Court VonLindern started coming to camp from their home congregation of Columbia Falls UMC because their older cousin came. Court says they spent the first couple of years just shadowing their cousin. The year that cousin was too old to be at Tween camp, Court remembers crying the entire ride to camp and begging their parents not to leave them at camp alone. Court’s dad stood strong, and it paid off. By the end of camp, Court was begging not to go home yet! “I always felt a bit like the odd kid out,” Court said. “I didn’t always fit in…I had a hard time making friends or making friends that I felt really understood me.” But at camp, people took the time to listen.
First counselors, even when maybe not fully understanding where Court was coming from, still gave the feeling that they loved one another for who they were and were there for one another regardless of what their walk of life was. As an older camper, Court found that same intentional community was happening with campers, as well. It was that unconditional love and acceptance that helped Court navigate young adulthood, college, and a call to ministry.
“It has always given me a place to go back to. Both a physical place and a community of people that I could always fall back on when I needed it. As I lost consistent contact with camp friends, one of the beauties of our relationship was being able to text each other out of the blue and say, ‘Hey I’m going through this and could really use support.’ It taught me that there would always be people to support me through whatever I was going through.” Court has followed that call to ministry by working with NextGen Ministries through the Mountain Sky Conference. They continue to serve as a counselor, and in fact, it was a former camper who passed away unexpectedly that really led Court to do a lot of questioning and searching and shaped an understanding of Court’s call.
When the 2019 special session of the UMC ended, Mountain Sky Conference wanted to create a ministry directed to creating more affirming and inclusive spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community. Court resisted the call to that, but in their words, “God said,‘You’re doing this.’ ” Today Court says they feel called to minister to queer and transgender people, especially those who have even been harmed in ministry. FLUMC was one of the first and best faith communities that showed acceptance to Court as an individual, and they look forward to sharing that in other faith communities, as well as helping FLUMC continue to be that place for future campers. “Gifts to camp help change lives and save lives,” Court says. “while living authentically into the Gospel of Christ and what Jesus has called us to do and to be to each other. This camp quite literally saves lives…and that is a big gift.”