A story of hope from The Salvation Army’s Camp Hidden Lake

By: Quentarius Ross

I wish I had known about camp when I was younger. I wish I had known about The Salvation Army. It would have changed my whole background and perspective on life.

I didn’t even know The Salvation Army was a church. I thought it was just an organization that gives clothes and food and helps people when they need it. And I certainly didn’t know there was a camp for kids.

I first learned about Camp Hidden Lake — The Salvation Army’s camp for the Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Division — seven years ago. I was walking down the street when the pastor of the local Salvation Army stopped and started talking to me. He asked if I wanted to attend the Tuesday program for children in the neighborhood. I was a shy kid and wasn’t sure about going, but I said yes anyway.

Tuesday rolls around, and sure enough, the pastor pulls up in The Salvation Army van to take me, my brothers and sisters to the program. We were greeted by loud music and children having fun and eating snacks, and I thought, hey, this is like a party! So when the pastor later asked if I wanted to get more involved in church activities, I was on board!

Before camp, it was very difficult for me to make friends. I was a shy kid and would get picked on for not talking enough. I got bullied for my skin color, how I looked, and what I did or didn’t do. After a while, I just stopped trying because I didn’t want to feel that rejection anymore.

My very first year of camp changed me. My new friends and camp counselors gave me the confidence to find my voice and helped me learn about God and how He can help you in any situation. Now, I have a lot of friends from all over that come to camp every year. I’ve known them for so long that I consider them family.

Here at camp, I feel like I’m home. You turn around and smile, then turn the corner and smile some more.

This is my first year as an instructor. I’m a ropes course instructor and also assist with music. I never thought I was a good teacher or leader, but this year at camp showed me differently. I discovered I could lead well and that I enjoyed teaching. I was teaching a class one morning when it dawned on me that I could do this, and it felt good.

For example, one particular camper didn’t even know how to hold a Trumpet, and by the end of the camp, her playing was incredible. She was so good that I would have believed she had played before. And I was part of making that happen.

I feel like I’ve made an impact on lives, and it’s given me a direction for my future.

I think about the campers long after they are gone. I make the time to get to know them. Some come from broken homes, so it’s hard leaving camp. Before leaving, they told me how much they would miss me and how they couldn’t wait to come back.

I feel like I’ve impacted lives, and it’s given me a direction for my future. After high school, I’m going on to a community college and then a university.

Quentarius is currently enrolled in nursing school which he credits to The Salvation Army.