I’m exhausted. I’ve got a serious farmer’s tan, several bug bites, and my hair desperately needs cut. Eight straight weeks of either helping lead camp or traveling to the next one takes a lot out of a person. I have been fighting off a cold for the last couple of weeks. As soon as camp this week ended and I had time to really rest it hit me with a vengeance. But I wouldn’t trade my experience this summer for the world!
Camp Pine Lake in Iowa was my final week of the summer and the youngest age group with which I worked – those who have finished third through fifth grades. This group definitely skewed more towards the third-grade side. While I had run a couple sessions for campers of this age group or even younger before at other camps, this was the only week where they were my primary target age. I had to readjust and revise my planned sessions for this age group, but the camp staff was more than happy to help.
It was fitting to end at Pine Lake; in a way, it was also the place I started the summer. The week after graduation Manchester University’s A Capella Choir goes on tour. This year we were heading for Kansas City, and stopped for a concert at Pine Lake. While helping to move everything inside, I mentioned to the leadership that I would be back in a couple months as the Youth Peace Advocate (YPA). At the end of the concert, I was formally introduced by them as this summer’s YPA for the first time.
For most of the days, I ended up incorporating parts of my sessions into the Bible study for the day. On Friday, I led the “Little Red Riding Hood/Maligned Wolf” session with some help from the week’s “Camp Grandpa.” The campers seemed to particularly enjoy the games I used as teaching examples.
My favorite memory from Pine Lake was our Monday night campfire. We had reordered the daily themes for the week, so we were focusing on Agape and how Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. That night, staff left our four basins for the campers by the fire. Three were for feet washing and one for handwashing. Nobody was forced to participate, but campers and staff were encouraged to participate as they felt led to ask another if they could wash their feet. Unlike most Love Feasts I’ve attended, where the act is primarily symbolic, the water the campers were using quickly got dirty with the dirt and grass of a long day spent in God’s creation. After washing each other’s feet, some of the other staff and I brought around communion bread that had been made by previous camps and offered each camper and staff to break off a piece, and prayed together “This bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ.” (One of the councilors who is a pastor explained to the campers that some churches ask people to be baptized before they receive communion, but the decision to participate was “between you and God.”) We they brought around the cups of grape juice and prayed together “This cup which we drink is the communion of the blood of Christ.” For me, this was one of the most significant moments of encounters with God and moments of community of the entire summer.
While this was my last week as the Youth Peace Advocate, it was Pine Lake’s Program Director Barbara Wise Lewczak’s last camp before retiring from that position. Given what I was feeling with it being my last camp as the Youth Peace Advocate, I cannot imagine what it must have felt like for her. I was glad I was able to be there and work with her just before this era of Pine Lake history draws to a close.
Thinking about legacies and cycles, when I mentioned my parents had visited Camp Pine Lake under similar circumstances thirty-three years ago one of the long-time councilor’s ears perked up. After some discussion he remembered meeting them, as he had been a councilor during their week at Pine Lake with the Outdoor Ministries Association Team in 1986! I hope I have left a legacy worth of all those I’ve built on and trust God to continue to lead us into the future.
This summer was hard work. During orientation and my first week at Camp Colorado, I felt underqualified and overwhelmed. But as I figured out my sessions and developed a rhythm, I fell in love with the job. I wasn’t always sure if what I was trying to get across was reaching the campers. But I almost always had at least a couple of campers come up and tell me how much they loved my sessions. I was invited to a baptism. I helped lead anointing and communion. I was pushed outside my comfort zone to hike up mountains and lead campers in geocaching. I led campfires and learned many new songs, and variations on old ones. Many campers asked if I would be back next year. I would be more than happy to volunteer at any of the camps I was at this summer again in some other role. It was an amazing summer. Now I am looking forward to a couple weeks of rest before I start the next part of my journey as this years BVS intern in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in Elgin. It is in God’s hands now. Remember, Peace Works!
God of Peace,
In the scriptures you show us your call for peace and reconciliation, and what happens when we fail to live out your peace. Help us to remember Jesus’s example that Peace Works. May we bring the lessons we have learned together to our communities and be empowered by your Holy Spirit to bring forth the kingdom of God in this world.
In Jesus name,