I have fond memories of summer camp. The experience wasn’t something my family could ever afford, so I will be forever grateful to a generous Sunday School group for sending me off to the woods.
It’s amazing how much I recall about that brief week spent with hundreds of other kids and a few brave adults. Even though I went to other camps in later years, and attended camp as a counselor and as an adult on retreat, nothing else ever had the impact, emotionally or spiritually, of that first experience. I assume it was my first lengthy escape from home since I can’t recall any other. I also assume there were at least a few adults that my mom and I trusted implicitly because she didn’t let us sleep away from home very often.
I’m not sure how church camps are operated these days, but when I attended everything had restrictions. What we wore, what we did, when we did it, and who we did it with were all governed by strict rules. We ate, slept, played, and prayed by a schedule, but somehow being in the woods and being away from our parents made even the rules easier to abide by.
I worked in the kitchen during part of my stay. I made crafts and entered a drawing contest. I sang songs and memorized verses. I walked in the woods and swam in the pool, not the lake. I prayed and studied and listened to speakers. Mostly I asked some hard questions that I didn’t feel brave enough to ask at my home church. At camp there seemed to be others who were just as confused, and counselors who didn’t seem to be surprised or offended. So, I asked some things that I thought my parents might consider silly or worse, disrespectful. I asked some things that might amuse my friends in school, and therefore embarrass me. I asked some things my teachers couldn’t, or wouldn’t answer. That was the experience of camp for me, the freedom to be “just me” for a little while and not live up to the expectations of my parents, teachers, or friends. That was the gift some generous adults in our church gave a young girl one summer…just as she was finding out who she was and where she was going.