You'll have to forgive me for having summer camp on my mind, but it is that time of year, as evidenced by Jendi being a counsellor at her camp this week and Kristi sending her daughter off to camp. Since I can't actually be at camp with my church this week (something to do with that 12,000 miles away from home thing), I've been thinking about camps in the past that I've had the opportunity to go to -- like last year's summer camp or winter camp 2008. Good times!
When I was younger, all my older brothers and sisters got to go to a camp in Virginia at one point or another, but by the time I was old enough to go my family stopped going. Go figure - the blessing of being the youngest child and being excluded from some pretty cool things:). But the Lord showed favor to me later in my teen years when I got to go to church camp, which was much better and well worth the wait:).
My first "kinda real" camp experience was at family camp in Schroon Lake, NY at the Word of Life camp. The only problem was I was too young to take part in the youth group activities (like the rest of my siblings) and I didn't know anyone in the elementary group, so my brother Phil (2 years old than me) had to go to the elementary group with me and all I remember are the scowls he gave me as we sat on the little carpet squares. Hey, it wasn't my fault that I wasn't old enough to be with the youth group:D. I finally did get to participate with the youth group once the leaders realized I was the youngest of five children and wanted to be with my siblings. Ah, life at family camp!
I will always remember my first official camp experience in January 1998. I had just gotten saved the Sunday before camp, so I was in a really good position. I didn't have to worry about conviction over not being saved and I didn't have to worry about conviction over not having things right in my life. After all, I was a 4-day old Christian and it was the best time to go to camp and enjoy the experience:). With all the excitement of a 15-year-old, and being duly sugared up from my best friend's candy stash, I headed to what is now a dearly-loved camp about 45 minutes south of my church: Camp Sankanac. I haven't been to Camp Sankanac in a while, but I am so grateful for that wonderful place.
In addition to being a new Christian at my first camp, I was also blessed to have my Pastor preach at camp. The theme for that year's camp was based on Lamentations 1:12 ~ "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?" and my Pastor preached some thought-provoking messages. All in all, I greatly enjoyed that oh-too-quick weekend camp, from the preaching to the activities and everything else in between.
My disappointment was great six months later when I couldn't go to summer camp, and that was a trend that would continue through my high school years: go to winter camp, stay home from summer camp. I suppose that's another reason why winter camp was always such a special, special time for me. I can still remember walking the half-mile from the girls' house to the main house where the preaching, activities, and eating all took place. What good memories!
After I graduated in 2001, the main cook for winter camp asked me if I would like to help her in the kitchen and I jumped at the opportunity. 11 wonderful camps were spent at Camp Sankanac and it became an honor to be asked by Mrs. Lytle to help at camp in the kitchen:). The last time I went to Camp Sankanac was as a counselor and I came full circle: from camper to cook to counselor:).
Since then I have gone to a couple of summer camps as a counselor and enjoyed those camps too. As I think about the teens from my church at camp this week, I realize I can still be actively involved in summer camp 2009. Praying for those teens, the speaker, the counselors, and the camp in general is my great privilege and honor. Many of these teens I interacted with on a daily basis while I worked in our Christian school, so I feel a special connection with them and am asking the Lord to work at camp in a special way. I don't regret one year of going to camp and know just how life-changing camp is.
Besides, where else can you play crazy games like the entire team eating from the same watermelon or American Eagle - mud style?!?!