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Realizing the Desires of My Heart

posted on March 25, 2014, under Camp Ministry, Member, Video Report by

by Theresa Stride

Theresa Stride and her horse, Lena. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

Theresa Stride and her horse, Lena. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

“Let’s go visit the tiger for a while,” I thought to myself when I heard the zoo at Camp Kulaqua in High Springs was hiring. Imagining the possibilities of this fun adventure, I applied. However, with horses in my background, the Camp hired me to work in the horse barn. So, at 17 years of age, I reconnected with the camp of my childhood.

I grew up in a Christian home about 20 minutes from Camp Kulaqua in the little town of La Crosse. Our family regularly attended a Baptist Church, and I had a good support system and a loving family. My mom, who heard about the Camp first, went on a tour of the grounds and felt it was a safe Christian environment. “Let’s send you there,” she told me.

I came to Camp Kulaqua as a camper when I was eight years old and attended for four years. Summer camp definitely had an impact on my life, and there are certain things I still remember:

  • Riding into camp with my sleeping bag in the back of the car.
  • My counselors’ names.
  • The horse I rode was Big Red.
  • A lion roaring in the morning.
  • The Friday night program when, at age 12, I accepted Christ.
Theresa Stride leads Camp Kulaqua’s Flag Parade, kicking off the summer camp rodeo. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

Theresa Stride leads Camp Kulaqua’s Flag Parade, kicking off the summer camp rodeo. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

As we passed the cafeteria on my way home that year, I told my mom, “I’m going to work at Camp Kulaqua, and I’m going to be a counselor.”

When I connected with the Camp again at age 17, I began working in the horse barn. I continued my employment at the Camp while attending University of Florida in Gainesville. I made a lot of friends such as Julie Selby and Ray and Jannette Queen who became role models. These people took the time to build a friendship with me through which I started to learn more about the Adventist Church.

When I told my friends I was working at Camp Kulaqua, they would say, “Oh, that’s an Adventist Camp, right? What do they believe?” I wanted to answer their questions, so I studied on my own to know what Adventists believe, as I felt I was representing them in my work. Through my studies and my personal time with God, He led me to the Adventist Church. My mentors walked me through the beliefs, and these beliefs became mine.

Theresa carries the flag for the national anthem with her horse and announces events as campers participate in the rodeo games. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

Theresa carries the flag for the national anthem with her horse and announces events as campers participate in the rodeo games. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

God started to open my heart. I remember when I’d hear certain things like the Sabbath, it would click, and I would say, “Yeah, that’s what you meant, God.” It was never an argument. It was never something that my heart turned away. It became my belief, and it was through this journey that I joined the Adventist Church.

When I graduated from University of Florida, I thought I’d just work in the water park that summer since I had no other job in sight. At the end of summer, Phil Younts, Administrative Camp Director, told me about a job I didn’t even know existed. God opened a door and provided for me.

Theresa, who serves as Junior Camp Director each summer, accepts the American flag from a camper during the evening flag-lowering ceremony. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

Theresa, who serves as Junior Camp Director each summer, accepts the American flag from a camper during the evening flag-lowering ceremony. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

Two years later, my dream came true to work with kids in the summer camp program. Once again, God created another opportunity for me to walk through.

When you are 12 years old, sometimes you don’t know why you say the things you say, but God does. He knew in my heart that I wanted to work at Camp Kulaqua even at an early age. I just didn’t know what that meant. I thought that it was as a counselor.

As it turned out, I’ve never been a counselor. Instead, I have worked in many other areas such as the horse barn and lifeguarding. Currently, I am the Summer Camp Registrar. God just opened doors, and I said, “Okay, God, I’m going to take this step of faith. This is Your truth, and I will stand on it.”

Yes, God opened doors, and He fulfilled my childhood desires.

“Young people come to camp and many things happen. Theresa is a product of what summer camp can do—not just joining the Church, but accepting what she believes as truth and doing what God called her to do. By listening to His calling, God has given Theresa the desires of her heart.”
—Ray Queen, Summer Camp Director


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