November 19th was National Camp Day. I know, probably my new favorite day of the year.
I used to be confused when people explained ways they saw God. Some see Him in their friends, in the way the sun peaks through the clouds, or in a church. I see God at summer camp. I see Him in the kids who arrive at the cabin, who show us Christ’s love through their own knowledge, growth, and sense of wonder. I see Him in the counselors who are dedicated to making kids feel at peace, helping spread Christ’s joy, and love them well.
I’m not sure I can fully describe the way camp has impacted my life. Looking back on my experiences as a camper or counselor, being at camp is the way I experience God the most.
Club. Cabin time. Big cookie. Timber Wolf Lake is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, with perfect lines in the grass and pink flowers that are watered daily. My Young Life leaders volunteered to run with me in the mornings, have conversations around the lake, and simply show up for me. It’s a place where courage is found in the obstacle courses, but also in conversations where vulnerability is active. It’s where I was encouraged to be myself and accepted for who I was. I would laugh at the skits on stage, then turn around and cry at the message being shared about Jesus’ love. I had never experienced a greater love than His.
The moose. Pool days. Cabin 2. I walked through the tunnel of people as I was given notes of encouragement for the week ahead. It was Siblings Week at North Star Reach, where the brothers and sisters of children with serious illnesses were invited to camp. We were giving them a chance to relax from their daily stresses, a break from appointments, and time to enjoy themselves. My co-counselors were incredible examples of hard work, compassion, and kindness. I remember everyone’s voices singing in unison at the end of the talent show, where standing ovations praised our girls’ bravery on stage. Their joy was unforgettable.
No silverware Sunday. Dance parties. Campfires. As a camper at Spring Hill, I was timid and shy. As a counselor, I was pushed out of my comfort zone to lead and teach. But there is nothing more beautiful than making connections with kids. In between rushing to activities, we get to hear about their lives. We get to hear how they saw Jesus during the activity. We were poured into as counselors through morning meetings in the Gospel of Mark, adventures to the beach on our days off, learning about each other during one on ones at 7th Street, and hearing how we shared the Gospel with kids. It truly was the ultimate adventure.
Praise God for camp. For taking kids into Your creation. For revealing Yourself to them through crazy songs, dance parties, activities that challenge them to face their fears, messy dinners, time to learn about You, and giving them a place to feel the depth of Your love. Thank you for teaching counselors and leaders how to love well, learn through growth, and know You are with us in every moment. Thank You for kids. Thank You for friendship. Thank You for camp.