by Savannah Pittenger Posted Dec 21, 2020
The summer of 2018 was a season of grief and hope for Caitlin Keeney, but she was reminded of the Lord’s promises through a hang time with her counselor, Anna Joy, or “Oovoo Javier.”
Caitlin grew up in Tyler, Texas, spending many of her summers as a Pine Cove camper. Camp became a refuge for Caitlin, a place where she learned how to branch out and be herself.
Caitlin’s dad was the first person to introduce her to Jesus. She remembers Bible studies with him every Sunday morning. For most of her life, Caitlin’s dad leaned on the Lord to help fight his 13-year battle against cancer.
“He used his cancer as a way to share the Gospel, talking to nurses and doctors he encountered during his treatment.” A verse that was a constant reminder of her dad’s faith during his battle was Job 13:15, “Though he slays me, yet I will praise him.”
On Easter morning of her freshman year, after 13 years of battle, Caitlin’s father passed away. She woke up resting in the fact that just as her heavenly Father ascended to heaven when Jesus rose from the grave, her earthly father was now in heaven as well. Caitlin said the day of her father’s death was spent in grief but also celebration because she knew her father was now in heaven with Jesus. Caitlin says, “I knew that his passing on the happiest day on earth was no coincidence.”
Leading up to camp that summer, Caitlin was facing a lot of grief, but felt hopeful for the fellowship she knew she’d encounter while at the Shores. Caitlin remembers when she walked into her cabin for the first time and met her counselor, Anna Joy “Oovoo Javier,” she instantly felt right at home.
Anna Joy walked into the Shores that summer with the weight of a big tragedy. Anna Joy lost a close friend right before coming to work as a summer staffer at camp. Because she didn’t have much time to process the loss before camp started, Anna Joy pressed heavily into the Lord. She knew the summer would be difficult, but the Lord was working through the suffering and she knew none of it was meaningless.
It was during their hang time that Caitlin understood why the Lord had placed her in Anna Joy’s cabin that week. As Cailtin opened up about losing her dad, Anna Joy was able to relate and grieve with Caitlin as they both had lost a loved one.
“We shared in grief, but we also shared in joy knowing they are now in heaven,” said Caitlin.
Caitlin and Anna Joy both felt Romans 12:15 living out that week, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
Week after week, Anna Joy remembers she “was in awe of how the Lord placed girls in her cabin that were walking through such similar things.” It was no coincidence that Caitlin ended up in Anna Joy’s cabin that summer. Leaving that week and that summer, Anna Joy rejoiced knowing the Lord was reassuring His purpose through the tragedy she and her campers faced.
By the end of the week, Caitlin had a clear understanding that what the world meant for evil, God uses for good. The world we live in is broken, but Jesus is what makes it whole. Caitlin learned to comfort others, have compassion, and be a light for people.
“I know where my dad is,” says Caitlin. “I’m going there because Jesus has risen.”
Pine Cove has always been a home away from home for Caitlin, a place of growth and encouragement. Going into summer 2020, her last year as a camper, Caitlin was excited to see how the Lord would move through her final week at the Shores.
Grief and loss are difficult, but the Lord’s faithfulness remains. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
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