This weekend we were able to help with Family Fun Weekend at Bay Shore Camp in Sebewaing, MI. Every summer, the camp welcomes the community to come out, bring a tent or RV, and enjoy a weekend with their family – completely free. It’s an awesome outreach of this ministry, and we were so glad to be here in time to help out. So, the weekend wraps up Sunday morning with a casual worship service for those who are still around, hosted by one of the local churches. We showed up (late as always), sang a few songs along with a Bluetooth speaker, and looked out over the beautiful Saginaw Bay.
Because I am still more of a 4-year-old than a 24-year-old, I sometimes have a little trouble paying attention in church. I know, I’m a sinner, but an hour is a really long time, okay?! This morning, the little girl sitting in front of me was experiencing the same difficulty, so we spent a good amount of time making faces at each other and kicking cottonwood “snow.” It was great fun.
For a moment, I felt overwhelmed with the knowledge that this little girl, with her long blond hair and string bean legs, hasn’t really started the “life” part of life yet. The pastor started talking about Gideon and about having a different view of yourself than God has for you, and I thought about this little girl. She’s not worried yet. She’s not ashamed yet. She doesn’t feel responsible, guilty, afraid, or worthless in big ways yet. You could tell by her silly demeanor and soft eyes that, for the most part, her life was more good than bad and more hope than sorrow. I was so happy for her.
I started to pray for her. Nothing serious or specific, but just that God would use her life. I prayed that peace and silliness would last for her and that she would be guarded against darkness. I’m still not sure why out of all the kids I spent time with this weekend I wanted to pray for her, but even now I feel so drawn to her serenity. I wanted to protect it and keep the world from squishing her joy. I asked God to give her strength and community, and to make sure she goes to camp.
Yesterday was the “official” six-month mark on this project. We left for our first camp on January 10. That was 12 camps (technically 15) and 15 states ago. Something like 13,000 miles ago. It’s been a journey with a lot of things we expected, but more that we didn’t. We’ve been in awe of nature and seen amazing ministries at work. We saw Austin, White Sands, Picacho Peak, and fell in love with Prescott, AZ. We’ve been to San Diego, LA, and Vegas. We visited Death Valley, Moab, and Park City. We saw hot air balloons, an ocean, lakes, and mountains, mountains, mountains – and most importantly made THE BEST new friends. I’m overwhelmed already by the life we have lived together these past six months. But, we’ve also had awful fights, been lost and stuck, and let hopelessness/laziness/frustration take over. We’ve let our social anxiety get the best of us, been afraid, and not built relationships the way we wanted to. All the while we’ve been asking ourselves the same question; “what the heck are we doing here?”
I know that we had a lot of high hopes for this project – and we still do. We want to achieve the things we set out to do, no matter how many times we have to revise the how. But we’ve also learned humility in big ways. There’s been a lot of letting go and a lot of saying “whatever you want, God.” It’s a really big, hard moment when the depth of your passion for something doesn’t match up with the world’s response to the work you do. But we can’t let it go. It matters too much.
Through all the gray areas on this leg of the journey, one thing has become so clear. It was clear to me this morning, praying for that sweet little girl to have joy in her life, to know Jesus, and to have a community that supports, protects, and loves her. Camp is important. For kids who haven’t had to deal with “life” yet, and for people who have been hardened by it, camp can change everything. We love this ministry because it’s all about the good stuff – healing and joy and family and courage and Jesus. Camp exists for that one little girl with soft eyes, so that she can know she is loved and forgiven by the most amazing God and so that she can have honest relationships with people who will love her like Jesus. That’s too good not to share.
This summer, I would love to share the stories of people who have been changed by camp. As we serve in the thick of camp season, I want to be able to write about what all the work is for and encourage other “camp people” that it’s all worth it. If you’d like to be a part of that, please send me your camp story and a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org or share on our Facebook page.