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A Life Like No Other
How Camp Set Iziah on the Path of Servant Leadership
Iziah’s journey to camp started early—so early, he doesn’t remember a time he wasn’t spending summers in the woods. “I started going to camp at a pretty young age,” he says. “I was around nine or 10—so I can’t really speak to much before that!”
It was through Union Gospel Mission’s Summer Camp Partnership program that Iziah went to Camp Qwanoes for the first time. Raised in a single-parent home alongside three siblings, he enjoyed getting out of town: camp offered him a place to make new friends and bond with his counsellors. “I remember just having a lot of fun there. Hanging out with my friends, meeting new people.”
Iziah’s journey to faith took a more meandering route than his journey to camp. “When I was in 10th grade, I hit a pretty low part of my life,” he says. “It wasn't actually things at home, it was more so things at school and the people I hung around with—they weren’t really the greatest crowd. I got involved with drugs and alcohol. I was just at an overall low point; I was facing a lot of things, like trauma, and I wasn't dealing with them in the healthiest ways.”
It was at his lowest that Iziah recalled his camp experiences—and the stories he’d heard about God. “I got to a point where my way of doing things just simply wasn’t working anymore. And that's when I turned my focus on Christ. My life has been a lot better since then, and I really do have to thank camp and UGM for that.”
“Camp matters. It’s really important for planting that seed of hope: it shows kids a life like no other.”
Having found hope and transformation in his deeper relationship with Jesus, Iziah dove further into camp involvement, signing up for the Counsellor-in-Training (CIT) and Leader-in-Training (LIT) programs at Qwanoes. The programs help equip trainees with foundational skills for camp life and the world beyond.
The experience of training at camp had more impact than even Iziah had anticipated. “It's helped me realize that, hey, I'm actually good at things I previously didn't think I was,” he says. “I’ve got leadership skills. Before, I never saw myself as being a counsellor, but I was a counsellor in my third week of CIT, and this summer I worked on the Operation Support Crew. I really enjoyed helping out.”
Through living out his values at camp, Iziah has discovered what it truly means to live like Christ. “One of the things that I learned at camp was what it actually means to be a leader. They talk a lot about Christ: when He came to Earth, He actually did the work. He was there to serve others, not be served. And that's what a leader should be.”
The impulse to serve has completely changed the trajectory of Iziah’s future. He starts university this fall, and he is confident in the path he has chosen. “It's because of my faith that I’m going into Nursing at Trinity Western,” he says. “Originally, I was going to go to culinary school, but after I became a Christian, I sat down and thought about it. Christ says the second most important commandment is ‘love your neighbour.’ And in Romans, Paul says ‘offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God’—basically, do everything you do for God. I feel like as a nurse, that will be my entire career, just loving people and doing everything for Christ.”
Because of his familiarity with the challenges people face in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Iziah’s plans include working in harm reduction. He also hopes to eventually serve with Doctors Without Borders, a humanitarian medical organization that travels to conflict zones to provide relief. He sees nursing as one way to fully embody the care and generosity called for by his faith.
It’s easy for Iziah to point to his early camp experiences as the catalyst for everything that lies ahead.
“Camp matters,” he says. “It’s really important for planting that seed of hope: it shows kids a life like no other. When I look back on my old life, I can see what the world had to give me. And for a lot of kids in the Downtown Eastside, what the world has to give them is a lifestyle of partying. But camp can show them a different life. And for me, that's really important. This is the life that I’m choosing.”