Thursday, June 28, 2012


There are a lot of fancy, competitive, expensive camps to choose from each summer.  Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney says that camp (which is also the title of his best-selling book) was the most important experience of his life. His exclusive camp in Vermont was a sleep-away camp where kids stayed for eight weeks every summer. He says that camp made him the man he became. I think that church summer camp programs have the same effect on kids. Here's why:

I just left our church kitchen filled with pride and gratitude as I realized that four seventh graders are independently fixing snacks for over forty campers and staff twice each day this week, with only enough supervision to be safe and on-time. These kids have aged out of the day camp going on this week, but they loved camp, and they have enough sweetness in their hearts to give back to camp. They have also been part of our cooking camps in past summers and so have the skills to support the camp this way.

Besides the four in the kitchen, there are eight more middle and high school students helping this week. They are playing hard, bandaging boo-boos, sitting out with campers whose exuberance exceeds the space available. They too have been part of church camps when they were younger. Some of them just returned from a week or two away at church camp. Now they are bearing witness to their faith by a hundred small acts of kindness, mercy, and love each day, as well as helping lead games, worship, service and crafts.

The camp itself is being  led by three wonderful counselors from the Lutheran camp about an hour east of here. These young people have a passion for the gospel and a heart for kids. They work incredibly hard all summer long for not a lot of money, and make a huge difference in the lives of some of the campers they counsel. Some weeks they work at camp; other weeks they go to churches like this one and put on camp at church.

It has been over 40 years since I went to confirmation camp, yet I can still tell you the names of some of my counselors. I can still sing all the words to many of the songs I learned there. It wasn't fancy, competitive, or expensive but it had a huge impact on the rest of my life. It was one of the ways my parents' baptismal promises were carried out - for that week, at camp, I lived among God's faithful people in a way that Sunday morning didn't deliver. And that's what's happening at day camp this week too!

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