Cultivating Community: Emily McMahan’s Story

By: Hannah Jackson

Posted: 5.23.18

Emily McMahan is a long-time Cho-Yeh camper turned staff and she continues coming back, year-after-year, to this special place. Now entering into her twelfth year at camp, Emily was a camper from Explorers all the way up to Christian Leadership Training [CLT].

“All my friends from Stephen F. Austin University [SFA] call me the ‘camp girl,’ because I don’t seem to stop talking about this place,” McMahan said. “It’s been so much of my life.”

Emily’s mother came to Cho-Yeh as a camper when she was a child and now both Emily and her older brother have gotten to share in spending a part of their summers here. Emily has served on Work Crew, as a Cabin Counselor, and is now on the Media Team for photography. Emily’s experiences after working within different roles of the staff give her an additional insight to her previous perspective as a camper.

“As an Explorer, I kept coming back because it was fun,” McMahan said. “Camp was just fun to me, I did not always see how much they were teaching me about Jesus. But the older I got, I grew more, and I began to come back not just for the fun, which yes, camp is so fun, but I would come back to strengthen my relationship with Christ.”

An impactful time to Emily was her trip at CLT, which she was initially very scared and anxious about. However, during a period of feeling really anxious, Emily sat on a rock overlooking the hill country and her entire outlook changed.

“I started off crying and ended up praying. God showed me I had the strength to finish this trip, and from this, I began trying to live for Christ outside of camp. No longer did I want to just have a ‘camp high.’ That was when I decided to change my life.”

From very visible roles, such as a cabin counselor, down to less seen roles in the office, Emily shared how much she learned after serving behind the scenes on Work Crew.

“After getting a glimpse into what all happens to make camp run, I began to see how every single job, seen and unseen, is so important. Everyone’s role is so significant. I better understood and loved what they [staff] are doing.”

Emily is going into her second year at Stephen F. Austin University, where she studies Interior Design. Something that stands out about SFA for her is the community that Cho-Yeh provides, even outside of camp.

“The community as staff is incredible,’ McMahan said. “Going to a school where a lot of Cho-Yeh staff go is so helpful. If I’m having a bad day and then I run into a Cho-friend, it’s like a little gift from God. They are there for me, always.”