I started chocking up before camp even began. During check-ins I was assigned the nurse’s station, where I greeted families and called them in one-by-one to make sure they were healthy and ready for their summer activities. One camper, Noah, came up to me with a bright smile on his face. I asked him what he was excited about this year and he said enthusiastically, “Everything.” Then in a thoughtful voice he added, “I just feel so safe here.” I was completely caught off guard, a feeling I’ve had continually this week as our first round of kids amaze me with their hearts and awareness of God.
In chapel we have explored the different roles of Jesus. We talked about Jesus as God with us, Jesus as teacher, Jesus as friend, and Jesus as Savior. In our first session I asked the kids if God is always with us and was met with an emphatic chorus of “YES!” “Is there anytime God isn’t with us? What about when you’re sleeping?” I challenged them. “NO! He never leaves us!” they shouted back at me. Nalyssa raised her hand and said, “God is always with us because the Bible says he will never leave us or forsake us.” It was such a clear concept to our 7 to 11 year old campers, and a profound reminder of God’s nearness to me as I get older and am prone to forget.
Last night we talked about what it means to serve each other as friends. We talked about the ways Jesus served his friends, and how Jesus offers us things that no other friendship can. Some of the kids said Jesus gives them unconditional love, forgiveness, never leaves, and doesn’t judge us. Then we went to the back of the room to take turns washing each other’s feet. There was a loud cry of protest when this activity was presented! I wasn’t sure if some of the kids would even leave their seats! But when the activity began, I was amazed to see kids and counselors kneeling in front of each other and carefully scrubbing away the dirt accumulated from their day. Ava pushed back her messy blonde hair and asked me to sit down. She evaluated the bottoms of my sandy, grass stained feet, assessed my rough calluses, and then meticulously washed between each of my toes with a bar of soap. I have never enjoyed the feeling of clean feet so much. That night when I joined a girl’s cabin for devotions, Tyne closed us in prayer saying, “Thank you God for one of the funniest experiences I’ve had tonight in chapel.”
This week has been full of new friendships, risk-taking, valiant competition, learning new skills, a few tears and cases of homesickness, and lots of silly giggling. I have enjoyed seeing campers’ artwork, gaining confidence in swimming, working together in games and races, bonding with their counselors, and sharing thoughts and stories with each other. As our time together comes to a close tomorrow, I hope each of our campers will take all of their experiences home with them—the challenging, fun, profound, and funniest—knowing that God is going with them. But then again, maybe they should be telling me that.