Camp saved me

Welcome to Camelot

Taking my bag out of the car and heading into the main building was like coming home. Sure, I didn’t live here. But the week I spent at camp each summer was my home base.

Inevitably, the hour-long drive south of South Bend to a small, PCUSA camp called Geneva Center was full of anxiety. Whoever was driving was taking their sweet time. We couldn’t have left early enough nor driven fast enough for me to get there. A stop for gas was tortuous. No, please don’t stop to buy anything! Let’s go. I just had to get there. Once I was there everything was OK but nothing could be OK on the day camp started until I got there.

This was camp week. My Camelot.

I looked forward to camp for then unexplainable reasons. If asked I would just say it was fun and I loved the people. It’d take me a few more years to develop a vocabulary for what was going on.

Deep stuff happened to my heart at camp. Each time I was there the grounds became more and more sacred to me. Even now, a couple decades later, when I look at the pictures on the website my mind is flooded with memories of my connection to God on those grounds.

Like the real Camelot my imagination had built up a fantasy about this place. Camp had a disorienting effect because you had a hard time knowing if the camp world was real and home was fake or visa versa.

Cabin Life

Each week our little cabin group became a family. These 3 room cabins had a central room for “cabin time,” a boys room and girls room. We had a two counselors and about 15 fellow campers in each cabin. Of course, I had a favorite cabin. Cabin 4. For some reason I always ended up in that cabin group. And each week spent in Cabin 4 meant that I’d develop fun friendships with other kids from other Presbyterian churches around northern Indiana.

I Needed Camelot

As I’ve shared many times, my parents loved me deeply but I got dragged through the mud of all that was going on in their lives. Home often felt un-Camelot-like full of conflict, turmoil, change, and other drama. But camp was always the same. It was a predictable. It was safe. It was age-appropriate. It was “for me.

My earliest profound encounters with God happened at camp. Going for hikes, sitting around a campfire singing silly songs, swimming in the pool, or making dinner outdoors with my cabin group. I suppose I learned some stuff about God while at camp. But what I remember the most is that Geneva Center was a place where I encountered God.

Camelot Needs Help

As you can imagine, the Great Recession has hit Christian camps hard. For many families sending their kids to camp is discretionary spending that they just can’t take the risk on. And for many other families (especially from lower income households) when a kid needs camp the most, when life comes unravelled at home by the stresses of a recession, mom and dad can least afford to send their child.

My life is better because of camp. I don’t know what would have happened without my weeks in Camelot. Will you join me in donating $125 to sponsor a kid to go to camp this summer?

Photo credit: Castle Hohenschwangau via DragonWoman (Flickr, Creative Commons)





9 responses to “Camp saved me”

  1. Nathan Davis Avatar

    love it… camp played a huge role in my life, and in the lives of many of the students i work with.

  2. BrianSierk Avatar

    Going to plug one of my favorite camps:

    I’ve never seen a vibrant youth ministry without a strong camp component.  

  3. Chad Avatar

    “Lives are changed at camp…There is something about taking someone out of their environment…it let’s God in.”  I am in the middle of my campaign to raise money for camp and get kid’s signed up to go to camp.  Would you cool with me using an exerpt from this blog to use for my efforts?

    1. Adam McLane Avatar

      Yup, go for it. I’m all about getting kids to camp. 

  4. Jeremy Smith Avatar
    Jeremy Smith

    While my camp journeys started from the same place (South Bend), they ended in an entirely different camp, but with the same life-changing results.

    I encountered God at camp. I learned that God had a plan and a purpose for me.

  5. Jeffrey Dick Avatar

    Church Camp (Dunkirk Conference Center UCC – shores of Lake Erie in NY) was a great place to attend in Sr. High.  While it was a very affirming experience, of even more importance was the two years my wife and I helped to lead and then direct Sr High Camp there.   Very instrumental in developing my passion for youth ministry and going to seminary. 30 plus years later, I am still in touch with a number of those campers.

    Our church supports young people going to camp – we have scholarships for both church camps and for Scout camps (separate funds).    

    Great to support church camps.

  6. Michelle Hopkins Shaffer Avatar

    WelI said Adam! I feel the same way about that place. I have even went back there a time or two just to sit in the middle of the field and contemplate things going on in my life. As an adult I have had many conversations about religion and realized my views weren’t shaped as much by the church I attended but by those precious weeks spent at summer camp.

  7. Barb Brinker Avatar
    Barb Brinker

    It was at a Christian Camp (@Grace:disqus Youth Camp in Hart Mi) that I gave my heart to the Lord.  That will be 38 years ago in July.  
    I didn’t go to that camp expecting my life to change forever, but my Lord knew different.   My friend asked me to go, not to enjoy the experience of camp, or get closer to God.  She wanted me to go so we could cause a little ruckus.  She told me whenever we were at chapel not to listen to the speaker.  In fact she said, that’s when we were to disrupt the speaker if at all possible.  She wanted us to try to get the attention off the speaker an onto us.  The first night, I did just as she wanted, even though this was not in my character.  It was a battle not to listen to the speaker  (Bill Riggs).  There was just something about what he was saying, that drew me to him.  But I knew what our intentions were and I followed through with them.  In fact we were so disruptive that the counsels escorted us away that night.   I’m surprised that they didn’t just send us home at the point.  Maybe they saw something in me or just they decided that would not give up on this immature, loud, pain in the neck teenager.  The second night as much as I fought it, I couldn’t help but listen.  I was drawn to every word that he spoke.  For the first time in my life (even though I went to church my entire life) I understood why Christ died for me.  For the first time in my life I knew what was at stake if I didn’t turn to the Lord.  For the first time in my life I without a doubt that I could go to Heaven.  For the first time in my life, I wanted to have that special relationship with the Lord, that I could only have if you gave your life to him.  It was that night on July 9th 1974, that I accepted the Lord as my personal Savior and my life was forever changed.  
    I will tell you that my friend was so angry when I did that.   I mean she really was screaming at me and wondering why I didn’t just tune him out.   She told me that I just ruined my life.   As the years went by I lost touch with my school friend, until a couple years ago.   I still pray for her and she still hates the idea that I’m a Christian.  
    The older I got and the more I grew in the Lord, I realized that the Lord can even use those who want nothing to do with him, as a tool to lead someone to him.  
    I thank the Lord for Christian Camps, for those very patient camp counselors, and for Bill Riggs who was willing to tell others about the Lord.  

  8. Paula Herko Avatar
    Paula Herko

     I served as a camp counselor for 5 years and can tell you that those years were absolutely incredible. I only went to camp one time in high school with my youth ministry, but that summer I was called to full time ministry and my life literally hasn’t been the same since. Camping ministry is incredible… still have a dream to one day open my own adventure based camp 🙂 

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