Have you ever been lost? Not just confused or turned around, but completely and inexplicably lost? I have, and I was not a child left alone at the fair or in the mall. I was 32 years old and it was terrifying.
Scruffy and I had flown into Colorado to visit family and friends. Our three boys had just finished their very first plane ride and a long drive in the car. We walked up a hill to the local park to goof off until dinner. Something strange about Colorado is that the weather can literally change in an instant. I’m serious, they can have a hot summer day that is interrupted by snowfall. It was warm and sunny, shirtsleeve weather. One of our boys was in shorts and a t-shirt running around barefoot. I was barefoot too. When he had an accident, I took our then five-year-old by the hand and we walked to my aunt’s house to change. It got colder and colder, cold enough to snow. We walked and walked, barefoot and carrying our shoes. I couldn’t find the house. I couldn’t find the street. I stopped and made my son put on his shoes. We kept walking. We were thirsty, but there was nowhere to get a drink. We were tired and cold and hungry, but passed house after tightly closed house, knowing that none of them was for us.
I’d never realized the deep, sweeping fear that comes with homelessness. I could not protect my child from the elements. I could not ease his tears with anything but a hug. I could not get him a drink or change his wet clothes. We had nowhere to go. I would have been thrilled to find a police man or a homeless shelter or just some person with a cell phone. But there was nothing but houses and they were closed to us.
I was only homeless for about an hour and a half, but the feeling is still with me. Eventually, we walked out of the residential area and found a pizza delivery place with a map. That moment when I finally found the right house and knocked. When Abuela (whom I had never met before) flung the door open and pulled us into her arms with tears and shouts of praise, I will never forget it.
I was running to the library in the rain last week. Driving rain at 35 degrees F is incredibly cold. Just my rush to the book drop box and back soaked my clothes. My mind flitted back to that moment of homelessness. My heart clenched tight as I knew that there were moms out there in such a storm, holding a child’s hand, lost and without a place to go.
What does this have to do with camp? Wen I interview campers and counselors about Camas, that is the phrase I hear most of all.
“Camp is home to me.” or “Camas is my family.”
Even when we have shelter and a place to put our things, sometimes we still feel that crushing weight of homelessness. But pull a kid into a cabin full of laughing, shouting, teasing, tumbling kids. Wrap them up with love and care, good food, and fun games. Take the time to answer their questions about God and life and that strange butterfly on the path that they noticed and no one else did. That feels like the door bursting open and Abuela snatching you into her arms and shouting across the house “They are here!” That feels like another story I have heard before. One with a worried shepherd and a bleating lamb tangled and alone on thorny mountainside.
And so as I watched the rain fall last week and the snow drift down today, I thank God that I was found. I am spurred on once more. Spurred on to do this thing God has called us to do, in the place He has called us to be. It sounds so simple, “camp.” But the simple can be sacred as well. A place where we can finally see God, where we can finally come home.