Wednesday, May 02, 2018

For the Love of Camp

Camp Shekinah, approx 1989
When I was a child, my Mennonite camp was called Camp Shekinah. It’s in the valley cut out of the prairie by North Saskatchewan river, which in some summers a trickle and some summers floods the banks as far as the lodge, but most summers is somewhere in between. Which always provides ample breeding ground for mosquitoes. It's the camp where I learned to canoe, tie knots, use a compass and build an excellent log-cabin or a-frame fire. It's also where I re-enacted the Exodus, learned the definition of the word 'statutes' (it's not the same as statues), had a counselor talk to me about why he got baptized and where I began to understand that following Jesus would be my choice too.

I loved camp. I could not wait to say goodbye to my parents and find the friends that I'd made the year before. I felt like I belonged there in a way that I didn't experience in other parts of my life and it fed my soul. That is the experience I long for every child to have when they go to camp. I see it now at Camp Camrec when I go as a staff person. The space might be different, but the essence is remarkably similar: the beauty of creation all around, children and youth invited into the work of God in the world, the joy of connecting with caring community, songs and stories and worship around the campfire.

My childhood camp isn't the 'Camp Shekinah' of the canvas tents and mud trails anymore. It's Shekinah Retreat Centre whose facilities have grown (past the flood line) and whose program is year-round. I've visited a few times in recent years and because my cousin was the program manager I even got to experience the new zip line. But the kids that I observed who were there as campers were still having essentially the same experience that I had, that kids at Mennonite camps all over the continent are having - a fun, meaningful, holy time of learning and connection.

I'm looking forward to being at camp again this summer with the older youth. I hope your families too will take advantage of the opportunities it offers. Registration is open.  :)

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