It occurred to me recently that nearly all the faith and life milestones I recall from my childhood and 47 year old life are connected in some way to camp.
It’s strange to me that I can’t remember a single one of my Sunday School teachers even though I had near perfect attendance, but I still remember my first camp cabin and camp counselors from when I was 8 or 9. Though I don’t remember the content of a single cabin devotional from that two week session, they made a lasting, positive, impact on me.
I remember the challenge of one of the backpack hikes at camp. I was in so much pain that I contemplated faking injury in order to find relief. The encouragement from the group kept me going and I still feel the sense of accomplishment of removing my pack at the camp site. As a young camp staff member, I recall the intense training which included three days of fasting alone in the woods with only a tarp, three matches, my sleeping bag, bible and notebook. It was a spiritually formative experience that I will never forget. Little did I know how much of that training would come into play long after I ‘aged-out’ of summer camp.
At a particularly difficult season in life, camp was there again and became a safe refuge for me to work out ‘some stuff’ with God.
There is something powerful about camp. It’s not just kids’ stuff, but has power for the whole life. There is power in the camp setting that allows relationships to go deeper, challenges to produce more growth, life and values to find clarity, pain and brokenness to find healing, the self to find safety and identity. It just seems to help people become whole.
So, why can’t the real world be more like camp? I wish I knew. Maybe the question is all wrong. Perhaps camp is more ‘real’ than the so-called ‘real world’. Maybe the power of camp is that it gives us just a glimpse of the ‘true reality’ for which our souls thirst. That glimpse is enough to convince us that we were made for more. Believing that changes everything.
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