I’m no stranger to summer at camp. I love summer at camp. I love the laughter of kids playing outside the office window. I love the joy on a camper’s face when they pull the sock of a staff member in a big game. I love the contrast of high-energy worship and the stillness of an acoustic vespers service. I love the picture of a counselor praying for one of their campers—remnants of paint still visible from the game that day. I love summer at camp.
As I looked towards my first summer as the program director here at CPBC, I knew all these things that I love about summer at camp, but I also knew I hadn’t experienced summer here at Pines yet. There was a level of unknown for me—would I love this role as much as I’ve loved all my other roles at camp? Would there still be those sweet moments of what camp is for me in this new place? I didn’t fully know what to expect as I anticipated a new place in a familiar, yet new season. And as the summer winds down and I step back to look at the work God has done over the course of the summer, I’m reminded of the powerful ways that God shows up at camp. It doesn’t matter what camp we’re talking about—Covenant Pines, Covenant Point, Portage Lake, Camp Squanto—there is something special about the community of camp that God uses in the lives of His people. In the midst of this new season in a new role, I’ve had many moments in which unexpected waves of God’s presence and goodness came over me.
One story of God’s presence that comes to mind is the story of one of our Junior High campers, named Sam. This camper is no stranger to CPBC and he was one of the few that I already knew because I met him at our MEA retreat. Camp is a place of safety for him, and place that he deeply loves. Sam came to camp with some recent struggles with mental health, and some other baggage from home. We knew of his recent struggles and had some intentional conversations to make sure that we could care for him well while he was here. My prayer was that he would be able to experience the love of Christ in this place just like the 199 other campers that week, and that God might lift his burdens. At the beginning of the week, we found out that Sam loves to read, and he really wanted a Bible. I had the privilege of helping him pick one out, and when I saw him throughout the rest of the week, I often saw him with his nose in that beloved book. And when he wasn’t sitting reading his new Bible, he was walking with his counselor, having conversations. Or he was inviting a new friend to go swimming with him at free time. I was reminded almost daily through Sam of how big and good and unexpected our God really is. This junior high kid, who has not had an easy childhood, is not only Experiencing the Love of Christ at camp, but he was helping others experience Christ around him. I expected our staff to come alongside Sam and help him Experience the Love of Christ in this place, but in reality my staff and myself alike were seeing God in and through him. He welcomed new friends into his community, he spoke simply of the joy he was finding in being in God’s word, he was honest about the hard things going on in his life with those around him. I saw God in such an unexpected way through Sam and I know others on our staff did too.
God shows up at camp. He shows up through our staff in the lives of our campers. He shows up through the beauty of his creation here in the space between Davis and Round Lake. And, like Sam’s story, He shows up through our campers to touch lives of other campers and our staff. No matter what role we’re in at camp—camper, summer staffer, guest, or full time staffer—God is so clearly seen here. This summer more than ever, I’m grateful for the unexpected ways that God is present. In the midst of a new season for myself, I celebrate stories like Sam’s. And I’m reminded of the good, constant, faithful presence of the God we serve—may we all have eyes to see His presence around us.