Just like that…..it’s over. For a small group of around 170 of us we wait alllllllllll year long for one week in late June every year. This summer was my 26th year attending camp at Pilgrim Hills and specifically Sportscamp. Every year I think “no way can this one top last year”, but inevitably it does.
Camp was different this year though. It was my first time attending camp as a father. They say becoming a parent changes everything and whoever “they” are….were not lying. My week at Sportscamp was absolutely incredible as always and I found it absolutely incredible in different ways than I had in the past.
I saw the anxiety in the eyes of some of our youngest and newest campers on Sunday at check-in. I felt the anxiety in the parents as they snuck in one last hug before leaving their child in our care for an ENTIRE WEEK. What trust, what faith, what responsibility.
Nobody comes out of a week in the woods without some bumps and bruises and bug bites. It’s a part of the experience. It’s easy to pinpoint the exact place and moment and situation of almost every scraped knee, sunburnt forehead or massive mosquito bite. What is harder….well nearly impossible to pinpoint is the moment and place the and the situation where each one of these campers feel the presence of God. As 2nd graders they may not be able to articulate it as such, 7th graders affirm the experience by simply calling it cool and 11th graders pour their hearts out to people they only see once a year. I said to my group of high school students on Sunday evening that one of my biggest goals for the week was that each one of them would experience God’s presence at some point during the week.
Beyond the musty cabins, the suspect food offerings, the ice cold pool and the dilapidated basketball hoops there is a reason so many young people and not so young people like my 34 year old self return to these hills each and every year. It’s the one week out of our year where we have the unique opportunity to do live together with 170 other people in the midst of God’s beautiful creation. It’s a place and time that seems surreal when you compare it to the real world many of us live in the other 51 weeks of the year.
We need camp to help us all remember that there is still a grand design that God calls each of us to help restore and rebuild. Camp helps us slow down, breathe in the presence of God, laugh out loud, play until our hearts content, explore, dream, imagine and find ourselves among the trees, fields and paths of 300 some acres in Mid-Ohio.
Being at camp this summer I found myself praying over and over again that this life-changing experience will be available for our son Max and our future child-to-be-named later. As a parent I watched with so much pride as our youngest campers bravely tried new things, sang their hearts out in worship while fighting to keep their little eyes open after a long day. As a parent I watched junior highers discover skills and talents they didn’t know they had and navigate the rocky waters of learning social skills and interacting with the other gender. As a parent I watched with awe as our high school students articulated their faith through word, art, song, sportsmanship, leadership, example and laughter. As a parent I watched young adults give everything they possibly had with great compassion, care, energy, joy and grace to ensure that each of their campers had the absolute best time of their life. As a parent I watched a leadership team of directors and staff work tirelessly and carefully craft a schedule and a program that provided each and every camper with a full and rich experience while ensuring their safety and well-being all along the way.
As a parent I am thankful for our summer camping program and for those who are working to ensure we have these offerings for future generations. I am again for the 26th year in a row affirming camp and I couldn’t be happier.