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Anchored in Hope - Yoelvy


This week I am excited to welcome Yoelvy (pronounced Joe-EL-vee) as our guest author. Yoelvy was one of two international staff we were able to have at camp again this summer (for the first time since 2019!). He is from the Dominican Republic and this summer was his first experience traveling abroad. He served as a senior counselor based out of Okoboji this summer.


Hello, my name is Yoelvy Castillo and I had the blessing of being a senior counselor at Ingham Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camps this summer. Months before coming to camp, I had asked God for guidance on what He exactly wanted for me, especially because I felt I wasn’t close enough to Him. I could only visit my home church on Saturdays, so I kept asking him for a way to be closer and more fully in His presence, but I had no idea how he was going to execute His glory on my life.


I thought this year was going to be me just working and studying in the Dominican Republic, but then, March happened. It was a normal day, and as I was scrolling down Instagram’s main page, I ran into a post talking about how you could live a summer camp experience across the sea, in the USA. When I saw the post, I sent in my personal information and initiated the process. As an international student, I couldn’t apply for a certain camp specifically because of government internal policies, so I had to submit my information and wait for a camp in the US to be interested in my application, a camp that could either be Christian or a random one. As I was uncertain whether I was going to wind up at a Christian camp or not, I started praying over it, and days later, God blessed me with a notification from Dan Antoine.


When I first got to camp, I was frightened I wasn’t going to do things right. I was afraid I was going to bump into an unfathomable world I wasn’t going to be able to handle, but in between all my thoughts and fears, I knew Jesus was there. I came to camp not having any experience with skits or a theme verse. In fact, I didn’t know most of the camp-related activities. Knowing about all the stuff I had to learn to make it through the summer gave me anxiety and just had me tangled up inside.

That wasn’t all- I came to camp with a weary soul. I felt left out from a lot of things happening in my home church, and I brought that over with me. The enemy was trying to use the fear of it happening again to pull me from the plan God had for me this summer. The thought of you’re not good enough for what you signed up for was making me waiver, too, making me think I wasn’t really going to measure up. I knew God’s presence overcomes any darkness trying to get us, so He was there to save me from that. He blessed me greatly with the fellow staff that I got to spend my summer with.


It’s crazy to think how those feelings of fear and shame were swapped for feelings of relief and comfort. It had been a while since I was loved the way I was loved this summer by my fellow staff. Suddenly, I was feeling blessed the entire time. I changed the perspective I had stamped in my mind of “You won’t do well” and that’s when this summer became the best one of my entire life so far, a summer that did not even feel like a job, but a heaven-sent gift.


The best picture of how God has shown me that He really had a purpose for when He sent me all the way over here, was that one specific week one of my kids approached and thanked me for being their counselor, the best week of camp he had experienced so far.


That made me cry for 2 hours straight because, by then, I had realized God had fulfilled His plan for me and my stay at Okoboji, causing me to realize that all the things crossing my mind at the beginning were just lies implied by the enemy. This was my first time as a counselor ever and I’m happy to testify that no other experiences I’ve had in the past can top that. Looking back to what I experienced this summer, I see how God carefully chose the right things for the right moments, which is what made this summer so special. Through the services I participated in this summer, God showed me His amazing grace, making me fall in love with Him a lot more than I already was.


Now that camp is over, I feel like I’m a completely different person. Before camp started, I was allowing the enemy to play with my mind, allowing him to declare who I was, causing me to only focus on my defects, which restrained me from seeing myself with God’s eyes, but God’s power will always have a way to draw us back into his path, making us realize that He is the one with the authority, and overall, that He is not sitting idle watching how we have a hard time, and God used my camp friends, the services, the kids and my stay at this place to teach me that.


My journey throughout the summer brings me back to a verse God showed me, which is Isaiah 41:10: So, do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. These were the words God wanted me to hold in this summer and the ones I’m now returning home with.



Follow Up:

- When have you willing stepped outside of your comfort zone to spend some extended time in a different culture? What did you learn about God? About yourself?

- What baggage from previous experiences do you carry with you when God is calling you to something new?

- When was a time when you tried something completely new? How did you learn the spoken and unspoken rules and traditions?

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