In her winning essay for our contest, Echo Valley Camper, 13-Year-Old Isabella Vadala, shares the joy she experienced under thousands of beautiful stars at camp!

As we drove into the Canyon and through the river to Singing Hills, my heart was beaming with joy. We had dropped my brother off here when I was too young to come, so I was no stranger to the camp. I checked into my cabin, Delta Babes, without knowing what in the world camp was really about. Sure, I had gone the year before, but I still thought that camp was all for fun and pleasure, not so much about God. I met one of my best friends, Hannah, at Jam Session 2014, but it was so much more than good friends and a river.

Walking into Roundup one night, singing my favorite Taylor Swift song and mentally preparing to destroy the boys in the lemonade chug competition, I walked into a Pavillion that would change my life.

It was Cross Talk night, which at the time I probably sighed at because it meant I had to sit there and listen to a long speech. But as the speaker, a guys’ counselor (whose name I don’t remember) brought out two mirrors and began talking, I immediately knew this wasn’t going to be some boring long talk.

He began by describing some miracles of Jesus, stories I had heard so many times before. But suddenly the mood changed, and he transitioned to the cross. He brought the mirrors forward and pointed at one. This one represented Jesus before his death, perfect, seamless, and unbroken. In the middle of describing what happened to Jesus on the cross, he grabbed a hammer and shattered the second mirror. Some shards flew off, and it had giant cracks down the middle. There was a huge bang, and then it was silent. At first the giant sound scared me, but then he said, “Why would someone so perfect do this for you unless he thought you were worth it?” He had wonderfully used the two mirrors, one perfect and the other entirely destroyed, to portray just how much Jesus did for us on the cross.

After Roundup ended that night, the whole camp laid out under the stars on towels with their Bible or journal, and I sat thinking on the big lawn. Why would someone so flawless want anything to do with me? But that image of the mirror was burning in my mind as well as three words—love, mercy, and worth. Jesus Christ died for me because God is merciful, he loves me, and I have worth in him. As I flipped through my Bible, my eyes fell upon Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” On that spot, under thousands of beautiful stars, I dedicated my life to Christ.

It’s insane that I remember it so clearly after four years, but next summer I am going back to my home at LLYC for the eighth time. I couldn’t be more excited to further my relationship with God and explore what it means when I dedicated my life at 9 years old. I am so grateful for LLYC and staff who make my summer ten times better. Thank you for giving me faith in Jesus, and the best two weeks.