Abundant thanks to all who contributed Because of Camp . . .® stories for this issue. The pieces that follow represent just a smattering of the many lives changed because of camp. May they inspire and encourage you for the transformative camp work you’re doing this season. — Ed.
The Still, Small Voice
Before I went to seminary, but after I knew I was going in the fall, I decided I needed to let go of my day job and learn a little something more about summer church programs. So I volunteered to go to Mexico on a mission trip (I'd never done that) and to volunteer for a week of summer church camp (I'd never done that, either — my presbytery doesn't own a children's camp). So there I was volunteering for a Presbyterian third- through fourth-grade camp, my first time ever to go to a church camp that allowed serious attention to Christian spiritual development. I had been a YMCA camp person for several summers before this, but faith development was not part of that experience. I was asked to lead campfire since I had done that kind of thing before, albeit at a secular camp. So, I thought: Okay, this should be easy; remember back to when my church would go on weekend family camp trips at a tent campground, combine that with a little bit of entertainment- style YMCA stuff for kids, and throw in a good Bible story. Little did I know that the camp director was going to visit that evening. As I was up there in the dusk leading, she snuck in unbeknownst to me. So I lead the campers through fast and funny songs, had them do camp skits, then wound them down to a transition moment. I was going to have them act out the "rainstorm" (rub hands, then snap, then clap, then slap knees, then stomp feet, then reverse to silence), then go on to a story, quiet songs, and end the campfire. So I took them through the storm activity, but at the moment when everybody went still and their fingers were tingling, I had a burst of inspiration: "Feel that?" I asked, into the silence. "That is what it's like when the still, small voice of God speaks. Do you remember the story of Elijah on the mountain?" I proceeded to tell them that story, likely getting a few details wrong since it wasn't the story I had been planning to tell, and they sat there enthralled. For my part of it, I was a little shaken because it was all unplanned and just happened and I went with the inspiration. It was like a little epiphany that I could talk about God stuff at this camp and name it for what it was! At that moment, I knew I needed to do church camp. The next day that same camp director I'd never met offered me a paid position for the next summer, and I said, "Yes!" The rest, as they say, is history. Today I'm a camp professional.
Scott Crane serves as Program Director at Presbyterian-affiliated Menucha Retreat & Conference Center in Corbett, Oregon.
Horse Camp Baptism
Kate Richardson, Senior High
After coming home from a pack trip
We all just want a shower
And there’s hardly enough hot water
To last us for an hour
It’s time now to have some fun
Before the day draws to a close
We’re eagerly awaiting our campfire
And then our nightly doze
It’s the last real fire together
That we’ll have all of this week
But we soon perish the thought
And continue to laugh and shriek
We share poems and songs
Some stories are told, too
Then we’re told there’s a surprise
But, while we’re waiting, what to do?
A song is suggested that we
Each of us in their separate key
Then Chris saves the day with his magic guitar
And we get the feeling of being taught how to see
More notes are plucked
And we start winding down
But our eyes are still sparkling
And you cannot see a frown
We partake of communion
Tear the bread and drink the wine
And we’re singing mellow songs
For what seems like a very long time
Some tears are shed, some hands
Some hugs are passed around
If anyone is crying
They aren’t making any sound
Then we couple up in pairs
And are led throughout the camp
We sing a song of worship
All eyes now seem to be damp
Awaiting us is a love feast
The tables form a cross
They’re draped in white with candles
In the middle sits the hat of the Boss
We eat our chocolates and drink
We make our crystal glasses sing
And while we enjoy our decadent grapes
I silently thank God for everything
Then we blow out the candles
And we lie down on the ground
We stare at the stars
For there is no cloud to be found
Yes, it’s true we’re all noisy
And we poke fun when we can
But we really do care
At least, that seems to be the plan
As we all lie in the grass
Looking up at the sky
I’m suddenly hit with it
I really love these guys
The moment is so special
And it doesn’t last that long
But my heart knows it was there
And my heart is never wrong
I’ve learned that although you get baptized at birth
The process never really ends
For once you’ve been baptized
You’ll then be baptized in friends
Shared by Oregon-Idaho United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries
Getting Comfortable in My Skin
The strangest part about the past Mountain T.O.P., my fifth year, was feeling the responsibility resting on my shoulders of being one of the oldest. This is by no means a complaint; it just shows me how much I've grown over the years, and how much my own problems take the backseat as I WANT to be there for the younger ones.
We learned about grace this past week. Undeserved, unmerited grace. Forgiveness without mercy. The kind of forgiveness I long for in all that I do. Before the past week, I always thought of God as merciful.
