Author Kristin Ziesmer is in her second year of studies at Andrews University, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Trauma and Disaster Response.
Have you ever seen the wonder, or perhaps terror, in a kid’s eyes as they touch a reptile for the first time? That is a feeling that I was privileged to experience this past summer. I used to be scared of snakes. It was a fear that I inherited from my father, and one that I was always okay with keeping.
Throughout my life, I had never felt a need to let go of my snake-induced fear; besides, didn’t God curse snakes? However, that all changed when I became the Nature director my third summer working at Camp Wakonda. If you have worked at a summer camp or had any interaction with kids, you will know that children can smell your fear. I mean, if you even wince in the direction of a bug, that bug will somehow be brought to you and waved in your face while laughter and taunting fill your ears. I am not really scared of most things at camp, but I realized that my fear of snakes was going to be quickly used against me if I did not control it.
So, before camp began, I told Pastor Chavez that I needed a snake. We chose a baby corn snake because it was little and non-threatening. I actually cringed when the pet store employee handed me the little box, but I told myself that it was time for me to let go of my fear. Over the next few weeks, I carried that little snake around with me and held him as much as I could. It got a little easier every day. By the time the campers came, I was best buddies with that snake. And then I got to do the coolest thing — I got to help the campers let go of their fears, too.
During one of our family camps, there was a little girl who spent hours in the Nature Center. She only wanted to play with the fluffy animals (but, honestly, who can blame her?). During the week, I made it my mission to help her overcome her fears. Slowly, but surely, I convinced her to poke the snake. After she poked it (gently), she quickly petted it. Realizing it couldn’t hurt her, she asked to hold it. The look of wonder and excitement on her face as she held the snake made the whole summer worth it.
Sometimes, God asks us to let go of things so He can give us something better. He will take our fears and anxieties and give us wonderful experiences that only He can imagine and make happen. Letting go is always one of the hardest things for me, whether it’s letting go of my fear of snakes or letting go of my fear for the future. Camp Wakonda’s motto is “a place set apart.” I truly believe God has set summer camp as a place to reach people, both the campers and the staff. At Camp Wakonda, you can let go of your troubles and fears and let God give you what you need.
Kristin Zeismer, Camp Wakonda Nature Director