Melissa Stiver doesn’t remember her life before camp. Now she has been married for ten years and has three beautiful children, Rylee, Emmett, and Asher, and Camp Asbury is still an essential part of her and her family’s spiritual and personal life. When Melissa was in junior high, the pastor at her home church, where she was very involved, gave her family information about summer camp. Melissa decided to come to Camp Asbury with two of her closest friends, and that is when fate was sealed; Melissa would be forever connected to Asbury.
Soon, spending part of her summer as part of the community at Camp Asbury became a yearly tradition. As she got older, Melissa attended the camp’s CIT Program before joining the summer staff from 2007-2009. Melissa noted that she is grateful that she was pushed outside of her comfort zone at Camp Asbury and opened her eyes to new experiences. Melissa states, “Camp has always been a home away from home for me, as it has been for so many of us over the years. I know I am not alone when I say that I don’t think I’ll ever lose the feeling of pulling into the parking lot and feeling my entire body sigh in a way that says, ‘I’m back home.’ It’s hard to pass up an opportunity to go back.” That is true for Melissa; she does not ever miss an opportunity to return home. Melissa is routinely involved with chrysalis flights at Camp Asbury and returns to lead pieces of training at Asbury’s staff training whenever asked, “I’ve come to associate camp with a deep spiritual connection to God.”
Melissa now sends her daughter Rylee to camp, “there was never a question of not sending her. I want her, and all my other munchkins once they’re old enough, to enjoy similar experiences to what I had.” Rylee arrived shy in her first summer at camp, clinging to the staff members she was familiar with, reluctant to jump into the group dynamics. As the week progressed, Rylee burst out of her shell and, by the end of the week, was excitedly asking to return to camp. Now, she attends week-long camp sessions, and Melissa notes the joy she has felt watching camp’s impact on her daughter: “She learned to become more independent while at camp. I think it has also helped her to become more open to meeting new friends. When we go to a park to play, she has no difficulty finding new friends to play with.” One of Rylee’s favorite camp activities is art; she chose the week Express Yourself because she is excited about the extra art time.
Because of Camp Asbury, Melissa made some lifelong friends, and she now hopes her children can make similar lifelong friendships through camp. Camp Asbury is where she had “rollercoaster experiences” where she laughed and cried with some of the most amazing people, and it is these experiences she hopes her children will get to enjoy.
Experiences like Melissa’s and Rylee’s make Camp Asbury such a special place—a place where real and meaningful spiritual connections are formed, lasting friendships are created, and a home is forever made. It’s with the help of people like you and your generosity that we can continue to provide a place like this for everyone who comes here.