I love summer camp!
When I finished the 3rd grade, on Father's Day weekend, my parents put me on a bus in Wilmington NC and my pastor drove us all the way to Lutheridge in the NC Mountains for a week of summer camp. Of course I was nervous and a little homesick, BUT the area director (Emmett Wicker, who I still connect with on Facebook and in Lutheran circles!) comforted me and made sure I had an amazing week. In my elementary and middle school years I would go to Lutheridge every summer. Growing up at the beach we did not get to the mountains that often. So seeing the majestic mountains, surrounded by loving faith community, meeting new friends, watching camp counselors live their faith and be goof balls at the same time, playing games outdoors, and experiencing God in new and exciting ways had a life and faith transforming impact on me.
When I was in college I became a camp counselor, which helped me grow in how to live in community, grow in my leadership, and practice articulating my faith with words and action with campers of all ages. One summer I was even able to become a Area Director where I was able to comfort homesick campers and of course be a goof ball at the same time. It was during those summers as a camp counselor I heard God's call to go to seminary. And now as a Pastor I get to fill up a Church Van and take youth to camp so they can get outdoors in God's magnificent creation, unplug from our various screens, and experience God in new and exciting ways. This summer I get to take 7 youth to Confirmation Camp at Lutheridge, and then go back to Lutheridge on another week to lead Family Camp Bible Study with my own family. A little bit later in the summer I have the joy of leading Surf Camp with Camp Agape at their Kure Beach Center! I consider these weeks at camp a highlight of the whole year.
All of our pastoral and program staff at Holy Trinity has attended summer church camps and served as camp counselors. We share the common experience that being a camp counselor helped shape our faith, leadership and helped lead us into professional ministry in the church. This summer we have 7 Lutheran Campus Ministry students serving as camp counselors in Lutheran camps around NC and I'm excited to see how these experiences will shape their faith and leadership.
We understand that "camp" isn't for everyone. Camp can be super "extroverted" and not every likes to experience the world that way. Camp can also be expensive (but there is scholarship money out there!). While I understand camp isn't for everyone and our summers can get super complicated with all the options for vacation, entertainment and sports camps, I do think Church Camp is really important to the larger Community of Faith and crucial for the vitality of the Church at large. I do think we should unplug and get outdoors to experience God's creation more often. I do feel it is important to experience God in new and exciting ways in a place a part from our normal routines and church buildings. So even if you don't go to camp this summer, maybe you can find a way to unplug and get outdoors. Maybe feel the sea breeze or breathe in mountain air and know that God is as close to you as your own breath.
Over the course of this summer keep these campers and camp counselors in your prayers. And let us know how you are experiencing God in new and exciting ways in your summer activities.