When Sierra Koenke arrived at Camp Heritage she planned to stay only a week to help train staff in the horse barn.
Koenke, who has been showing horses since she was 12, was looking forward to showing a world class horse at a competition during the summer. Koenke had her whole summer planned out.
“I was like, ‘This summer is going to be great,’” Koenke said.
With her eyes on the future, Koenke was adamant that she was not staying at camp for the summer. But, as Koenke experienced camp, she began to reconsider her decision.
Koenke attends public school and said that even though a lot of her friends consider themselves to be Christians, they don’t attend church. Koenke’s friends would often invite Koenke to events on Friday nights, but Koenke wouldn’t attend them.
At camp, Koenke found herself in a different situation — she was surrounded by young people who shared her faith.
“I was like, ‘This is awesome,’” Koenke said. “These are people my age having fun being Christians.”
Koenke saw people her age leading group worships and having Bible studies. Koenke said growing up Seventh-day Adventist she felt she had grown numb to what God was doing in her life. At camp though, Koenke said things were different.
“To come to an environment like [camp], where everybody is filled with the Holy Spirit … it’s kind of like I woke up and knew that this mission was important,” Koenke said.
At the end of the week, Koenke’s parents came to take her home. Koenke was talking with her mom when she broke into tears. She told her mom that she didn’t know what to do. Koenke felt torn between working at camp and participating in the horse show.
Koenke said she felt called by God to work at camp. That day, as she sat talking with her mom, she said she decided she wanted to stay at Camp Heritage. But Koenke wasn’t sure she would be able to fulfill her other commitments — teaching riding lessons, showing the world class horse and hanging out with friends.
After talking with camp director Denison Sager, a schedule was arranged so Koenke could still teach riding lessons. Koenke said she knew she would miss the horse show but that it was worth it.
“I get to be a part of God’s ministry,” Koenke said. “And I feel like that is more important.”
At camp Koenke worked in the barn and later also worked as a substitute counselor. Koenke describes her experience working with campers as “awesome.”
“You know, it was great because the kids’ faces when they are around the horses, they just lit up,” Koenke said.
Next summer Koenke plans to work at Camp Heritage again.
“Camp is one of those things that just sucks you in,” Koenke said. “Because God is here. He is here. The Holy Spirit is here. And I don’t get this feeling anywhere else.”