was just like everyone else. I fail. I make mistakes.

It was the first time I realized that, at the heart of the Gospel, it’s that we can’t do this on our own. We can’t earn salvation. But God is in pursuit of us, our sin notwithstanding. So in 2010 I was just truly receiving grace as a gift.

Patrick: As you experienced this new level of grace, how did that bleed over into your work as Junior Counselor to the campers?

Jacob: Honestly, God used campers all the time to teach me lessons. There was this one young camper, I think he was in fourth grade. He was very difficult to deal with. I remember him getting angry and running off, and I’d have to run after him. And there I was, pursuing him, literally.

He seemed so frustrated by every decision we made as counselors. I remember him saying “you don’t like me as much as the other kids.” He gave an example: “Remember when you gave the mop to another camper instead of me?” He wanted attention and he wanted to step up, but he was caught in this pattern of just feeling snubbed.

So my work from that point on was to pursue him, not just chasing him when he was upset, but to love him and show him that he didn’t need to earn favor. He was already loved. And as I did that, I knew that that’s how God was with me. I think that camper ultimately had a good week because I applied the lesson and he accepted the lesson that God loves us unconditionally.

I saw that same camper the next year and he had really changed and matured. He seemed like a totally different kid; much less insecure in who he was, and he definitely loved camp that year.

Patrick: You’d been a long-time camper at Black Rock Retreat, right?

Jacob: Yes, I started going as a camper in the summer of 2000 and kept returning as a camper every year until I became a Junior Counselor in 2009.

Patrick: How did your thorough knowledge of Black Rock Retreat help you as a counselor? And how did it hinder you?

Jacob: I had a deep-seated love for camp and an enthusiasm for what we were doing at all times. And I got to tell other staff members that didn’t have as much background about what made camp great for me in previous years as a camper.

What hindered me? It’s easy to get caught up in camp itself. Like, in the program, and just the way it runs, and there are times where my enthusiasm was just “Woo! I’m at camp all summer!” But as the summer would progress, that energy would be sapped, and I had to learn to rely on the Holy Spirit for energy to persevere. I loved the campers and wanted to see God work in their lives, and that requires I rely on the Holy Spirit for strength.

Patrick: 2010 was Josh Foley’s first year as Summer Camp Director. You had been a camper in Josh’s cabin multiple times, right?

Jacob: At least three times, maybe four. I’d request him to be my counselor every year.

Patrick: So you were close to him, but how did that change when he became director and you were a counselor?

Jacob: I think it was challenging. I was used to being able to get more attention from him when I was a camper, and I always looked to him as a mentor. But now it’s more like a peer relationship and a friendship. I’m not sure it was exactly that in 2010 – it was a time of transition. But that relationship was huge to me growing up, so I had so much respect to him. I can remember choices I made in middle school and high school that were God-honoring, and I remember making those decisions because of the relationship I had with Josh and looking to his example for inspiration. So now I’m coming into adulthood and the relationship isn’t as much getting advice on how to live, but how to serve these campers … how can I be to them like Josh was to me?

Patrick: What do you make of that theme verse, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit?” That’s a verse that frankly I’m not all that familiar with.

Jacob: I think what Paul is saying here is like this: First, it wasn’t the law that saves us. We don’t win God’s affection. We are saved, and then the Spirit is given to us. And after that transformative process begins, Paul is saying – since our whole lives will be lived out with the Spirit, we’re to continue living in that way. God pursued me, and now I’m to keep walking in step with that pursuit.

That summer we talked a lot about the parable of the Prodigal Son. There was nothing that ever made the younger son deserving of his father’s love, but his father never stopped loving him, never stopped longing for his return. And when the son returned, the father didn’t wait for him to beg for his place; he ran out to him and pursued him even after he had run away.

Patrick: What’s going on in your life right now, Jake?

Jacob: I’m presently finishing my undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies at Regent University. I’m really excited to move on to graduate work … I intend to stay at Regent in seminary. I’ve also begun work with Young Life in the area around Regent University (Virginia Beach). I’m really excited to work with Young Life, as it’s a lot of similar work as at Black Rock. I’ll be building relationships with a lot of youth, and I know it’s something God’s given me strength to do.

As for summer 2014 … I hope to be there! But as for what I’d be doing, everyone will have to wait and see – I don’t want to give anything away just yet!

Thanks again to Jake for speaking with me about his 2010 experiences and what he’s up to today.

Were you a camper or staff member during 2010, the “In Pursuit” summer? Were you in Jacob’s cabin that summer or any other summers? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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