by Rachel Johnson
The only way to preface this Spotlight is to warn you that you’re never going to believe that Allison McLeod has just graduated from high school – her wisdom and insight are far beyond her years. Allison uses her experiences and thoughts to shape the minds and hearts of young girls at Kanakuk Kamps, where she is a counselor this summer. Read on to learn how Allison is empowering young girls at Kanakuk to believe in their beauty, value, and worth, and how she plans to share that same message with the rest of the world.
Q: Thank you for joining us, Allison! Tell us about Kanakuk Kamps. How did you decide to become a counselor for the summer – were you once a camper yourself?
Thank you so much for having me! Kanakuk Kamps is a Christian sports came that encourages children in their walk with the Lord, all while helping them engage in athletic activity and having fun. I was actually a camper and a leader this summer; I was what Kanakuk calls a “Princess.” This is a peer-elected position in which, although I was a camper, I led and discipled about 130 girls in devotions every day.
Q: A coworker recommended that we feature you in our Spotlight Series because you are “paving the way as a Christian leader.” What experiences shaped you into the wonderful young woman (and leader!) that you are today?
Wow, what a compliment! I’m not so sure about that, but I do know that God has continuously poured His mercy all over my life. I grew up in an incredible Christian home, but during my freshman year of high school, I decided that Christianity was not for me. I deliberately turned my back on God and my family. In my desperate pursuit of the world, I began self-destructing physically, emotionally, and spiritually. God met me at death’s door, graciously breaking me and my pride. Through His grace, I realized that this life is not about me, my looks, or my actions. I was created to glorify the One who made me. Because of that mindset, I found true life and peace. As C.S. Lewis said, I’m not thinking less of myself – I’m just thinking of myself less.
Q: What struggles did you face as a teenager, specifically in regards to body image and self worth?
Growing up in the gymnastics world, I began dealing with very poor body image at an early age. This eventually led to an eating disorder, depression, and self-harm. I hated the way I looked and I blamed God for my unhappiness. I distinctly remember telling myself how ugly and overweight I was, literally speaking lies over myself. Even today I still struggle with accepting my body exactly the way it’s made. It’s sometimes hard to be grateful for how God has created me – perfectly and beautifully in His sight. As a result, I have been able to greatly relate to girls of all ages struggling to see themselves the way our Creator does and fight the lies we hear daily, both from our culture and from ourselves.
Q: How are you empowering your campers to realize their beauty and potential?
If you listen to what the world tells us as young women and then contrast it to what God tells us about our worth and value, you will find they are almost exactly opposite from each other. All I try and do is speak truth into each camper’s life; they need to hear His words, not mine. Their minds and hearts are saturated with the lies that the media (and sometimes their loved ones) tell them, but God wants them to know what He thinks of His awesome creation. That’s what I want them to hear. His truth is more empowering than I could ever be!
Q: You cite 1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20 as the verse that you use to help your campers overcome their obstacles. How has this verse impacted you?
This verse has completely changed the way I view and treat my body. During high school, I began thinking that my body was something I owned and that it was my choice what happened to it. How wrong I was! My body is so much more precious than just an object of this world – it is the very dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. I have been bought with a price; therefore, I am no longer my own. I need to honor the One who lives in me. I must respect myself and be grateful for my body as well as confident in the custom design God has given me.
Q: What do you do when you’re not a camp counselor at Kanakuk?
Outside of Kanakuk I am a gymnastics coach, dancer, and student. I will be a freshman at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga this fall studying nursing. I am so excited about getting involved in many of the campus ministries – I cannot wait to see what God has in store!
Q: What challenges do you see young women facing these days in terms of body image and overall self worth?
The constant message we are being told as women is that we’re not good enough – we’re not pretty enough, skinny enough, funny enough, smart enough, creative enough, strong enough, independent enough, tall enough, short enough…the list goes on forever. And the truth is, they’re right. We’re not good enough…for them, and we never will be. The beauty of this is the fact that God doesn’t even look at us for our outward appearance or talent, much less condemn us for it. God knows that we’re more than enough! The biggest challenge I feel women face today is counteracting those lies in their own lives and truly believing what the Lord says about them.
Q: What hopes do you have for the future – for your career, for your generation, for the world?
I want to be a nurse overseas someday, whether with short-term medical mission trips or permanently. I would love to share with those who have never heard the truth about their worth before just how valuable they are in God’s eyes. I pray young women begin to believe and own the fact that they are Daughters of the King, respecting themselves as they should and expecting others to do the same. I pray the world will begin seeing women for their hearts, and not just as objects or sex symbols. There have been many days when I have just wanted to shout at the top of my lungs to society, “We are so much more than our bodies!” God is bigger than the lies. Hold fast to His perfect, unchanging truth.
How does Allison inspire you?