He looks down at me and pities me in my weak state, so he forgives me. Not the God that I grew to know last week — the kind that looks me straight in the eye and tells me "Amber, there is no sin upon you. You're free with me. I forgive you for running from me. I love you."
Tuesday night after worship, I realized I needed to talk about my mom. So I found one of our leaders and we sat down on the steps of the staff lodge, and I talked. I talked and talked and talked. I told her how angry I was at my parents for putting themselves before myself and my brother. I told her how sad I was at my mom for always putting me down when I just needed to be lifted up. I told her I was worried God was going to be mad at me for not having the ability to forgive just yet. I told her I needed to forgive myself for the pain I put myself through, and inflicted upon those closest to me, as I went through those terrible years of figuring out that I was so much better than all of those messages I'd heard. We talked about the pain of addiction and lost love. We talked until I felt that weight lift off of me, until I felt like God had his hand on my shoulder, kissing my forehead.
I love Mountain T.O.P. Now that I'm seventeen and one of the oldest, I have started to take a role in teaching, not just learning. I'm thinking about a future career in ministry or writing. For now, I know I'm happy, and God is here.
Mountain T.O.P. (Tennessee Outreach Project) is an interdenominational, nonprofit Christian mission dedicated to rural life ministry in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee. During the summer, Mountain T.O.P. runs eight consecutive weeks of mission opportunities for children, youth, and adults. Amber Whittle is from City Road Chapel United Methodist Church in Nashville. She wrote this piece after returning from Mountain T.O.P.'s Youth Summer Ministry program.
Fresh, Swift, Clear, and Alive!
In the summer of 1969, Woodstock was not the only big event for this New York teen. Midway up the Ice Caves Mountain in Ellenville, NY was a novitiate and retreat center run by the Salesians of Don Bosco — a Catholic religious order of men who served youth. It was my privilege to be there.
We enjoyed a lot of the usual activities associated with camp. We hiked a rocky mountain trail (I saw my first live rattlesnake!), clambered around in the ice-cold caves, shot BB guns at targets, swilled Cokes and munched on candy bars we purchased at the camp canteen.
My fondest memory, however, was afternoon Vespers in the camp chapel. It is hard to imagine that forty hyperactive teenage boys could become so quiet, so open to the influence of the Spirit, but we did and we were. We chanted from the Psalms and heard stories of Jesus and his apostles in a way that held us spellbound. The folk group (a Baby Boomer's version of a praise team) had us singing with gusto new creations along with older hymns. But what stood out to me in all of this religious rapture was the witness of these men (some only ten years older than me) who had made themselves radically available to Christ and to those like me whom Christ was trying to reach. I wanted to be like them and decided then and there to enroll in the high school seminary preparatory school if my parents would allow it. They did, and my life took a decided turn toward service in the cause of Christ.
A lot of time has passed and this year I celebrated 30 years in professional ministry (although I hardly feel very professional most days). My calling has taken me not to the priesthood but to ministry with pastors and other congregational leaders in another denomination. I still cherish being available to support these brave women and men who serve in Jesus' name. If I have done anything of value in serving, I owe it in part to the example of brothers and priests who seemed to enjoy sharing life and Jesus with a bunch of kids high on hormones up there in the Ice Caves Mountain camp where the will of God — like the water in the mountain streams — was fresh, swift, clear, and alive!
Bill Rose-Heim is NW Area Pastor for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Mid-America.
Camp Didn't Just Change My Life
MYNA (Muslim Youth of North America) operates an international youth-led camp program each summer. The following excerpts come from MYNA's 2009 post-camp evaluation surveys.
The MYNA camp experience is like no other. The people there are so welcoming and friendly and it feels nice to be around people of the same faith. The lectures were amazing and very valuable in my everyday life. Camp is a fun way to learn how to get involved in your community and become closer to Allah. It has such a nurturing environment. I am very happy that I attended because it gave me a new view on life and why it is crucial to become involved in your community and spread Islam to the world. This retreat impacted me so much that my parents and siblings noticed the difference in me. Now I am praying the full five times because I really understand that it is THAT important. Before this retreat I don't think I truly understood how important prayer is; but now I do. I felt great knowing that whatever I said was understood because we are all Muslims together. Also I don't wear the hijab yet, so having me wear the hijab with about thirty girls wearing it with me made me feel proud.
This year's MYNA camp didn't just change my life, in a way it saved my life. Every single individual had his or her own impact on the event, which means in one way or another everyone affected me. It's almost weird how strong the bond I formed with many of the campers in only seven days is. This MYNA camp provided me with a true feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam and showed me the potential of the Muslim youth. Finally, it inspired me to try to start working for Islam with both youth and adults.