Camp is for Campers! And…

There is an oft-repeated motto here at camp.  A motto used to remind staff and volunteers and counsellors why they are here.  A motto that keeps camp focussed on its true purpose and mission.

“Camp is for Campers. “

The thing is, camp really isn’t just for campers.  It’s for counsellors. And cooks. And staff. And the handy man. And the chaplains. And the volunteers. And me.

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The goal of camp might be to serve campers, and that’s a beautiful thing, and it is worked out in many ways by all of the aforementioned people. However, it affects so many more people, and sometimes influences them much more deeply than it does the campers.  So often this summer, I have heard a counsellor say something along the lines of, “I know I’m here to take care of and teach these kids, but I feel like I’m learning more, and they are teaching me more, than I’ve taught them.”

I have thought the same thing many, many times this summer. Seven weeks ago, I had no idea that this summer was going to be one of the most memorable summers of my life. Seven weeks ago, I had no idea that Campfire and the people I would meet and things I would learn here, were going to change me forever. Seven weeks ago, I had no idea that I would find more of a home at Campf!re than I ever have in my own house, and that I would never want to leave.

I came to camp feeling a bit uneasy. I didn’t have a specified, clear role at camp, since I was coming as wife-of-the-assistant-head-counsellor, so I didn’t know how things would go with the rest of staff. Would they feel uncomfortable in my presence? Would we get along?  I wanted to be helpful, but also didn’t want to force my presence on them as a ‘hanger-on’ to the official members of staff. I hoped for a pleasant and exciting summer, but had no idea what to expect.

My fears were not only completely unfounded, but completely destroyed by the end of the first week here at camp. The staff embraced me and my daughter, Alexa, completely, bestowing on us the titles of Camp Baby and Camp Baby Manager.  They showered us with gifts and love and made us feel so very welcome that we almost felt overwhelmed.  Alexa has been living on stickers and hugs and candy all summer, basking in the non-stop attention she receives from every single member of staff. It has been absolutely incredible to see how much they love and welcome us and treat us like one of their own. What a blessing!

Beyond the incredible relationships we have formed with the staff, I have found myself soaking up the spiritual atmosphere of Campfire.  The gorgeous scenery, a constant reminder of the wonder of God’s creation, serves as a beautiful backdrop to the incredible, heart-touching chapel messages we hear every single day. From an incredible exact replica of the cross created by the chaplains to the eagerness of the campers during sword-drills, chapel messages are always reminding me of the incredible wonder of God’s love and grace. Beyond the chapel messages though, is the very basis of Campfire – prayer.  Each day begins with a staff prayer, and goes on from there, with people constantly praying for and with each other, whether in pairs, group circles, or in front of the entire camp.  Prayer is an integral part of camp, and it is such a witness of God’s love to see Him at work in so many ways here at camp.  When you begin, continue and end your day in prayer, you can’t help but see God’s hand in everything that happens each day.

Seeing campers and counsellors encounter the grace of Christ so intimately here is inspiring and encouraging, as we witness to a variety of children, whether they are from churches or from the streets of Hamilton. It can be very challenging to answer some of the difficult theological questions they have, but also very rewarding.

I am always hearing the refrain, “Camp is for Campers,” but this year, I feel like God has made camp for me. He has used this place to deepen my relationship with Him in a way I never thought possible. He has used this place to intensify my desire to raise my children in the fear of His name with an intimate, personal relationship with Him that incorporates prayer in everything. It has infinitely increased my own conviction of the amazing power of prayer. Camp has changed my life for the better in so many ways, and is giving me a summer I will never forget. Camp is for Campers? No. Camp is for everyone who is here, and this year, it is especially for me.

~ Stephanie Visscher (Kanga)