Lifelong love of summer camp grows into career goal

Once upon a time, Gift of Hope Scholar Abigail Fuesler, PK, dreamed of becoming a writer. Then she went to Camp Cedar Glen in Julian, California, for the first time. She was hooked.

Your gifts on United Methodist Student Day, enables The United Methodist Church to supports the Gift of Hope Scholarship so that students can prepare for life in uniting faith with knowledge.

"Growing up," Abigail said, "summer camp was one of the biggest joys in my life." Since that first summer experience, she has been a camp participant, volunteer or paid staff member. "Camp has seen me through thick and thin. While frequent moves kept my life in transition," she added, "camp was my constant."

The competitive soccer player was stunned when, at age 14, she was diagnosed with Wegener's Granulomatosis, a rare condition that causes inflammation of the blood vessels.  

"Being diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease that was treated through chemotherapy and steroids turned me into a physically unrecognizable person, which was difficult as a middle-school girl," she said.

Her church family rallied around Abigail. "I got 136 cards while I was in the hospital," she said, "and that doesn't count bouquets, visitors or – my favorite – Edible Arrangements.

"Now that Wegener's plays a much smaller role in my daily life," the young woman continued, "I still feel the presence of The United Methodist Church. I have always been supported through camperships, and now I am helped even more financially though college scholarships."

Enrolling at United Methodist-related Brevard College in North Carolina, Abigail was immediately welcomed by Brevard First United Methodist Church. "I eat my Wednesday night meals with the church," she said, "and on Thursday nights look forward to gathering with my Life Group."

She explained that her career choice, camp and retreat ministries, "is about the outcome, not the income." Acknowledging that "student loans are daunting," Abigail wants to eliminate financial stress as soon as possible. "The impact of the Gift of Hope Scholarship is so big for me," she said, "because now I will be able to choose a future job based on where I'm called to be, not on a paycheck. The church's support of United Methodist Student Day is crucial for the development of current and future leaders of The United Methodist Church."

Abigail is studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree in integrated studies: wilderness leadership and experiential education and business and organizational leadership. Her minors are gender studies and environmental studies. "By combining all of my interests," she noted, "I am personalizing my education to match my goals and interests."

Along with sharing her gifts for leadership on campus, she is a young adult representative on the national United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries board of directors.

Because camp played such a big role in her spiritual formation, Abigail said, "I want to foster spiritual growth in young people in the same way. I would also like to work on studies that help to demonstrate the amount of impact camp has in a young person's spirituality because I suspect camp is a tool that we could utilize more in our denomination."

Barbara Dunlap-Berg, retired from United Methodist Communications, is a freelance writer and editor.

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, United Methodist Student Day calls the church to support students as they prepare for life in uniting faith with knowledge. The special offering provides scholarships for qualified United Methodist applicants. 

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