Artwork by Kaylin Beadle
By Suzanne Opel
The Pine Lake community lost a family member last week. Daniel Arzu, a former camper and beloved member of the 2020 and 2021 summer staff, was tragically killed Wednesday night, September 21 at the age of 21. As our camp community mourns, we remember his life and friendship. While at Pine Lake Fellowship Camp he was an eager, full-hearted camper, a patient, gentle counselor, and a sensitive, insightful coworker. He always had a bright smile and a kind tone in his voice.
As a young camper, Daniel was the kind of person everyone wanted to be around, according to one of his counselors. He had an infectious joy and spoke boldly about his faith even then. His mother often sent him to camp with campers who needed help understanding English. Daniel would patiently translate for them, a mentally taxing task.
As a counselor, around the campfire one evening, Daniel shared the foundation behind that joy. He gave a powerful testimony of God’s redemptive, protective love, prompting several campers to consider their own relationship with Christ. Even in the everyday, his faith was evident in his actions, and the way he seemed to filter worries through what would actually matter by the time we got to heaven. He was quick to notice when a fellow staff member or camper was feeling down or off, and he would gently check in and encourage them even in the midst of wild days at camp.
On the basketball court and recreation field, his speed and athleticism dominated, to campers’ delight. If he was given the swatter (a half of a pool noodle, used in tagging games), everyone including staff ran from him screaming with laughter as they attempted (futilely) to flee from this gentle giant. Kids who didn’t seem to respect anyone else looked up to Daniel in awe, and he used his sway to head them in the right direction, speaking to them man-to-man.
Whether he was talking with campers about faith and the coolest shoes, or connecting with a volunteer about their shared hometown of New Orleans, Daniel left an impact at Pine Lake. Cooks who only saw him a few brief times each day still remember his warmth and genuine connection. Fellow staff, campers, and even his former counselors shared memories of the joy and bold faith he had here. (Click the link below for more memories on Instagram.)
Daniel’s community has lost an uncommonly wise and uniquely gifted young man, a compassionate son, brother, uncle, and friend. We mourn Daniel together, and we pray for God’s grace and peace for those who called him family and friend.