When you have a job you love, you have a strong “WHY” behind it. My “WHY” is the reason I think camping ministry is vital to keep the “church” alive in the ever evolving world. My “WHY”, I believe is how I convince college students that are not strong in their faith to come work at a BIBLE camp to continue exploring their faith. It is the reason campers find their own identity in Christ at camp and are able to go home and explore their faith in their own church setting and families. In a parent evaluation this year a camper parent explained it perfectly – “Camp is a place where your child can grow in faith and understand God’s word without really knowing they are doing it through the intentional activities offered.”
During staff training each year, I explain to summer staff that they are going to encounter God with their campers in the most ordinary moments. It might be swinging on a swing with a camper, brushing teeth under the stars, or making friendship bracelets together. Ordinary moments at camp are where the heartbeat of faithful God talk begins. Yes, we do Bible study and worship where campers are able to connect the pieces, but when we go beyond Bible study and continue our conversations swimming in the middle of the lake, that’s where the deep stuff begins. I remember back to when I was a camp counselor, my cabin had giggles all the way through worship. In the back of my head I was thinking I needed to correct them, find a way for them to focus on the message, and focus on growing in their faith. But guess what, the giggles were important. They were connecting as friends, building trust and gaining that understanding of one another in ordinary ways. Later that night laying in our bunks they brought up the story that was told during worship in conversation, they started to bring up the hardships and celebrations in their own lives. Things such as perfectionism, feeling left out, feeling like they let their parents down, how they bullied a friend, loss of a friend, challenges of being a role model and leader, loss of a house to a house fire, the stories continued. As we had these conversations in the wee hours, these campers were able to understand they are not alone in life. God sends community to be with each other through the ups and downs. God is within us and around us each day. The holy spirit works through these ordinary moments at camp and plants a seed for campers to understand their faith as they grow. Camp creates an atmosphere of curiosity and questioning. Camp creates a space to question who God is and what your faith looks like in God. Camp creates a space to be loved for who you are.
Really my “WHY” is just that, camp helps us continue to grow as a Christian community without all the fuss. It creates a space for campers to see God from a different perspective than just a church pew on a Sunday morning.
As I reflected on our summer staff testimonials at the end of this camp season, I noticed a trend. I noticed that camp welcomed our staff for who they were, but bigger yet, I noticed that camp was a place that was foundational in their faith. A place that helps them plant some roots and understand their faith a little more. Wyatt Olson, a second year staff member, wrote about how camp was an anchor for him as he grew in his role of waterfront director this year. He was able to connect his camper experience to his “job” at camp and how God fit into it all. His story really helped me step back and say “YES” this is “WHY” we do what we do. THIS is “WHY” the legacy of camp needs to continue for generations. Camp is vital for creating space of exploration and understanding that GOD LOVES US.
Here is what Wyatt has to say about his experience at camp:
“Anchor” is the word that sticks out at me this summer. Working at the water I’ve dealt a lot with anchors the last few months and I am gaining a new perspective on the phrase “to be anchored”. When I think of an anchor, I think of some object you toss off a boat to keep you in one place for a while until you start sailing off again. That is what camp seemed like to me when I was young, a place to drop my anchor, dive into my faith, and escape the winds of normal life for a week. Then I’d pull up my anchor and go back to life as usual. I have grown to see things differently though now. I understand that the anchor in question is more akin to those that keep our high ropes pods upright, anchors that withstand all seasons and us as imperfect human beings. They hold us up in both our confident steps with sure footing and our missteps when we falter and are unsure. Or maybe it’s like the anchor that holds our swimming area together, unseen yet known to be immovable and reliable. They are there when we tie on and are in need and do not move or falter, even when we inevitably untether ourselves and drift away. They stay there solemnly until we find our way back to tie on to, ready to hold our lead. These are anchors that better describe this place. “Metigoshe Ministries is ‘Adventure Anchored in Christ’…”There is no doubt that this is true, and this anchor is one we can all hold fast to. Even as I leave this place I know that neither it nor Christ will be leaving me. As my line of faith grows, it allows me to go further while still knowing that I am connected to God, this place and especially the people who come here that live out the adventure, who show me and who help me show others the most boundless love I know, the love of God.” – Wyatt Olson – Second Year Staff