As I sat in my writing chair doing cabin assignments, I heard the sound of an acoustic guitar on the hillside above our house. Worship in the outdoor amphitheater, which is a fancy name for a collection or old log benches that circle the inner slope of a natural bowl in the land between Squirrel Cabin and Mountain Panther. The sound of singing filled the forest with energy as it drifted through our windows. This was the first time I’d heard camp-style worship since March of 2020. I am so grateful that the Lord has called us to serve once more through the crazy beauty that is called camp ministry.
It can be challenging to jump back into something that has been lost to you for a year. Yes, camp was still ministering to individual families in 2020, but we hadn’t hosted a large group for over a year.
But the call was so very clear: in the remarkable way that God provided speakers, nurses, cooks, and counselors. So many small and large miracles have made camp possible this year.
From the camp intern who started having specific chapel session ideas long before we told her that we needed a speaker for our last Junior camp, to the experienced guy counselor who surprised us and just showed up at staff training, the Lord has amazed us with His provision.
When the staff applications stopped coming in, I crunched the numbers. We didn’t have enough experienced girl staff. I showed Scruff and we both stared at the cold hard facts. Would I have to counsel cabins this summer instead of take photos, edit photos, post photos for parents, and write the blog? How would people react to not having the daily updates on life at camp that they had grown accustomed to? We prayed, again. Once more coming before the Lord in desperate need. Then Scruffy got a message from a girl counselor who had just finished her degree and felt inexplicably called to reach out and ask if we had enough girl staff. What we didn’t know, she’d had camp on her heart since February and finally sent a text that she’d had on her phone for a long time. God knew and God was preparing His people to serve in mighty ways.
Scruff could think of one more person to ask about counseling, but he knew she currently had a great job. He almost didn’t send a message, but in the end, didn’t want to say no for her. So he asked. She had just given her three weeks notice since she’d accepted a new position. The camp we needed her for most, well, that fell right between jobs. She was free for that precise week of camp.
There were two weeks of camp where we still required a cook. Out of nowhere, God laid our on the heart of someone we would have never asked and she volunteered to come and serve at camp. Choco, who has been working a different job this year and hardly ever has days off, suddenly had some time off. He and Partake dedicated a huge portion of that precious time to camp in helping us with worship, an unending string of maintenance issues, and the more complicated camper check-in and check-out schedule that Covid-19 guidelines require.
Again and again, we watched Him provide for the summer in a cascade of small but deeply-needed miracles. Finally, we were training staff at camp once more. Counsel staff and support staff, all learning together. The art of washing dishes, leading cabin discussion, unclogging a toilet, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Service of every kind, vital to camp ministry, this was the week where we gave them the tools needed for the job.
During staff training, something happened that reminded us of the long-lasting power of giving of yourself wholeheartedly in ministry. Epona, one of our interns, was teaching on how impactful small acts of kindness are to campers during their week. Years and years ago, when she was a first-time camper, she was super-excited about her horseback ride. Garmin, her counselor, drew a picture for young Epona of her horse. Epona still has that picture to this day. It was so meaningful to her, she kept it for twelve years.
Well, it has been a long time since Garmin was at camp, but on a whim, Scruff decided to text her about how that one sweet act both encouraged Epona as a girl and gave her a tool for teaching future staff about how to connect with their campers. Scruff was shocked to see that he hadn’t messaged Garmin since 2013, but he sent the text nonetheless. Well, Garmin messaged back saying that she totally remembered that week of camp. Not only that, but she was particularly discouraged that day and had asked the Lord for word of encouragement. Then, here was this text from Scruffy telling about how her week at camp so long ago is still having an impact in campers lives as Epona teaches the staff using Garmin’s simple act of love as an example.
Staff training is beautiful that way. Young staff learning from older staff. Stories of camps of the past retold for a new generation. That video on how to unplug a toilet being shown just one more time! It’s not just the older staff teaching either. The younger ones have things to say as well and are constantly challenging us and brightening our days with their questions and insights. As someone who just sent her youngest son to staff training to watch him listen to lectures on both the magic of working the camp dishwasher and the simplicity and power of the gospel, I am so grateful that my sons can receive this training. Watching staff both receive and give to one another as we prepare for this crazy thing called camp ministry filled my heart and reminded me why we do what we do. Thank you Father, thank you for giving us the chance to serve You in this crazy and lovely way!
1 Timothy 4:12–“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”