By: Joy Lester
The Impact of a Leader on the Next Generation
Leslie started as a camper in 1992, the summer before her 2nd grade year – the youngest you could come to Cho-Yeh back then. Her mom had stayed a week at Cho-Yeh several times when she was a little girl, and several from their church – First Presbyterian of Conroe – were familiar with Cho-Yeh, coming both as campers and retreat guests. Leslie remembers not feeling nervous, but excited about the adventure.
Even though she had grown up in church – her family by her side – and had attended Sunday School on a regular basis, Leslie credits Cho-Yeh as the place where her faith became her own. She remembers vividly her counselors from Walnut Hill 3A and the conversation they had in the bathhouse, even though they were running late for the camp dance.
“My faith became real to me. Not something my parents did, or my Sunday School teacher did. But my walk with Christ – the relationship – became real to me that day. My faith became mine.”
Over the years Leslie had several counselors that took the time to intentionally pour into her. “They got to know me as a person. They wanted to know my interests. Even in the little things like roasting hot dogs over a camp fire, the counselors wanted to hang out with me instead of talking with other counselors. I specifically remember Brandi Howard and her deep conversations and that she was always full of energy.”
After being a camper for 11 years, Leslie joined the summer staff…first as a counselor for 2 years, then as a Sweetgum Super for 3 years. Leslie loved camp and from as early as she can remember, wanted to return as a counselor.
“I knew the impact camp had on me and wanted to share that with others. I remembered past counselors and how they treated me and I copied what I had seen them do when I poured out on my own campers.”
With a deep passion for impacting lives, Leslie got a degree in Elementary Education and planned to teach after graduating from college. But the summer after her student teaching was finished, she returned to the place that helped form her faith and build her character to take a full time job for several years. And now that she is married and working in a public school, Leslie continues to join the program team in some capacity each year, “just to do whatever is needed.” In all, Leslie has been a part of the ministry of Camp Cho-Yeh for 25 years.
She credits her summer leadership experiences and the practice she got with conflict management as important pieces of who she is today.
“Being at camp helped me know how to manage a classroom and how to muli-task as a teacher. Learning how to work together as a team back then helped me know how to work with other teachers and how to get along in marriage.”
Leslie and her husband, Joel, continue to impact young lives through the ministry of fostering. Most of the time they can be seen with 3 to 4 children in their care, and to date 7 lives will be forever impacted by the selfless love they give. And while the official adoption of 1 child will add permanence to their family, she can’t imagine not taking in others who have similar need. Raised to be a leader, Leslie is raising leaders herself.