I’m supposed to be spending my week at a new (to me) church camp and instead I am at the same ole desk as every other day of the years to come.
I’m supposed to be sleeping in a open-air hogan and instead I’ve been in my air conditioned bedroom.
I’m supposed to be leading silly songs and playing games and cultivating friendships and instead I’m scheduling appointments and having meetings and answering phones.
I’m supposed to be at camp this week, but I’m not.
…And it breaks my heart. Today, at my desk, I wrote notes to four of my past youth group children to mail to them for their week at this same camp next week. And the memories came flooding in. Remember that time when we performed a choreographed dance to “Thriller” for the talent show? Remember that time when Mouse was spinning in our cabin in the middle of the night? Remember that time when we thought we’d never get clean after Crud Wars? Remember when Beau scared us in the field because we were out after lights-out? Remember that time that we collectively cried and stood together saying, “You are not alone”?
The thought of how disappointed my 14-year-old self would be creeps into my mind. Since the age of 12, I have been to camp at least once each summer. The camp didn’t even have to be Bedford. I’ve been to camp in Columbus, IN, Athens, TX, and Newton, IA. This summer, it was supposed to be Dietrich, IL. Somehow, the promise I made to always give back to the programs that shaped me fell to the wayside.
For me, camp has never been about the amenities: the ziplines, the ropes courses, the horseback riding, or even the lakes. Going to camp has always been about being in a place where I felt the most loved, accepted, myself, and able to grow. I learned to love myself at Camp Bedford. I learned to love the differences in other people. It was a community that wanted me to succeed and to go on and make this world a more loving and better place to live. The people I’ve met at camp are forever etched in my fondest memories and they are the reason that not going to camp this week has hurt so much.
I promised that I would always give back to camp ministries – no matter where I was at or what I was doing. But this time I compromised. But I will never stop trying to give my heart and soul to camps. As children get busier and they start going to more specialized athletic and art camps, it is harder and harder for camps to keep enrollment steady. But I am here to say that a week at a general summer or church camp will be just as beneficial to any child as it was for me. There are a million stories like mine of kids whose lives were changed for the better by the people they met and the experiences they had at camp. Outdoor programs and ministries will never be unnecessary or irrelevant. If I can do anything for camp ministries this summer, it is to do my share in promoting them!
*Photo from http://www.firstccbedford.org/camp-bedford.html