Let's flash back to my first experience at Lutheridge. No, it was not my first summer on staff as a counselor, but instead was the summer of 2001 I believe, when I was 9 years old. I went to camp with a friend the same week that my dad was taking his confirmation group up to camp for a week. I had a top bunk, my counselor's name was Courtney, and I was in Frye cabin in Pioneer A. I was excited, but as is a tendency in my life, I was a bit... or possibly extremely anxious. The entire week of camp I cried and cried. I made myself sick and did all that I could so that they would send me home because I did NOT want to be there. It wasn't that camp wasn't fun... I specifically remember enjoying the pool, going to crafts, and singing songs. I was just extremely homesick. I would like to take this opportunity to formally apologize to Courtney, wherever you may be... I had to have been the most difficult camper EVER. Bless your heart. But your efforts weren't for nothing. I like to think that you sewed some seeds that just took a little while to pop their heads up. I was so sure that my camping days we over at the conclusion of that week.
Let's fast forward to November of 2009. I was a freshman at Presbyterian College, and as I like to do, I was planning ahead for what my summer would look like. I had thought about working at a camp, but wasn't sure where to apply or how the whole "outdoors" thing would go for me. Despite all of this, something lead me to apply to Lutheridge. I had my interview (after being very concerned about how to look professional yet earthy), I was offered a position as a counselor for the summer, and off I headed to spend the summer of 2010 as a counselor. As we went through training, I was taught all sorts of procedures and techniques for all kinds of camper situations. As we talked about homesick campers, I had flashbacks to Courtney living all of those out. She was better than I realized. The real learning came from week to week, as I laughed, cried, was challenged, and grew from all I was experiencing.
My first summer at Lutheridge left me wanting more of what I had just experienced, so I returned for another summer as a counselor and the following summer on senior staff. Each summer brought with it stories of joy and stories of challenges, but absolutely every summer opened my eyes and lead me to places I did not see myself before the summer of 2010. Here are just a few ways my life was changed by my time at camp, lessons I learned, and why I believe it is such an important ministry of the church...
Absolutely my faith was significantly challenged and strengthened in my 3 summers on staff at Lutheridge. I was forced, in the most lovingly of ways, to rely on God and God's people as I navigated situations that I had absolutely no clue about. I learned the beauty and support that exists in community, the joy of celebrating in community and being able to be honest in your struggles. Some of my dearest friends I made while on staff. I learned to trust the tugs on your heart. Those 3 summers were huge as I discerned where God was calling me to be in this world.
I learned that the church is much, much bigger than my home congregation. There is a much greater body outside of what I knew in Lexington, South Carolina at work. For starters, I was exposed to other congregations, pastors, and members of congregations of the ELCA. I learned from their styles of ministry and grew in my understanding of what worship is, what "Lutheran" is, and how we are all connected as the Body of Christ. Another piece to this exposure was the realization of the ministries and opportunities that exist in our church. The ELCA is doing awesome things on community, state, national, and international levels. Outdoor ministry is one of the ways the church is in action, and I was loving my time there, so I became curious what else was out there. Through people I had worked on staff with, I heard about Young Adults in Global Mission. Through discernment (much of which came from talking with friends and fellow staff members from camp) I knew I wanted to engage with the global church and see what else there was to learn in this great network of Holy Spirit wonderfulness! And the rest is history...
Wether you're Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist... be a part of your greater church! There exists amazing opportunities to serve, learn, and grow! Parents, send your kids to a week of camp this summer. You never know where one week at camp may lead them.
And, as a personal plug, I think Lutheridge may just be the best option for your child: http://www.novusway.com/our-sites/lutheridge/