Camp is a powerful opportunity to step aside from daily routines for a period of time in order to experience renewal in nature and in community with others.This time of renewal is rooted in love and grace, which strengthens the potential for transformation and inspiration. While the experience of renewal itself is powerful, the true impact comes after camp.
As a director, I get to witness the "camp experience" unfold. The rare treat, however, is to get a glimpse of how that experience ripples into other aspects of a camper’s life. Often, rather than seeing it, I hear about it from a camper or their family.
One of these memorable experiences at Suttle Lake came in the middle of a summer session. A group of campers, which included siblings and neighbors, were having a conflict over a heated game of volleyball. As leaders were helping the campers step aside from the situation, I happened to walk by and was able to join the conversation. The group had circled up and were taking turns expressing their feelings about what had taken place. An older, returning camper was among this group and what she shared was influential in helping the group find resolution and has stuck with me.
She said, “I heard you calling each other names. That didn’t feel good because at camp we practice respect. At camp we get to experience God’s love and to love each other. When that happens I feel good about myself and I like how I treat others. That’s not easy at home, but I’m learning that is who I want to be and how I want to treat others. Let’s work together to be respectful of each other and help each other see God.”
Wow! This teenage girl made a huge impact by sharing from her heart. Her words shaped how the group treated each other for the rest of the week and how those siblings and neighbors saw each other as they headed home. The way she expressed her feelings meant a great deal to me, having seen her struggle as a younger camper and knowing some of the struggles she faced at home. Her words stuck with me because they provided insight into how she had experienced the fullness of the Christian community at camp and how she allowed this experience of God’s love to nurture who she was becoming. She was finding strength, the ability to love herself, and the compassion to help others along this journey.
I have heard a variety of similar stories from other campers of all ages. Stories of how their time at camp had filled them with God’s Spirit, allowing them to put love into action. I continue to find beauty in the Christian community at camp and its gift to empower individuals as children of God, living out the best of humanity.