Madelyn Bertrand, a third-year Camp Siloam summer staffer from Bentonville said she first felt a call to missions when she attended a breakout class led by an IMB Journeyman missionary at Camp Siloam in 2017. She described her call to missions over the next five years like an ember in a campfire that would flare up when she would hear a missionary talk. Here is her story in her own words.
My first time as a camper in the land of a million smiles was the summer of 2017. Our group of six people (four campers and two counselors) loaded up in the van and took off towards an adventure that would change my life in an intricate and precise way that can only be accredited to the awesomeness of God.
It was Tuesday or Wednesday and my friends and I were looking at the activity class options. They wanted to go to the Q & A with the band, but I didn’t really have any questions for the band to answer so I signed up for a class entitled “Missions with Rebekah.” In all honesty, I was just looking for the least interactive activity; nothing personal, I was just a super shy, quiet person. So, I show up to the Jones Center and sit down expecting her to give a slideshow, read the great commission, and peace out. I have never underestimated something so much in my life. She starts telling us about what she does and how all these cities and people groups need Jesus and by the end of her discussion I was on the edge of my seat. Rebekah prayed us out and as soon as the word “amen” was out of her mouth I was at the front grabbing every flyer and pamphlet she had up there. I walked back to the Bobcat Bunkhouse loaded down with papers and a need to know more. I spent the rest of my free time in my bunk reading everything I could about these people needing help. That day, I wrote in my journal, “I do not know specifically what I want to do with my life, but I KNOW I want to help people.”
That was the first time I felt a call to missions, but I really didn’t know what that was. Nobody in my family had been “called to missions” and as a sixteen-year-old being a missionary seemed too far out of reach. So, the blazing fire I had for missions died down to a glowing ember; dimmed but not gone. The next four and half years consisted of hearing missionary after missionary speak bringing small burst of oxygen to that ember, causing it to flare up momentarily only to be quenched once again by my worldly priorities. In October 2021, everything changed. My church hosted an event called GIC or Global Impact Celebration. I attended event after event and talked to missionaries from all over world. Each lecture that I attended made it clearer in my heart and mind that I was called to missions, but I still hesitated. I told myself that everybody is called to missions, some are just called to dedicate their lives to it while others have a “smaller” call for lack of better terms.
Fast forward nine months and we’re in July of 2022. The idea of missions is still in my mind, but I pushed it away with excuses. What if God called me somewhere far away? I love my family too much to leave them. My siblings and I are too close to move away. I can’t leave the fellowship I have with my friends at church. Monday, July 18, 2022, I was standing at the sink in the Camp Siloam kitchen scrubbing potatoes. I was thinking about my future and what it might hold. That stubborn little thought thread of missions came through my mind and all those excuses came right back. Through all the words going on in my head, I looked at the potato in my left hand and scrub pad in my right and I thought, “You know? This is really not fun…… but I find so much joy in scrubbing these potatoes because of WHY I’m scrubbing them.” I realized then that I had been looking for joy in all the wrong places. I had been so reluctant to let go of these earthly things like family and friends because I didn’t think I could have joy without them.
I realized only God could bring me joy in scrubbing potatoes, and if He can do that, then He can bring me joy in so much more. Right there, in the Camp Siloam kitchen, scrub pad in one hand and a potato in the other, I prayed and surrendered my life, my family, my friends, my career, everything to God and asked Him to send me wherever He plans. I do not know what the future holds, but I do know that the best is yet to come.