This week we are privileged to hear from a long time friend and counselor Gorp. I’ve been waiting with bated breath for Gorp to write something for the blog. So glad he did!
Written by Steven Whitham, camp name: Gorp.
Nearly a year ago, Kristen asked me to write about how Camas Meadows had affected my life. It has taken me that long to put my thoughts to page. The truth is, writing this was a daunting task because I don’t like opening up to anyone and everyone. At the same time, Camas Meadows means too much for me to relay anything less than what’s really on my heart.
So allow me lend you my eyes.
I first attended Camas Meadows when I was 13 as a camper. Like many other things in my life, my insistent mother pressured me into going. Not that I was opposed to going, just apathetic about it. And like so many other things in my life, I’m afterwards glad my mother is so insistent. That first week changed my life forever in a positive way. Since that year, I attended Camas Meadows once more as a camper, 3 times as a counselor including a summer where I worked every week. My last time working as staff, I took leave from the Army to work at camp.
In order to explain what Camas Meadows means to me, I should explain a few things about myself. For those who don’t know me, understand that I am naturally introverted. I usually only share with a very select few. For those who do know me, this will set some context.
I am an Army captain, having deployed both to Iraq and Afghanistan. My last assignment was leading a group of men whose primary responsibility was tracking human beings to be killed or captured. 70-80 hour workweeks at home, 90-100 hour workweeks while deployed, kept me underweight 20-25lbs from the stress. I’ve lost friends, seen inhumane things I won’t share on this blog, sent men into combat and nearly lost one in a firefight (a distance of 2 inches saved his life), while folks at home debate whether what we’re doing is even moral. (By the way, my experience is tame in comparison to most.)
When Jesus needed rest, he went to the garden. Camas Meadows is my garden. In a world gone berserk, Camas Meadows remains a place where everything is, in a word, right. Every time my life turns upside down, Camas Meadows is my refuge. It’s where I go to take a life pause, catch my breath, and heal. Never underestimate the power of safe haven.
When I need God most, I find Him at Camas Meadows.
Camas Meadows Bible Camp is a place where all the world’s distractions melt away and God meets you where you are. If you’re a “lost” soul, God finds you. If you’re a Christian with lost direction, God will light your path. If you’re hurting, God enters your wounds. In my time there, I have had the privilege of leading others to Christ, but also sitting speechless, giving only the gift of my shoulder as others show me their shattered hearts just hoping someone, anyone, will understand. And I have witnessed miracles, physical and spiritual, personal and otherwise.
The most profound snapshots in time occur around the campfire at the end of every summer camp week, where kids share what God has done for them that week. For those who have never experienced this, let me paint the picture for you. Sitting in the cold on wooden benches or the grass with blankets, a fire, and embraces of friends for warmth, we look to a sky with stunningly vibrant stars set against a black canvass. Someone brings a guitar and we sing praises to God for His creation and His love. Everyone is exhausted after a week of fun and/or tears, too tired to keep their guard up but discovering they no longer need to. Worship becomes pure, authentic, and unashamed. One by one, people stand up, toss a piece of kindling into the fire, and speak what’s on their mind. Some speak for only a few seconds, thanking God or the counselors for the friendships they’ve made and the fun they’ve had at camp. Others share at length the most heartbreaking stories ever uttered aloud. Some proclaim joyfully their decision to accept Christ into their hearts. Some recommit their lives to Him on the spot. In that moment, all doubt about the week is stripped away. Counselors who have poured themselves out like a drink offering understand, perhaps for the first time, their role in God’s work that week. It’s beautiful. It’s right.
I once had a conversation with some wonderful Christian men who were unsure whether to support the camp because they felt its mission was incorrect. They believed every ministry should focus on “reaching the lost” and any ministry that wasn’t focusing its efforts that way was not worth supporting. As much as I love these men, I respectfully disagree with every fiber of my being. They were more interested in a quantitative conversion count than qualitative ministry. I get it. Christ’s Great Commission was about making disciples. But folks, we are fooling ourselves as Christians if we believe we don’t need ministering, ourselves. The camp’s motto since I’ve been there has been “planting and watering.” Again: right. I love the metaphor. God does the work; we are His tools. He adds to His family, and He recovers His prodigal children.
The ministry of Camas Meadows does not end with their summer camps, or even rental camps. I have participated whenever possible in CamasCon, a Christian board gaming convention where about 35-50 stereotypically introverted geeks of all ages sit around tables and throw themselves into different worlds, powered by shared imagination and confusing rulebooks. Talk about becoming all things to all men! It’s a time of fellowship, fun, and healing. Imagine working every day, struggling to live in a world with people who don’t understand you, and yourself being naturally disinclined to let others in. But two weekends a year, you have a place and a time to meet others like you; with whom you don’t have to pretend, who know you before you even meet them, where you don’t have to live by everyone else’s rules. Again, tired of keeping up your guard but discovering it’s not necessary. Then God meets you there, in the company of believers. It’s hard to describe the experience to those who have never been to it, harder still to describe it to those for whom CamasCon is not an attractive retreat (which is most people; we get it).
I love Camas Meadows. I love the people, I love the ministry. I love that the religion there is merely Christian as CS Lewis describes. I love the facility, I love God’s creation. I love God’s servants, I love his broken children. I love the Christian I am when I’m there, and the Christian I am when I re-enter the world.
I don’t think my words here adequately express my feelings, but I’m already well over double the word count Kristen asked me to limit myself to, so I’ll wrap this up. I hope those of you reading this will have a greater appreciation of the ministry of Camas Meadows Bible Camp. Much of the ministry that happens there cannot be quantified, but it is as powerful as any other. Camas Meadows has certainly impacted my life, and for that I remain forever grateful.