The following is an email that was sent by Kevin Witt, the director of United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries, on July 16th, 2016. It was sent to an email list of camping professionals to remind us what the purpose and power of camp really is.
A while back, I was talking with my daughter, Briana, who is now 30. She reflected on her time at several church camps she attended. I asked her why these faith based experiences impacted her and continue to be positive memories that shape her.
Here is the gist of some her thoughts:
“What always amazed me was the way very different people from many different backgrounds can come to live together and so quickly open up to embrace and support each other as friends. I mean everyone not just those who would normally get the attention and acceptance. Every time, without exception, a unique atmosphere grew and came alive that drew people to care for each other and to participate in a shared gracefulness to work through problems. Clicks, rejection, put downs just had no place. Nobody pushed that agenda, but it was somehow understood without coercion, but out of joy and respect. Camp was a safe place. That was a core value that people cherished and held close. I did not experience that consistently in school and other activities and groups I was a part of. In those environments, there was a lot of pressure to fit in and to meet expectations, and those who did not measure up were so often isolated or rejected passively or deliberately. I would say what impacted me most was the genuine experience of community among diverse people, and the very real possibility of nurturing that in life.”
What reminded me of that conversation is this passage from Romans.
Let love be genuine; hate what is destructive, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of others; extend hospitality to strangers…Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
This is the way of Christ. It happens more consistently because we recognize this and are attentive to intentionally nurturing it. I am deeply grateful to all of you serving within camp retreat ministry who dedicate yourselves to share the love of God with others by helping them to awaken to God’s presence and providing opportunities to build relationships that are a living expression of love. It may seem a mystery how this community happens, but I firmly believe it begins with our own openness and willingness to be shaped by the Spirit and the inexhaustible grace of God. It is less about never failing and more about the long haul – moving in the direction of God’s “Kin-dom”. This is our special calling that has value for the whole world.
You can learn more about Kevin and his work here: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/leadership-resources/camp-retreat-ministries