Rachel Browne is manager of Moorlands Camp in Manchester, Jamaica, a picturesque place in the midst of poverty for missions groups and children to "come rest and experience God." A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Rachel attended the camp for years as a child, then traveled the world and eventually returned with her husband to serve as camp manager.
"I have an assurance that I am here for God's purposes, and will do whatever it takes for God to be pleased to walk and talk with people," Rachel says.
When Rachel is not managing staff, plunging toilets, or corresponding with missions groups, she's raising three children with her husband and serving as a volunteer tutor in local communities. TCW caught up with Rachel to find out what God is doing in the hearts of camp attendees in Jamaica, and got a look behind the scenes of a Christian camp that hosts over 3,000 attendees per year.
How did you end up managing a camp in Jamaica?
I grew up in Kingston where generations of my family have lived, and I lived there until five years ago when my husband and I moved to Moorlands. I first came to camp here at the age of nine and fell in love with the place. It was a place of firsts: my first time singing in public, the first time I tried hiking, sports and crafts. Lots of firsts happened here. I also met my closest friends here.
I went to Moorlands every year, until one summer I went to France for an exchange program. It was the most beautiful town and you could see the whales, it was beautiful and you could play, but I distinctly remember missing Moorlands. That was a big deal to miss camp that year.
Even though I fell in love with the simplicity of the place and felt the presence of God very tangibly, I went away to school in Canada. Although both me and my husband are business minded, we wanted to do missionary work. We had both been counselors at [Moorlands] camp, so we kept in touch with them even though we were away.
While I was doing my MBA, my husband was commissioned to do a website for Moorlands. One day we got a call asking if we wanted to be the camp's managers. We asked ourselves if this could be the calling from God we were looking for. But, a couple of weeks later we found out that we were expecting our first child. Oh no, I thought, they would never want to hire me while I was pregnant.
So I called the chairman of the board, and said that I had some news for him.
I was shocked and grateful for their response: "A Moorlands baby!" he exclaimed. We felt so loved and accepted. They were supportive of the family life. Their positive response sealed the deal for me. Seven months later I started working.
Managing a camp at seven months pregnant sounds like a difficult calling.
It was difficult. We live at the camp on the top of a hill, so I had Noah [my firstborn son] strapped on to me running up and down from home to camp for months. I remember it being so hard, but there was such a joy in serving God here.
So what does being a camp manager entail?
I am the head cook and bottle washer. I manage everything: the physical site, the new additions, the plumbing, electric, and even plunging toilets if I need to—whatever it takes to make people feel comfortable. I also manage donor organizations, the staff, and correspondents, as well as ensuring the quality of the food is superb. Basically whatever it takes for God to be pleased to walk and to talk with people. Moorlands Camp is a clear and tangible taste of his presence. We have very little to do with it. We just seek the Lord, and he makes it happen.
Why do you do what you do?
It is really just one day at a time, to try to do my best and listen to God's voice, obey and just walk with the Lord, abiding in him. He has led me here, and I need to abide in him. Even when my three kids are screaming and I need to be at the camp, there is an assurance that I am here for his purposes.
Every day since I have been here, I have found that there is a verse in Corinthians that is such an encouragement to me: "And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others" (2 Corinthians 9:8). When I feel that I cannot manage it all—camp manager, wife, mother, missionary—or when I feel that I have joined the circus, I choose to abide in God. The enemy makes us feel that everything is so difficult, and some days seem so impossible, but I have the ability to abide in God. That's what keeps me going, and that is why I do what I do.
How have you combined your background in business with your passion for missions?
I try to use my training and knowledge of business to be efficient in all of the different areas at camp. Even in my least favorite job, accounting, God gives me joy to get things done. Accounting is necessary, so I have disciplined myself to get through it. I just have to listen to music when doing it.
If your least favorite job is accounting, then what is your favorite part of camp life?
I think my favorite part is the worship time. There is this big room called "The Rock." It is a chapel of sorts that fills with teenagers worshipping with hands held high, pouring out their hearts to God. Most come to know God here, and they experience a real touch from him. It is amazing to see the worship, and I have to force myself to stay away in order to meet the practical parts of camp life.
Can you explain more about how you help the local Moorlands community?
The community around us is an impoverished one, and I have had incredible opportunities to serve the people by providing some full- and part-time jobs at camp and feeding the hungry. If we see a need we try to help out, because we trust God even though we are on a very strict budget. Sometimes kids can't afford uniforms, shoes, or food for school, so we will sponsor children to go to school by helping them buy uniforms, books, shoes, and lunch.
There is a basic school next door to camp that we help by donating food and cleaning the schoolyard. I used to be a teacher, so God uses every little part of me to serve them. In my "free time," I help kids with math and English.
What has managing a camp taught you about managing your responsibilities as a mother and wife?
My advice for any woman with kids would be to not let your responsibilities pile up. Instead, do them systematically, and schedule everything. You have to keep yourself organized. You have to plan and manage your time and be deliberate about making your time for kids, your husband, and for your work. Even if you don't stick to the schedule exactly, at least it's there, and it's a big help.
When I'm managing my time, the most important thing is putting God first. When you get married and have kids, these are very good things, but remember to keep God first. You have to be very deliberate about that. Your kids, family, spouse, and work will take up that time [away from God], and it happens very easily. Put God first, and he will order your day.
Abbey Woodfin is Today's Christian Woman's editorial intern.