Maddie Stephen's Story

My uncle once asked me what has impacted my faith journey the most. Without hesitation I knew the answer-Westminster Woods.
                I was raised always going to church and all the events they put on, and both of my parents have personal relationships with Christ. Therefore, I always knew who God was and I had many examples to look up to for I how I should live out my faith. However, it wasn't until I encountered the love of God at the Woods that I started developing my own relationship with Him.
                My first experience of Westminster Woods was in third grade. My parents' bible study and their kids went there for a weekend getaway. The first day there, I met Emily Wheeler. We quickly became inseparable and were able to continue the long distance friendship throughout the years.  In sixth grade she invited me to my first PSK summer camp. I instantly fell in love. That summer I also went to WMW with my youth group for a summer camp. Needless to say, after that I spent every weekend possible visiting the Wheelers or on retreats.
                Over the years, I have met some of the most God-fearing, humble spiritual mentors. Through chapels, quiet times, cabin devos, and my relationships with people there, I have discovered who I am and how to genuinely be in fellowship with Christ. I can confidently say I would not be where I am today if it weren't for the people I met at the Woods. I'm struggling putting the impact this place has had on my life into words. The love and support I found there has helped me through many struggles in life.
                I learned what true Christ-centered friendship looks like. I met some of my closest friends at the Woods. Throughout the years, they have lifted me up when I needed them, held me accountable, loved me with Christ's love and been a light in my life. We once had a counselor tell the four of us that we would be friends forever. I'm so thankful that God brought the four of us together at the Woods, and now I can confidently say we will spend eternity together worshiping the One we love.  
                I learned about God's love there. I didn't just learn about it though; I felt it. After a summer at the Woods, a person is never the same, because no one is the same after encountering Christ's love.  When God revealed Himself to me and the love He has for me, I couldn't deny or doubt it anymore. Because of time spent at Westminster Woods, I now know I have a Father who will love me forever, no matter how many times I sin against Him.
I learned what having a servant's heart means. When I was younger, I did not realize how exhausting and hard of a job it was for my counselors to take care of me. I am now so thankful for their hard work and leadership. The staff never just did what was expected of them but went above and beyond to make me feel special. For three years, I was an LDP and I also counseled middle school girls through Eastminster. At camp, I learned the true meaning of being a servant, and not just to people. After serving at the woods, I realized it wasn't just about serving others, but being Christ's servant too.
I learned what it meant to have a personal relationship with God there. I learned that God wants me. This is probably my favorite thing I learned at the Woods. The staff at the Woods poured so much of their hearts into me, loving me and teaching me to try and help lead me to this realization. My friends supported me and encouraged me along the way.  Through my times at the Woods, I realized that it's not just enough to believe in God. He desires a relationship with me, His daughter, and for me to love Him back. Having a relationship with God is my greatest joy in life.
                I have camp to thank for changing my life. I have the staff and Wheelers there to thank for pouring so much into me and making it all possible. I have my friends to thank for walking alongside me in life. I have Christ to thank for giving me the opportunity to grow up in such a wonderful place and being so blessed by the people at Westminster Woods.                                      Maddie Stephens