When we rounded up camp’s driveway that first summer when I was ten, my stomach fluttered, and I thought my heart would burst. Two whole weeks! I never felt more grown than there with my own suitcase, shower caddy, and roll of 25 cent stamps to relay my imminent adventures across state.
The years blend together, a mosaic of the some of the best memories of my childhood. Singing “Blessed Be” around a campfire and making copper enamel pendants in the craft hall, not unlike my mom and aunt had in generations past. High and low ropes courses, rowdy games, silly skits, great friends–camp was the highlight of every summer.
The counselors were impossibly cool with their whistles and oversized clothes (it was the 90s), but more than that, they were kind. They wanted to spend time with us, playing cards at the pool or braiding hair on the deck. They gave up a good bit of freedom and certainly better pay to sleep in dank cabins and tell unwashed kids about Jesus, sunrise ’til taps everyday.
My parents and others told me about Jesus, too, of course, but they were old, and there’s no denying it was more appealing coming from Lori with the mall bangs or the really cute guy who played guitar at Club. And somehow, the way they told it, this Jesus thing mattered, not just at church but everywhere: on the playing field, in the cave, and back at home, too.
It was camp where I learned about the Kingdom of God and a Jesus who bowed low to serve. In quiet circles on the hillside and in rows dancing at the dining hall, I learned more of humility, joy, and a God who cares and can be trusted. A God who loves, forgives, and desires good for us.
Camp shaped me. It softened some of my edges and made me more confident. It strengthened my roots, inviting me deeper into faith, community, and my own gifts.
Camp wasn’t like school, with its caste systems. It was a community where it was okay to try new things, mess up, and not be the best. It was okay to ask questions, let down my guard, and fully be myself. It was a place where Love trumped competition, condemnation, or cool.
It was pretty much exactly like how Church is meant to be.
This summer camp celebrates one hundred years of ministry under the towering pines. It’ll be our family’s tenth summer serving year-round and our daughter’s first as a registered, bona fide overnight camper. She’s the fourth generation in my family to worship on these hills, and it’s a legacy for which I am indelibly grateful.
As Christians, we’ve lived so many stories of heartbreak and failure. There’s betrayal and hypocrisy in our midst and our hearts, and the Church isn’t always a safe harbor or shelter from the storm.
But every now and again She truly is: bearing good fruit, excelling in the ministry of reconciliation, known by Her love, resembling our good and gracious God.Blessed be.