This year marks the 12th anniversary of my first summer as a camp counselor. I know I've written about this numerous times, and if there are still any faithful followers of my blog they are probably tired of hearing the story. Or they could tell you it themselves.
But I, like a good portion of other professional ministry types, can trace my call to ministry back to those days as a camp counselor. I whole-heartedly believe that camp was what set that ball rolling, what ignited that spark inside me.
I ended up working there for three consecutive summers and then decided to enter the real world and become a youth minister. So I missed out on a summer, but then the following year is when I ended up leaving that congregation and I headed back out to camp for the second half of the summer. Immediately after that summer I moved up to seminary, took the scenic route through and graduated in five years, and then came to my current congregation where I have been for three years. It has been eight years since I worked as a camp counselor. It has been eight years since I had the opportunity to work at one of my favorite jobs ever. Sure, I've visited other camps, and I've done other work with youth. I've taken my confirmation kids to camp for a week every summer that I've been here. I have started serving on the Board of Directors for that camp (although they have a knack for scheduling meetings for when I am unable to attend...). But none of that has quite captured the magic of working as a summer camp counselor. There's that sense of community, of being united in a purpose, of enthusiasm and energy. And, of course, there is the fact that you're putting a bunch of college aged kids together for the summer. All sorts of craziness is bound to happen!
So, it's been eight years since I have worked as a camp counselor. And probably about half that since I have even visited. Much has changed since my glory days there. There is a new state of the art retreat center, the office building has been changed from a small, rambling house to a very nice and modern (yet with that camp vibe) resource center, and the retreat center that was well-loved and used before the new one was built has been renovated and added onto.
And now, eight years later, I am headed back. Not to work or to spend the summer, but just for a couple of days. They are having a celebration of their 30 years of ministry, and they are hosting a big event and inviting all the past staff to come and celebrate. I am excited. I have been looking forward to this day since they had their 20th anniversary celebration and reunion in 1999, when I was a counselor. I cannot wait to be in that place, to set my feet on that holy ground, to breathe in that air and to reacquaint myself with this place that has meant so much to me.
I've also been asked if I would share a message during a campfire one evening. I have done this before... but at other camps. And this campfire is taking place at one of my favorite places at camp, a place that I remember being as a counselor and listening as pastors and youth directors got up and shared reflections and messages during the summers. And now I will be the one standing in the middle, in that same spot, sharing a message with those gathered. I know it will go well, but I am still nervous!!!
I head out tomorrow to drive back to Nebraska. I will be visiting family for a couple days before I make my way to camp. I'm not sure if I'll be able to wait that long, though, and I might stop in on my way through. But you can expect another update about my time and perhaps even pictures! I am sure I will take plenty!