Written by Kristin Potter
To the outsider, the Ellefson family wouldn't have appeared to be anything special. Just a husband and wife, doing their best to raise their two high school girls in the Bay Area. They lived in a house that was a little unkept. They didn't drive nice cars. Finances were most likely very tight.
But as a 10 year old girl, I didn't see any of that. I'll tell you what I did see. I saw Ruth Ellefson, a mom with a full time job, who volunteered a good portion of her year to planning a massive week long summer camp for upper-elementary age kids at the church I grew up at. I saw Mr. Ellefson... actually, I rarely saw Mr, Ellefson. He was a blue collar, hard working man who did everything he could to provide for his family, When I DID see him, he was always leaving the house on a "snack run" for his girls' party plans. I saw Mandi Ellefson, the youngest of the two daughters. A 15 year old red headed firecracker, just like her momma. I saw the coolest house on the block, with a huge backyard, which was home to countless summer trampoline sleepovers. And last but not least, I saw Marty, an 18 year old High School Senior with the coolest bangs I'd ever seen. Marty, is where my story actually begins.
With a mom who runs a summer camp, I'm sure it was non-negotiable that Marty would serve as one of the camp counselors. But it was only for one week, five days actually, so, no big deal, right? Knowing how that family operated, I'm sure giving up one week of her summer was something she was excitedly looking forward to.
Marty greeted my group of girlfriends at the entrance to camp jumping up and down as we drove in, ponytail waving in the wind (I told you, coolest hair ever). And by the end of the week, we said goodbye in that very same spot, crying that the week was over (even though we'd all see each other in two days at church on Sunday. Girls, right?)
My fun with Marty and the Ellefsons had just begun, all because of that one week. The Ellefson house became one of our favorite "hangs" as pre-teen girls. Marty and Mandi quickly became our neighborhood babysitters, with us Ambrose girls as their "self proclaimed favorites". As we grew up, the Ambroses and the Ellefsons continued to pour into each others lives. My Mom loved chatting and praying with Marty as she prepared for college, and later marriage. And I loved standing by Marty's side as a bridesmaid in her wedding.
All because of one week.
My life in ministry began when I signed up to volunteer at a middle school summer camp at church. I desperately wanted my baby sister to go, and I knew If I signed up to staff it, then Kim would feel comfortable going. I requested time off from my job at Nordstrom, thinking "its only a week". And when it was time to load the buses, I greeted my group of 6th grade girls with bouncing enthusiasm (and good hair).
Little did I know that, even as a volunteer, that week would change my life. Of course, that week I discovered a genuine love for ministry and seeing youth come to know Christ, but in addition, I was introduced to a group of girls who helped to shape who I am today, as a leader, and as a woman of Christ.
My house quickly became their "favorite hang". Clothes went missing from my closet on a regular basis. Saturday mornings were reserved for Pancakes and Pajamas at Kristin's. My bathroom was home to many pre-prom makeup and hair prepping sessions. And as they grew up, there were road trips to their colleges, late night phone calls before their finals, and a couple of bridesmaid dress purchases, getting to stand beside them on their special days.
These girls taught me how to love. They taught me how to pray intentionally for others. They taught me how to show up for someone else and hold their hand through the hard stuff. They taught me how to make disciples, all because of their desire to know more. I am forever changed because of these beautiful girls.