The Impact of Camp

Camp Tzadi 2022 was our biggest event yet.

Kate Hershey

Camp Tzadi

Camp Tzadi community friendship relationship

Impact: A powerful effect that something, especially something new, has on a situation or person. —Cambridge Dictionary

When you are part of the beginning of something, it can be difficult, sometimes impossible even, to fully grasp the impact that is being made.

That is until you look back five or ten years later and realize how much HaShem worked through you and others around you to influence so many people. In 2017, a group of only thirty-five campers and fifteen staff gathered in the beautiful Wisconsin Dells for the very first Camp Tzadi. I’m pretty sure most of us had no idea how big the impact of what we were starting was going to be, even though we had big dreams and ideas for camp’s future.

If you’ve been following First Fruits of Zion or 12-21 for a while, you may remember the stories from that first year—the life-changing experiences, the wonderful friendships, the fun, and the passion that was instilled in the campers and counselors. Only a few of us are left from that first year; most of the others have moved on with their lives, gotten married, graduated college, and gotten big jobs. But for those of us still involved, camp is an irreplaceable part of our lives and something that will continue impacting us forever.

Much has changed in just five years. Our camper population has grown to nearly three times the size of the first camp; marriages and life-long friendships have formed; for some, a life-long passion has been given, and many, many dreams are being fulfilled.

In July 2022, more dreams were fulfilled as ninety campers and sixty staff (including counselors, kitchen staff, activity team, and teachers), plus ten children of staff (our “Little Tzadis”), gathered in the hot and sticky St. Louis area for our first summer camp since 2019. It was more than just another summer camp for us; it was a reset, a new beginning, and the start of more life-changing friendships. After two years of isolation, depression, and separation, having true summer camp was something that we all desperately needed.

It was rather daunting as we prepared for camp; the scale was larger than any event we had ever done, and while we were mostly prepared on paper, getting ninety teenagers together (most of whom don’t know each other) isn’t exactly something you could ever be fully prepared for. However, weeks upon weeks of long hours and sleepless nights led to smooth systems all over camp, from the feeding of 150 people three times a day (and at least one snack) to travel to and from camp to the fun and exciting activities to our engaging Shacharit services to an intense Israel Day to Color Wars (which led to Yellow Team taking the win for the first time in camp history).

That said, no amount of preparation can prepare you for the on-the-ground challenges. Our service, activity, counselor, and kitchen team were unmatched in their quality, and the way they worked so well together, rolled with the punches, and smoothly continued with their tasks made camp run like a well-oiled machine. This team was years in the making and seeing it all come together was truly a blessing from HaShem!

The first few days of camp were rough, as it was insanely hot, and most of the kids were meeting each other for the first time, so the adjustment was a little challenging. However, it only took a short while before the campers were all friends and building their community. It was therapeutic for most of us on staff, being back at camp and seeing the heartache and loneliness from the past two years begin to heal, not just for the campers but for everyone. It’s amazing what two weeks with a godly community can do for your spirit!

Camp can be stressful and draining, don’t get me wrong, but seeing the impact of the community and fellowship with believers of the same age is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. There’s something alluring about watching a group of mostly strangers become best friends in just a few days, watching the wariness and uncertainty dissipate as the campers engage and come out of their shells. For most of these kids, camp was the first time they were in a community of people their own age with the same beliefs, and it was a life-changing experience. Being a part of making that experience happen for others is life-changing for oneself as well, especially if one was affected as a camper. I have had the privilege of being part of every camp since 2017, starting as a camper, and now serving as an intern. It has been the most fantastic experience to see how many lives have been impacted through the hard work and love of people passionate about their faith.

Blood, sweat, tears, gallons of coffee, and lots of laughs are poured into camp every single year, and the fruit of that labor is shown in the fact that half of our counselor team this year was comprised of former campers. A true dream fulfilled, the fact that campers continue to return and become counselors as they mature is a testament to the impact camp has on our Messianic teens. Five years after our very first camp, we’re now nearly three times the size of our first camp; our staff has grown exponentially, and we’ve helped give many, many teens confidence in their faith, a connection with God, and a forever community.

There was a quote hanging on the wall of our campus at Winter Camp that I believe ends this well: “A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had, nor what my clothes were like. But the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child.” Regardless of their role, everyone at camp was important in a child’s life this year. We may not know it in this life, but the kingdom to come will show the fruits of their labor.

About the Author

Kate is a former Camp Tzadi camper who still thinks camp is one of the best things ever! She loves finding old books, deepening her relationship with HaShem, country music, and dressing in the style of days gone by.

Camp Tzadi

Camp Tzadi community friendship relationship

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