Lots of kids are going to camp this summer – scout camps, sports camps, academic, arts, and adventure camps, and (I hope) church camps. It may be the first time some children have spent a week away from their families. It may present them with challenging new activities. It may offer a life-changing opportunity, where they find their niche. It may be a miserable experience they can barely endure.
In the old Peanuts comic strips, Charlie Brown went to camp every summer. Sometimes Snoopy went along too. That was where he met his new friend Peppermint Patty and her sidekick Marcy. It made an impression on me as a kid.
The summer I was twelve, I went to Blue Lake Methodist Assembly for a week of church camp. Some other kids from my church went too, but I don’t remember being able to spend much time with them. I made new friends, like Charlie Brown did.
I felt challenged by new activities. We sang around a campfire at night. We slept in bunk beds in concrete cabins with no air-conditioning. It was hot. I still remember the smell of sunshine on pine straw. It was my first time to spend a week away from my family, and I was pretty miserable.
We were up early for morning watch and counselor-led devotionals at vesper point. We stayed busy with a variety of outdoor experiences each day. A preacher closed each night with a message about being a Christian and giving your life to Jesus.
I didn’t do it that week, but the seeds were planted. Those seeds stayed in my heart for a couple of years, until, with a little nurturing here and there, I was ready to give myself to Him at age 14.
Being out in a forest, by a lake, or another place in His natural creation seems to give the Ever-present One a grand setting to get our attention. The Creator and His creation are not the same thing. That would be pantheism, which is outside the bounds of traditional Christian orthodoxy. But without man-made distractions, we have more clarity to perceive both the greatness and intimacy of the God who loves us. Children do too.
I’ve returned to Blue Lake many times during the fifty-something years since I went to elementary camp. It still holds a special place in my heart, because memories have multiplied from other wonderful experiences there.
I attended the Blue Lake Christian Writers’ Retreat in the spring, and once again felt challenged by new opportunities and information. I highly recommend it for you fellow writers. http://www.BlueLakeCWR.com We stay in a comfortable lodge now, not in those cabins.
I hope many, many children have new doors open to them as they attend camp this summer. Sometimes, being in a new and different setting lets a child see, hear, and experience something wonderful that they might otherwise not be able to receive. I especially pray that in faith-based camps, Jesus is still offered to receptive hearts – or at least that seeds are planted that will come to fruition later.
Charles Schultz always closed the camp week’s comic strips showing Charlie Brown riding the bus home. It was a time for him to reflect on what had happened during the week, or in typical Charlie Brown fashion, on what opportunities he’d missed. I don’t think I reflected much during my bus ride from Blue Lake. I was just glad to be going home.
But I’ve thought a lot about it since then. I found a sense of belonging there – to the camp, but also to my place in the Body of Christ. It’s where I always belong. It is home.