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God at Camp

Christian camps provide children with a safe place to discover God.

I heard about God every Sunday at church, but it seemed, at nine years old, that God lived at camp.

Permeating all these things was God. The staff talked about Him as if He would show up in person any minute …

I had many fears as a child—darkness, getting lost, being rejected by friends, losing my parents. I knew I was loved but feared that I might lose it. I had a very strong sense of the fragility of human affection and it made me afraid.

So I wasn't enthusiastic about Camp Mini-yo-we, my first experience away from home, stuck in a cabin with 11 other girls, with a long walk to the shared washroom, where I can only remember cold showers. Within days I was sunburned, covered in mosquito bites and homesick.

Yet, something began to happen. I loved the daily singing—the fun, silly songs with wild actions, and the grand and glorious hymns in three-part harmony. I laughed hysterically at the nightly skits and the mock trials of our counsellors, forced to perform horrendous things that we all knew were a sham. I wondered at the beauty—the warm soft sand on my bare feet, the pines jostling for space and hugging our cabin, the lake covered in mist in the morning and sparkling blue by noon. Soon I was running enthusiastically from boating to swimming, from crafts to Bible study, and looked forward to the nightly campfires.

Permeating all these things was God. The staff talked about Him as if He would show up in person any minute and when they talked to Him in prayer, I peeked and discovered that their faces shone.

The daily telling and acting out of Bible stories enthralled me. I discovered that God understood why I was scared all the time. In many of the stories I heard about grown-ups who also were afraid.

I learned that God wasn't just someone connected to Church, He was everywhere. There was no place that I could find myself that He would not be there. There was nothing that I could ever do that would keep Him from loving me.

One night I left the others sleeping in the cabin and walked the long path to the washroom. There was no moon and the wind whipped the trees into ominous shapes. But I was not afraid.

As I made my way over the wooden bridge I thought about what I had learned over the weeks at camp. God knew that I had stolen from the store at home; had buried my father's silk scarf after scorching it with an iron; had lied to my parents about walking through the forbidden park from school. He had come in Jesus to take my punishment, so that these things would not stand between us.

That night in the darkness I knew God was there. I could feel Him. I was going to be going home soon; it seemed like there wasn't much time. I asked Him out loud to come into my heart.

That's what we called it in those days. I had a child's understanding of sin and redemption—of being lost and found. But it was enough.

Gail Reid is managing editor of Faith Today and director of communications for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Originally published in Faith Today, March/April 2003.




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