Sienna attended The Academy Camps in 2015 and 2016. This is her story of hope.
When I arrived at The Academy, I was definitely not in a very good place with my faith. But to understand why, you have to know that my grandma was my rock. She had always kept me grounded. She was my amazing example of a good life and the Christian faith. And I had just lost her.
When I lost my grandma, it was like everything was crashing around me. I was depressed. My head wasn’t where it should be. I doubted that God was good, or that he even existed. How could he take her? She was so young and healthy and beautiful, and then I watched her slowly deteriorate. Why would he let this happen? The God I knew wouldn’t have allowed this cruelty.
So you can see why my heart wasn’t into any of it at first during The Academy. I had attended for academic reasons. It seemed like an opportunity to go deeper in my studies. I wasn’t thinking about the faith side of it. But also, I felt like I needed an escape from what I was going through.
Little did I know that instead I was going to face my grief head-on.
When I lost my grandma, it was like everything was crashing around me. I was depressed. My head wasn’t where it should be. I doubted that God was good, or that he even existed.
The first couple days were just a flood of experiences and incredible new relationships. On Monday night, after getting to know my small group, we all went to the beach together. It was beautiful and serene, and we sang the Doxology as the fog rolled in. My grandma loved the beach, and being there brought back so many memories of her. I knew that I wasn't going to be able to escape my grief at Wheatstone, and I cried on the bus all the way home.
The next couple days just flew by. Then, on Wednesday, it seemed like just a normal day, when two important things happened.
The first was Dr. Smith’s lecture on holiness. It just really hit home. He gave us a picture of learning to live a life that’s pleasing to God that made my doubts begin to wash away. He helped me realize that Jesus experienced our pain and suffering, but stayed holy. Jesus wasn’t a tormentor who had taken my grandma away, he was a loving God who came into my pain. He suffered too.
Jesus wasn’t a tormentor who had taken my grandma away, he was a loving God who came into my pain. He suffered too.
Then, that night, some of us were staying up late with Peter Gross, just talking with each other. People were sharing stories back and forth, and all of a sudden, the Lord put it on my heart to share my story, even though I didn’t want to. I was really scared, but I did it. And the amazing thing is that, even though they hadn't experienced what I did, they listened to me. Most of them were strangers to me, but they cried with me, and they showed me love, and it was incredible.
Then, after I stopped crying, I was scared again, but then Peter shared about his grandma’s death, back when he was my age. I discovered that there are others who had gone through my kind of grief too, people who came out stronger in their faith and life. It meant that I wasn’t alone. Jesus had suffered too, and people like Peter had lost a good grandma too, and they had found a way through it.
For the first time, I had hope. I had felt alone in my grief, but now I knew that it could get better, especially with my suffering Lord by my side. I learned that my grieving would take a long time, but that I could get through it. All the people at Wheatstone showed me that God had always been with me, and that, through Jesus and the church, God would help me through. I still talk to Peter sometimes, and some of the people who cried with me when they were strangers have become friends that I'll keep for the rest of my life.
For the first time, I had hope. I had felt alone in my grief, but now I knew that it could get better, especially with my suffering Lord by my side.
That's the big story of Wheatstone showing me hope, but it isn't the whole story. Wheatstone helped grow my faith in so many ways, and it helped me grow as a person. All around, I just came out better. I've learned how to recognize the beauty of things, even when I don't see it at first. I've learned how to argue well in order to find truth. That search for truth and beauty has carried over into my school and my friendships now. It changes the way I see people and the world.
Wheatstone gives me hope for future generations. There aren’t a lot of people I know who can come alongside youth like me and help this way. And we need it. We need to see how beautiful Christian adulthood is. I want Wheatstone to keep on finding new generations and showing them that, through Christ, they can keep growing up, no matter what.