The reality that some kids have already started school is setting in, even at camp. Every camp that we ran this week saw lower numbers than before. And next week, it will hit us even harder that (as it will all the students) school is back in session. There are fewer campers able to come, and those that aren’t sitting behind a desk yet are still being called away to extracurricular school camps. So, while some of our faithful volunteers are still canoeing, playing dodge ball, and dressing up for skits, other of our volunteers are marching in heat for band camp or running lines in two-a-day football practice. Yes, reality sneaks up on you–or what we like to call reality anyway.
The moon has been particularly nice this week. It starts out near the horizon, large and papery yellow, It rises higher over the night and becomes brighter, smaller, and whiter. When you sit out near the river, there is a path of light, leading to the moon that you’d just like to follow across the river. And, the nights have been so calm and the river so smooth in the evenings that you could fool yourself into thinking you could step out onto it and follow that light. The evenings, though still hot and humid, have been bearable with this type of scenery. There was one evening that I was doing cabin inspections while the campers were at water olympics. I was on the boy’s side of the camp, evaluating the typical boy cabin scene–clothes strewn all over the floor as if there had been a police raid, candy wrappers next to each bed, and a smell of mildew, cologne, and bug spray all mixed into one unique, off-putting odor. There was one point, though, when I passed the boy’s side vesper area and became hypnotized by the moon on the river. You could see a small current that rippled and glistened even from far away. It was one of those moments when you know inside that you should stop and just look at it, regardless of how important your prior commitment is to you.
We’ve had an interesting mix this week of suburban and urban campers this week. The tendency for every camper is to stick close to those they came with, and when you bring in different cultural, social groups, campers tend to stick even closer to the familiar ones. But, the times that are the most enjoyable for all of us are when the campers are as one group, sharing their interests and experiences with each other. It was great seeing the talent show last night, when these groups stood together trying to make us laugh with their goofy skit or dancing together to a Justin Beiber song. To see all these campers who talk different, have different skin tones, and who come from so many different places come together even in the name of dancing to Beiber, you can’t help but feel hopeful for yourself–that you might be able to find peace within this world at some point too.
The Advanced Backpacking camp emerged yesterday from their trip out East. They spent 5 days in South Cumberland State Park climbing hills, hiking into gorges, and swimming under waterfalls. They slept in hammocks each night, carried their food and water, and cooked everything they ate themselves. They made it back on Friday in time to take a long shower and join us for chicken fingers at dinner. They spent the evening acclimating back into the way of life they left for a week: air conditioning, mattresses, human contact, cars, and Justin Beiber. I’m sure there were mixed feelings. I always have these feelings when I emerge from something like this. There is much about our way of life we love, but much that we get a little too comfortable with. And too much comfort can slow down personal growth. And so, we struggle with what to hold onto and what to let go of. We wonder what is a gift from God for us and what is meant to be given away.
Yes, reality inevitably sets in, as all the kids with the band camp farmer’s tan can tell you. Those times of peace, reflection, and revelation will get tested eventually by something you have to do or a problem that’s a little more difficult than you thought. Our campers will go back to their worlds and deal with people who don’t see things like they do. There will be pressures they didn’t have here at camp. Our campers will want to go out into the woods and sleep under that bright moon, but their bodies will beg for 72 degrees and a soft mattress. They will be tempted to forget the sounds of the outdoors at night or the conversation of a dear friend, to crank the ipod and play today’s rising song on the pop charts. We will search for balance, and the scales will tip a little to one side for a time. But I hope that we will notice. And when we do, I hope we will remember these times that formed and shaped us. That comfort might become less of a priority for a time, and that we will follow that path of light that is leading us to something we may not quite understand but that we know we shouldn’t resist. That God’s voice, whispering for us to follow, will bounce around in our ears enough to draw us back to him and to a new reality.
Next week is our last week with summer campers. We have a small group registered, but we know this gives us a chance to get much closer to the campers individually. We also have a youth group retreating with us this weekend and a wedding taking place at our Waterfront. Be in prayer for everyone who walks through our doors.