When God puts something on your heart, you are asked to follow him, whether it’s down the path that you had planned for yourself or not. In Jesse Kemmerer’s situation, what God called him to do was not what he had planned for himself, but he is grateful to have answered the call.
A native of Traveler’s Rest, S.C. Jesse started began college at Erskine College, but transferred to Emmanuel College after two years to be a part of the Cross Country/ Track & Field program. Jesse ran for three years at Emmanuel, graduating in May 2015 with a degree in Health and Physical Education.
His degree of study was his other reason for transferring to EC.
“Emmanuel was starting their Health and Physical Education program and my professor at Erskine College actually moved to Emmanuel to help them start it,” Jesse said. “That’s one of the biggest reasons, he was coming here and I wanted to study under him.”
Something Jesse found unique about Emmanuel after he began attending was the dedication of the faculty & staff to the student community.
“The devotion of the faculty and staff to really pour into the lives of the students, it was great to see,” Jesse said. “They were always open to having students come to their office if they needed to talk, or if they needed help, they were always there. I don’t think many students took advantage of this, but I definitely did during my time there.”
Being a part of the Emmanuel community, Jesse also saw a change in the student population from his first year at EC to his last.
“The students just became more intentional about the different programs and events going on,” Jesse said. “Going to convocation, staying later at chapel on Wednesday nights, we had a bigger group my senior year with a different feel. People wanted to be intentional about their relationship with Christ and I got to see that flourish with a lot of different students, building lifelong relationships.”
While at Emmanuel, Jesse was involved in numerous clubs and organizations including helping create the Kinesiology Club, leading worship in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and playing in the worship band that played for convocation and Wednesday night chapel.
One faculty member that Jesse connected with during his time at Emmanuel was Dr. Rick Wilson, someone he considers his mentor.
“He was over the Health & Physical Education department and we met pretty regularly,” Jesse said. “We’d talk about school and have conversations apart from class that went deeper. I’d ask questions about his background with physical education and health and we’d have spiritual conversations about my faith. I’d ask questions and he’d challenge me a lot of times.”
He spent time learning from Dr. Mark Trump, Pastor Tracy Reynolds, and Dr. Tony Moon through taking some Christian Ministries courses as well, and enjoyed hearing their perspective.
“Through them, I learned what it meant to follow Christ wholeheartedly and really pursue Him in the job I was pursuing.”
Jesse hoped to go into teaching and coaching, and believed his Christian Ministries classes helped him in finding out how he could make an impact in that field.
Another Christ-centered community Jesse found at Emmanuel was through athletics.
“Coach Lairios and Coach Hall who took over for him when he moved on, set a standard for us of what it meant to be a team,” Jesse said. “We had a covenant that we signed at the beginning of the season, a contract saying that we were going to be a team, work hard for each other, and not be selfish.”
The Cross Country and Track & Field teams spent time together outside of practice whether it was sharing meals, or just hanging out, they formed long lasting relationships.
“For the guys, we had a weekly Bible study,” Jesse said. “We would get together and talk about the word. Even at practice, during a long run we would go through town and have conversations about God.”
Before graduating in May of 2015, Jesse went to God in prayer asking what he wanted him to do in life after college.
“I didn’t feel a call to go into teaching or coaching just yet,” Jesse said. “I took some time to think about it, and he put the words Colorado and Christian Camp on my mind. I wanted to do something with my summer, I wanted to serve and get into a ministry experience, I felt a calling to do that.”
That calling led Jesse to Eagle Lake Camps, and he applied, praying “God, if this is it please make it happen.”
The goal of Eagle Lake Camps is “to inspire Christ-centered love and commitment, through counselor relationships, during exciting outdoor experiences.”
Throughout this experience, Jesse grew closer to the Lord and felt led to continue his journey with Eagle Lake as a full-time staff member.
“I joined what they call their Emerging Leaders program,” Jesse said. “It’s a two-year commitment where you become a full-time staff member with Eagle Lake and raise your own support to do that and learn the business and ministry side of Christian camps. I started in January of 2016 and although I’ve only been in the office now for 9 months, it’s been an experience. When I came in January, we were preparing for camp, getting things set up, and having conversations with churches we were going to be going to during the summer.”
In his second summer with Eagle Lake, Jesse was placed on a team that would be stationed in Missouri, and it was during this time that he saw the Eagle Lake community grow exponentially.
“In my second year with Eagle Lake we grew to five on-location teams, altogether 213 Eagle Lake Summer Staff members,” Jesse said. “We took the On-Location on the road to 8 different states that summer, serving about 8,250 kids and witnessed 483 kids give their lives to Christ, which was just an amazing thing to see.”
Jesse found being able to do life ministry with the 1,200 kids that went through his On-Location program to be the most rewarding part of the experience.
“These kids come from different backgrounds and they all have stories,” Jesse said. “My favorite part of on-location is that we get to go to communities where kids wouldn’t have the opportunity to go to camp. For us, we get to go and impact these kids that would never hear the gospel probably, never see the authenticity of the love of Christ and that’s what we get to do for ten weeks in ten different communities.”
Like Jesse, many students feel called to serve or have a ministry experience after college and he couldn’t think of a better way than working at a Christian Summer Camp like Eagle Lake.
“The main advice I would give anyone considering this route is that it will be the hardest summer of your life but will probably be one of the greatest,” Jesse said. “It’s a very life changing experience that you go through because when you’re doing work for the kingdom, the enemy doesn’t like that. There will be struggles that you go through, battles you will fight but you’ll have a group of people that you really grow close to that you can lean on during the summer and they’ll be there to help you if you’re struggling.”
He also urges students to have a strong desire to pursue God intentionally.
“Get in the world, pray, spend time with God now, it’s crucial,” Jesse said. “One thing our leadership always challenges us to do is pursue God, if we don’t do that we will burn out. He’s the only one that can fill us up and pour us out. If a student is considering working at a Christian camp, I suggest they pursue God in a relational way now, that way when they get to a summer they’ll have a foundation of knowing God.”
As the first Emmanuel College student or graduate to serve at Eagle Lake, Jesse hopes others will join him in the future as the experience is life changing.
“If you want to know what it means to share the gospel, a summer where you’re not only having fun but growing in leadership ability and skills, a Christian camp does that.” Jesse said. “You’ll lead a group of kids every week through programs, activities, and bible studies, caring for them the entire day. It not only develops leadership skills but you get to grow in your walk with Christ in a tremendous way. It’s one opportunity, there are plenty out there but you have to be called to do this.”