Camping Changes Lives

As we look toward the summer months, we are closer to our children and youth being out of school. This is – of course – a time that many children and youth see for freedom, a break from schedules, and an opportunity for a bit more independence and self-discovery. What better place for this than camp?

To be honest, I mostly missed camp as a youth. I went one year when I was in Junior High, and there was no shortage of awkwardness as I tried to navigate this new experience in a new place. And the relationships begun in that awkward and amazing experience were a source of strength and compassion and love through one of the most difficult parts of my life.

Camping changes lives.

That’s what it says at the top of the website for the California-Pacific Conference Camping program: camping changes lives. And I believe it does.

It was through participation in camping ministries that I understood that I was called to ordained ministry. A number of my colleagues have shared their own camping stories that have either shaped their ministries or have been their own understanding of call. Bishop Mary Ann Swenson (who was our own Bishop until she retired in 2012) came to understand her call to ministry at a Junior High camp in Mississippi.

But this is not the only way camp changes lives, and I am doubtful that we could quantify the profound impact camp has on children and youth. Camp offers a community in which our children and youth may experience their unique journeys of faith alongside others who have some of the same questions and same struggles and same joys. Camp offers a place free from distraction where God may be more fully experienced. Camp offers a sense of comfort and safety that is not immediate but is long-lasting. Camp offers a place to be vulnerable and to learn leadership and to struggle with scripture and to laugh and to be in intense community.

Camping changes lives.

I remember vividly the very first year I was a camp counselor. I was new and a bit intimidated. I didn’t know many people and I was in a place where I had never been. One of the things that intrigued me was the counselor who brought his guitar. And it was there that I decided that I wanted to play guitar, too.

I remember vividly a young man in a small group who shared that camp was the only place where he didn’t feel crushed and stepped on. Instead, he felt healed and loved.

I remember vividly a young woman in tears because a loved one was experiencing medical difficulties and she feared losing this loved one to death. She wanted someone to pray with her, and she experienced comfort and love.

I remember vividly the brilliant smile on a young face during a first-ever volleyball serve as he was cheered on by peers and leaders, regardless of where the ball landed.

I remember vividly two young men receiving the news of the death of a loved one – the second in a terribly short period of time – and the way they were surrounded in love.

I remember vividly the sounds of singing around a campfire as hands were clasped, as Holy Communion was received, as hearts were filled with emotion, and the love of God was present.

Camping changes lives.

Pacific Beach UMC has a wonderful tradition of participat-ing in camping and supporting our young people as they join with such a profoundly powerful community. What a joy it is to know that the participation and support from this community of faith has such an impact. It is indeed a privilege to serve alongside you.

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