Experience of a Lifetime

In September of 2018, I attended the ISNA Convention in Houston Texas. I was in my junior year of college and signed up to be a volunteer for the MSA National convention that was happening simultaneously with the ISNA and MYNA conventions. During that convention I saw how amazing it is for so many muslims literally from all around the world coming together to listen to amazing speakers, pray side by side with one another, and develop meaningful relationships with brothers and sisters in Islam. A volunteer I worked with noticed my enormous amount of energy and leadership skill and recommended that I sign up to be a MYNA camp counselor. He even said, “You would be perfect for MYNA.”

Fast forward to about a month later and that same volunteer I had worked with sent me a link to sign up to be a MYNA camp counselor. I remember the day I signed up very vividly. I was sick and decided to not attend class that day. As I was taking antibiotics and dealing with a clogged nose I took out my computer and proceeded to complete the ever so long application. I submitted it, and prayed that I would receive a spot.

Every few months leading up to the camp I would email someone over at MYNA asking if they had decided on the counselors. I feel like I may have been a tad bit annoying as I would be emailing someone constantly, but when I want something I work really hard to get it. Alhamdulilah, in mid November I got more information and was beginning the process to become a counselor.

Time passed and eventually it was December. I had asked off from work for the duration of camp and started preparing. I get my campers fuzzy socks and face masks as a cute welcome gift. I asked a friend who was a counselor at a previous MYNA camp for everything I was about to get myself into. She told me I was in for an experience of a lifetime.

A lot of people do not know the real reason for why I decided to sign up to be a MYNA camp counselor. There are many reasons as to why I signed up. One reason was because my main goal in 2018 was to reconnect with Allah. I really struggled to find a true and meaningful connection with Allah for a while and I hoped that I would have the opportunity at camp. Another reason was because I am an education major and I wanted to spend a long period of time with kids to know if I wanted to stick to that major. Another reason was because I wanted to serve my time to something I felt was important. Muslim youth is something I am very passionate about and anyway I could help I was happy to do so. The final reason was because my birthday was going to fall on the first day of camp. I am notorious for having miserable birthdays. I'm not sure why, but I just do. So instead of doing some big thing celebrating myself, I wanted to do something for someone else. I wanted to focus on the kids at camp and be able to give them the best week possible.

After a few days of training and getting to know my co counselors, camp officially began. I met my campers one by one as they arrived in Vanberg Hall and escorted them to our cabin where I helped set up their sleeping bags. After introducing one another, followed by dinner, and Isha prayer campers made their way back to the cabin to do reflections and get ready for bed. During the reflections I somehow slipped out that it was my birthday and the whole cabin began to sing the happy birthday song. Even though I hate that birthday I stood there awkwardly and watched a bunch of camper celebrate that I had orbited the solar system a total of 20 times. After a loud birthday chant I tried to settle the girls in for reflections. It was in that moment that I knew I was going to have the best week of my life.

Everyday was something new. Amazing speakers filled the camp site, fun activities filled with old school competitiveness, and the presence of technology eliminated allowed for friendship and fellowship to light up the whole camp site.

I can’t put my finger on the moment where I knew camp was something special. It just was. Even though there were difficult days filled with wet socks and three hours of sleep, it was all worth it.

Towards the end of camp I had grown so incredibly close to my co counselors. I truly cannot think of a better group of people I have ever worked with. I had also grown close to campers that weren’t even mine. In that week each and every one of us had grown close to one another. We had become a family.

The last day of camp was the hardest. It was hard to say goodbye to my campers. In some cases I wouldn't even say “goodbye.” I remember a moment where one of my campers was about to board the bus back to Kansas. She was crying and I couldn’t help but let go of tears that I was holding back. Not because I was going to miss her. Well of course I was going to miss her, but because when she first came to camp she was shy and to herself and by the end of camp she was the superstar of our cabin. She was opening up and helped Lucky Lotas win third place in Camp Cup. She had grown and come out of her shell and showed us who she really was. Right before she boarded the bus I told her I was going to write her letters and that we would keep in touch. I told her that she should come back to MYNA camp cause I would do everything to come back and be her counselor again. So instead of saying “goodbye” I said see you later InshAllah.

Camp has been over for the past few weeks. The “MYNA high” is still alive and well. I talk to my co-counselors every single day. I’m  pretty sure they are sick of me at this point, but like I said before, we became a family. I bought a bunch of stationary to send my campers letters and pictures from camp. I couldn't help but think about my experience at MYNA camp everyday. It helped me reshape the person I am today.

During training, our advisor Sr. Sumrah told us that the camp would probably be more beneficial for us counselors than for the campers. I truly cannot agree with a statement more. I now know that being a teacher is exactly what I am meant to do. I know that Allah has blessed me with an extraordinary experience of a lifetime and I cannot wait for the chance to do it all over again.