With Thanksgiving upon us, it offers us a time to express gratitude for the things we often take for granted in our lives. As I think of those things in my own life, a summer camp experience is one of the first to come to mind.
Attending summer camp is an experience portrayed as a more common thing than it actually is. Growing up, I watched a lot of movies and tv shows about summer camps. However the tv screen held the extent of summer camps in my childhood, and for twelve years I believed that summer camps were something for city kids and kids movies.
Camp in the community changed that for me. When I was twelve years old, my church hosted CITC. I walked into the first day of camp having no clue what was going to happen, and I left that week declaring it as the best week of the summer.
I have been a part of Camp in the Community in some way ever since that first week of camp I attended as a camper. I was a camper for two years, a junior counselor for two years, and worked with Camp is Where the Heart is for two years. Now I am entering my second year of being on staff leadership as an assistant site director.
If it wasn’t for camp in the community, I would have never gotten the summer camp experience that truly changed my life and planted a call to ministry within me.
I give thanks for Camp in the Community because of all the things it has given me and given others.
As a camper, camp gave me a fun way to connect with God and my community. It gave me new experiences such as gaga ball and shooting a bow and arrow for the first time. It gave me new friendships and connections with people who had been right there in my community for years. During my years as a camper, I watched as camp gave other children my age, who had never stepped foot in church, a place to experience the love, joy, belonging and community of God.
As a junior counselor, camp gave me my first opportunity to serve in ministry by serving my community along with many others. It gave me leadership skills and confidence to tell others about God. During my years as a junior counselor, I watched as camp gave clothes to children, provided meals for families, and provided a new bed to a camper who had bed bugs.
As a part of the Camp is Where the Heart is team, camp gave me hope during the pandemic as CITC’s passion to help its campers shined even more during those dark times of COVID-19. It gave me responsibility and something to believe in during those uncertain times. During my years working with Camp is Where the Heart is, I watched as camp gave over 1,000 children some fun activities in a box, while reminding them how loved they are. Even if we couldn’t be there in person to sing songs with them, play with them, and give them hugs. We wanted our campers to know we loved them, and we were still thinking of them every day.
As an assistant site director, camp gave me a safe and loving workplace for my first job in ministry and my first time being away from home. It gave me a place to discern my ministry calling and caused my leadership skills to grow. During my time as an assistant site director, I watched as CITC gave our campers a safe place to express their emotions and ask questions.
I watched as a camper who struggled with regulating their emotions (which often turned into them hitting themselves) hit the bullseye in archery and smiled bigger than I have ever seen a child smile, because they were so proud of themselves. Camp gave this child a reason to love and be proud of themself.
I watched as a camper who had cut the back out of his shoes, because they were way too small, leave camp on the last day wearing a brand new pair of tennis shoes to football practice. Camp gave this child something to walk comfortably and grow in.
I watched as a camper who was in counseling for anger management before they were even in kindergarten beam with pride as we told their mom everyday after camp all of the good things our camper had done. This camper's mother had informed us that our camper had never been allowed to stay all week at any other summer camp or VBS because of their behavior. Camp gave this camper a week of fun and Christian fellowship. But most importantly, camp gave this child the assurance that somebody loved them enough to listen, make accommodations, and not just give up on them.
I could tell you hundreds of stories of what I have witnessed camp give to not only our campers, but our counselors, volunteers, partner churches and their communities.
Camp in the Community changes lives. It changed my life as a camper. Then it changed my life again as a junior counselor, and again through Camp is Where the Heart is. Even now, camp continues to change my life as a staff member. However CITC does not only move in hearts. It changes the atmosphere of churches and communities.
As the season of giving approaches us, consider partnering with Camp in the Community in our mission of moving the love of Christ and word of God into communities and hearts through the transformational power of camp.
Partner with Camp in the Community today as a monthly giver at Campinthecommunity.org