Camp Impressions

My first weekend in Italy, I somehow convinced my lovely roommate Abby to “hike” (it turned into sketchily walking along the sides of two-lane roads, what I now affectionately refer to as “rubber stomping”) all the way from Perugia to Assisi. When my bitter and tired companion and I finally trudged into the Assisi train station, I started talking to two guys that looked very American, if not South Carolinian. I was right on both counts; Jesse and Michael had just graduated from Clemson, and we had quite a few mutual friends.

Two years later, that chance encounter has led to me being a summer camp counselor in the glorious Colorado Rocky Mountains. Both of the train guys had worked at Camp Timberline in the past, and when I got a hankering to serve at camp one more summer before entering the “real world,” Jesse encouraged me to apply.

So here I am in Estes Park, sitting on the sidewalk of the closed public library, charging my electronics and sucking their Wi-Fi after hours…what I get for being too cheap to buy a cup of Starbucks. I’m a little over two weeks into training, and it seems really right to be here. Some may call my means of getting here bizarre happenstance or wild coincidence. I cannot call it anything other than God. Being here already, I have grown closer to Him, learning more about both his character and faithfulness and my own “ish.” Half a month ago, I did not know one person, and that did not scare me. Since then, 140 strangers haling from all over the country have transformed into an authentic Christian community. Many are my friends now. Personal boundaries broke down pretty quickly during our Wilderness First Aid course (“Is there any reason for me to check your genitals?”). Mountain Adventure training allowed plenty of time on the ground to hang out with each other…and discover everyone’s weirdest poop stories. An intense work week of painting, rock moving, tree chopping, and camp beautification solidified our newly formed bonds. As a group, we have grown closer to the Lord together through evening worship, sharing our testimonies, prayer, and Bible Studies.

With each new adventure I embark on, I become a little more of a master in the nomadic, vagabond lifestyle. Okay, that is an exaggerated description. But really, I do bop around more than the average person. Though I was not nervous about coming to camp, the bombardment of that many strangers and a completely new setting was more overwhelming than I was prepared for. Not to mention being thrown back into a snowy, frigid environment. It was May, after all. I’m used to basking in a summer sun by then, not re-entering Narnia’s Hundred Year winter. Brrrr. Shudder. Brrrr. Camp’s motto is for campers to be “Known and Loved.” When I first arrived at Camp T, I realized that that was the deepest yearning of my own heart. No one knew me, and you certainly cannot love someone very well without that first qualification. Though day by day I feel increasingly known and loved, there have definitely been moments these past two weeks of consuming loneliness. Just give me some cell phone service and let me talk to my family and friends!

But my adjustments are not what camp is about. Camp is not about me at all. It is fun and food and challenges and Creation and exhaustion, but the focus of camp is already in the name: Camp is about campers. It is about Jesus. Most of all, it is about sharing unending love, amazing grace, and the authentic relationship they can have with Him. He is alive, He is faithful, and His love is unending, no matter what we do or how we mess up. As a staff, that has been the lesson we have been reinforcing in our own faith journeys.

Session 1 begins tomorrow, and I am revved. BIG things are going to happen, of that I am certain. Now that I am more settled, and I am ready to pour into campers like it’s my job. Oh wait. It is. Despite some initial lows, there have mainly been highs, and this place already feels like home. For the next five weeks, campers will be known and loved – on hikes, during meals, when they’re too scared to jump off the gut check, on the athletic field, during chalk talks…It’ll be exhausting, but it will also be incredible. This summer, I am grateful to be a part of it all.

My Covenant Group on a night off in Estes
P.S. Just because I’m 22 doesn’t mean I don’t like to get mail at camp.

 

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