An Unexpected Lesson in Leadership
“I came into LEAD thinking it was going to be like summer camp for the whole year. You know, tons of adventure and fun. But it was a lot more than that. I wasn’t expecting self-change or going through any of my tough stuff.”
Offered at three of InterVarsity’s nine camps, the Leadership Experience and Discipleship (LEAD) program is an eight-month journey that invites young adults age 18-25 into deeper fellowship with Jesus through intentional service at camp. Leon Manthey was a 2016-2017 LEAD participant at InterVarsity Circle Square Ranch Big Clear Lake.
However, Leon’s journey to faith began four years prior, when a friend invited him to spend a week at summer camp.
“I wasn’t a Christian yet,” he says, “but it looked like fun. I didn’t have an exact moment of meeting Jesus, but, about halfway through camp, I was worshipping at campfire and I realized I was taking it seriously. It meant something to me.”
But after each summer of camp, it was challenging for Leon to stay connected to his new faith.
“I decided to remove myself from my friend group and was kind of living alone. I was also going through stuff with my family. I took a lot of grief for what I believed, but it’s been worth it.”
And one of the reasons it’s been worth it is because of how God worked in Leon’s life during LEAD.
At campfire, campers like Leon are given an opportunity to take a step of faith for Jesus.
“LEAD was a huge change in a way I never expected, like in softening my heart and learning more humility and putting others before myself. Like my attitude and how I hold my heart towards people has completely changed. I used to rank myself in accordance with other people and see myself as better or worse. But now I have more of a softness of heart towards everyone.”
The intentional discipleship and Scripture study that are part of LEAD challenged Leon’s presuppositions about leadership, too.
“I really like strong, straightforward male leadership, so when I found out the person running LEAD was going to be a small, really positive girl, it was challenging for me honestly. It was hard to take advice from her at the start. But through LEAD I learned that other people have so much more to offer when you let them.”
The experience also allowed him to explore his relationship with God in more personal ways. He says, “I learned that I needed connection with God not just through camp, but by making the relationship my own. It takes practice. It’s not usually easy, but you have to be intentional. God’s always speaking and talking. He’s always working in you whether you know it or not.”
Leon went on to lead one of the three tracks at Circle Square Ranch Big Clear Lake’s Adventure Camp. As for his plans going forward, he says: “I’ll be in the camp world as long as they’ll let me stay.”
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