Every year, the Association of Adventist Camp Professionals (AACP) meets at camps across the North American Division to learn and grow together while fostering friendships within the camp community. Stacey DePluzzer represents the Lake Union at these meetings.
As Stacey DePluzzer sat in the car watching the familiar city of Chicago fade away to the open farmland of central Illinois, she wondered how she would survive out in the middle of nowhere. A native Chicagoan, Stacey’s idea of a good summer before going to college did not include working at Camp Akita. But her mother had other plans.
Through her high school years, Stacey developed a love of music and even earned a music scholarship to a local university. But although Stacey’s dream was to pursue music, her mom really wanted her to go to Andrews University to pursue medicine.
“This wasn’t my plan, so I gave excuses for not applying. But I was accepted and my mom was persistent about me attending Andrews,” says Stacey. “This is when I shared with her about my summer plans before going to school. And again she told me that instead I was going to summer camp. My mom’s pushing caused a lot of tension between us and I planned to try and foil her plans.”
When her interview with the Illinois youth director came around, Stacey fluffed her way through it in hopes of deterring any interest in hiring her. But her mother remained persistent in following up until a job offer finally came.
“Every camp I’ve been to has been on a college campus,” says Stacey. “The closer I got to camp, the more I saw buildings disappear. It felt like my mom was sending me to boot camp.”
When Stacey arrived, the youth director excitedly met her and she saw others from her church there. “It turned out that I knew a few people there at the camp.”
About halfway through the summer, Stacey began to notice there was something different about Camp Akita and by the end of the summer, she noticed the worship songs they’d been singing was creating a shift in her.
“I realized that there was a brand new picture painted for me. And it was a picture of God that made sense in my mind. I’d found a desire to learn, search and research more about who God is. And that rekindled a fire in me for God.” says Stacey. “That was the jump-start to the rest of my life. I got hooked on camp. 10 years and 10 summers.”
Stacey was re-baptized that summer which opened the door for God to speak to her. And for the first time in a long time, she could hear Him in ways she could understand.
After her first year at summer camp, Stacey started her first year at Andrews University where she went through a rollercoaster of trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life.
“My family was medical, I didn’t want to be a pastor, and I expected college to be easy since I had graduated high school with a high GPA, “ she shares. “I had started my first pre-med classes and for the first time, I had gotten an F. But I was doing really well in my religion classes without much effort.”
Stacey remembers sitting down and asking God what He wanted from her, “And He said I wasn’t wasting my time. Let me open doors that are meant for you. I had always been resistive of the plans He wanted for me.
“I was kind of using camp as a crutch and you can’t work at camp without having your life changed,” recalls Stacey. “I had prayed that God change my mentality at camp. I want to be there because it leads people back to Him.”
A couple years later, things began to change. Stacey’s director announced that he was accepting another call elsewhere and that left Stacey feeling like she’d lost a pillar of support.
“I didn’t want to go back [to camp]. But God reminded me that my mission wasn’t based on an employee,” says Stacey.
To add more heartache and turmoil to the transition, Camp Akita lost two staff members to a winter car accident. That was when she met Michael Campos, the new Illinois Conference Youth director.
“Michael reminded me of a saying, ‘Sometimes the path of God takes us on isn’t straight. But you have to keep walking it,’” reflects Stacey. “It was my final semester at Andrews and I finally came into the space of listening to what God wanted for me. That was really the time that I, after hearing it consistently, decided what to do.
“I remember saying, ‘I hear you God, I know you’re calling me to youth ministry. I don’t know what that looks like or the process, but I’ll come back for seminary in the fall after camp.’ That was it, I was ready for that.”
After graduating from Andrews, Stacey started working part-time as associate director with Michael at the Illinois Conference to help prep for summer camp. One day, the treasurer stepped into the office and asked her about a resume.
“I didn’t have a resume, so Michael helped me put one together. And after that I heard nothing about it,” says Stacey.
After a successful camp season, Michael offered her a full-time position working in youth ministries. Stacey’s plans were still to attend seminary in the fall, but she was starting to feel unsure. She hadn’t even done anything for the application. And then she received a formal offer to join the Illinois Conference, and she took it.
“My plans were still to go to seminary, perhaps one day,” says the 26-year-old. “And they said let’s look at it in a couple of years and see if we can send you there.”
Becoming the AACP Representative
Every year, the Association of Adventist Camp Professionals (AACP) meets at camps across the North American Division to learn and grow together while fostering friendships within the camp community. And ever since Stacey had first heard of AACP she had a strong desire to attend.
“The conference was able to send me in 2017 and the only people I knew well were my boss and the camp caretakers who go every year,” says Stacey. “But as the speaker would go through the gospel, his messages reminded me why I chose to keep going to summer camp and how camp became directly tied to my calling.
“I not only fell in love with camp again at AACP, but God put a picture of what He had for me into a real picture.”
Not only is youth ministry something Stacey is excited and passionate about, it’s the place that God had planted her in; the place that God had planned for her and where she would kingdom build for Him.
The second year Stacey attended AACP, she was elected as the AACP Lake Union representative. But as everything was still new, Stacey was feeling unsure of her new role.
“I remember sitting and talking with Esther Lorenson, who had been an AACP representative, and she helped explain my new role and gave me the ins and outs,” recalls Stacey.
With one term as representative down, they were coming closer to the year's caucus.
“Ron Whitehead said I could do so much with this role,” says Stacey. “And I remembered someone telling me that we were a bridge to the rest of the camps in the union.
“Camp isn’t just about the kids and you can’t lead from an empty well. This is an opportunity to keep the communication going and ministering to those ministering to other people,” Stacey reflects. “To me it’s a privilege and honor to be in this kingdom building and it’s a big deal to come along side these people and work with them and remind them how valued they are and what they bring to the table.”
Stacey, 27, was reelected as the Lake Union AACP representative for the 2020-2022 term this past November.
Katie Fellows is the Lake Union Communication Assistant.