My freshman year of college was one of the most difficult years of my life. My dad had recently been diagnosed with cancer, I was terrified of my unknown future, and I had chosen to follow the traditional route of attending college because that’s what I was “supposed to do.” After graduating top of my high school class and beginning my undergraduate career, I felt the increasing pressure to make big life decisions; and yet, all that I seemed to feel was an overwhelming sense of anxiety that I hadn’t the slightest clue of what I was doing with my life. I felt lost, alone, and confused.
It was a chilly November evening in 2014 when I distinctly remember sitting in the basement of Concordia College’s library, munching on a bag of stale popcorn, and randomly doing a Google search of “camps out west.” Because in that shadowed season, I knew that I needed a fresh start that coming summer. I’ve always been an avid planner by nature, and while I’m not proud to admit it, my nineteen-year-old self wanted to escape all responsibilities, relationships, and reality — and to find a new adventure elsewhere.
[A little bit of context: growing up, I spent a week at bible camp in Minnesota every summer and it was always the highlight of my year. When I was in grade school, I told myself that I would someday become a camp counselor — because I wanted to be just like the counselors that I had admired for years. I wanted to have the same kind of positive impact that came from stepping outside of my comfort zone and having a closer relationship with Jesus.]
And so, that Google search was motivated by a childhood history of wonderfully wild weeks spent at camp — delightfully long days made brighter by the stars that shone far into the night, friendships that were built off of relying on one another through demanding experiences (and belly laughs), and always that sense of adventure that in turn caused fulfillment, peace, and growth.
That Google search – or God – led me to finding Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp.
I applied, interviewed, and was hired. When I received that phone call from Nathan Clements offering me the job of a camp counselor I felt an abounding sense of peace. The time and place felt right.
Coming to work in Montana in June of 2015 was me stepping into the unknown — but there was never any doubt in my mind that moving west was exactly where I was called to be at that point in my life. You can call it my own forceful will, but I know that God’s hand was also undoubtedly in the plan. My summers at FLBC were the greatest gift during that season of my life and a (literal) breath of fresh air. Rather than being a brief interlude of escaping reality, those 10 weeks each summer filled my soul for the entire year. It’s why I kept on returning year after year and dragging more friends along with me every time. (I’m a believer that when you love something dearly, you have to share it with as many people as possible!)
FLBC quickly became my second home. And I was surprised by how fast those new friends became my family. I soon realized that working in outdoor ministry offered the perfect recipe for a summer of fulfillment, fun, and friendship.
I will never be able to fully articulate just how much my four summers at FLBC impacted my life. My perspectives, attitudes, and beliefs were shaped for the better. While I found that new adventure I was seeking, I also discovered something so much better: a family, deep sense of fulfillment, and a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Camp proved to be an incubator for cultivating all of these things.
Every week, we would pour our hearts and energy into the people who we came into contact with each week. Campers, volunteers, pastors — because the people rotated every seven days, no camp week looked the same. Every week, every day, every hour, offered a new challenge and adventure which we boldly accepted. With minimal technology and 97% of our time spent outside, there was a wonder and peace in being so present — worshiping, praying, exploring, playing, and pushing one another in the most positive ways.
To top it all off, I was introduced to the world of outdoor recreation. Hiking, backpacking, climbing, rafting, sailing… it was all new territory and my heart was quickly captured by the beautiful allure, adventure, and abiding peace that it provided. Along with the fact that I was able to enjoy it alongside souls who loved it just as much (or more!) as me.
I’ve never felt more present and at peace than my summers spent in Montana. While my body may have felt physically exhausted many days, my soul has never felt so alive. There was a flame that had been lit, and that spark was only just beginning to spread its light.
Throughout my summers at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp I gained courage, confidence, and lifelong friendships. I developed my leadership, communication, and wilderness skills. I found adventure. Joy. Peace. Contentment. A sense of fulfillment. And most importantly, I again found a real relationship with Jesus that was nurtured by a community of believers. These skills, perspectives, and relationships have propelled me into new seasons of my life. For one, I don’t believe I would have become Miss North Dakota without my camp background, and for that I am eternally grateful.
I hope my nineteen year-old self would be proud to see how these summers at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp helped shape the woman who I am today and always becoming. Because while this life guarantees challenging seasons, one thing is absolute: our relationship with Jesus Christ, which is nurtured by having a community that will encourage that relationship to grow and flourish.
Reyna Bergstrom is from Horrace, North Dakota, and graduated from Concordia College where she studied Communications and Religion. In June of 2021, Reyna was crowned Miss North Dakota and has been sharing her kindness and joy throughout the state and country in this role. From 2015-2018, Reyna served on staff at FLBC, in various roles including counselor and art barn coordinator, and is known throughout the FLBC Family for her way of building relationships, fostering creativity, and inviting others to experience God’s love at camp!