Although I was adopted into the Church as a baby, my faith in God didn’t always exist. I didn’t really know that I could pray and have some extra help to back me up back then. Honestly, I was shy too. Autism is a hard disability to deal with. It’s hard to maintain friendships, considering that eye contact, speaking up and performing in front of large and small groups are difficult. My first camp experience had a lot to do with faith. This is my story of how God helped me overcome social anxiety through my faith in Him.
In 2014 the preteen youth camp, Camp Tomahawk (now known as Camp NaCoMe), was cancelled. More or less I was actually kind of relieved because the preteen camp really wore me out sometimes. But apparently God had a different plan for me. You may be able to relate in many ways: arriving to your first camp experience, a lot of new people, a lot of noise and a lot of people your age.
When I arrived at Camp Woodmen for the first time, I was the second youngest one there, the only 12-year-old boy. I was a small boy who was silent and only spoke when I needed to. I’m not that athletic nor that competitive, and my first few days at camp were just that, along with “who can dance with the most girls.” That Monday night, I turned down two girls (promising one of them that I would make up for that mistake), because I was not used to dancing with girls. After that, people in my dorm asked me how many girls I danced with. I didn’t know God then as much as I do now, but that was going to change very soon.
That night I began to dream that I could open up freely without any judgment. I dreamt that I would say I was going to dance with a lot of girls. Personally, I think that just possibly God gave me the dreams to make them come true. That Thursday, my dorm counselor helped open me up. He asked me to say how I was going to ask a girl to dance. And the dreams came true: I was able to express myself freely without any judgment. That Saturday night, I had dances with 20 girls, and it was fun, I will admit.
I was really shy to everyone before, but at Camp Woodmen that year I made two of the best friends I could ever receive from God. And my faith in God was changed when camp ended. I prayed a lot more than I used to and my faith was a lot stronger. I know in my heart that my first year was just the beginning.
Later, one of my two good friends said that he wouldn’t be able to attend Camp Woodmen the next year—he was going to Camp Cotubic. God perhaps had set this up all along, because I was able to go to that camp too, and build even more friendships.
Being faithful in God can help anyone come a long way with social anxiety. I still get a little nervous to this day, but if I didn’t go to that church camp, I would not be writing this.
In closing, it will always be a scary, yet amazing feeling when you open up with God’s help. I might even be finding myself attending a third church camp next summer. Be faithful in God as was Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6). Jeremiah thought he couldn’t be heard because he was just in his youth, but God stood by him so he could be heard. God has plans, but by being faithful, your dreams, like His (of building a relationship with you), can come true.