Did you send your kid off to camp this summer? Was it with fear and trembling or with a sigh of relief? I suspect it depends on whether you shared singer Allan Sherman’s experience at Camp Grenada (“Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.” Click here if you’re too young to remember.)
I’m not sure which it was for my parents back in the day, but I sure know what it was for me. From the age of eight through 14, camp was the highlight of my entire year. I never suffered from homesickness, but instead found myself “camp sick” when I returned home! I attended Dauphin BibleCamp, a ministry of the Canadian Sunday School Mission (now called One Hope Canada). I would pack my suitcase far in advance and count down the days until Sunday afternoon when we’d make the two-hour drive, sometimes with my parents and sometimes with the parents of a friend. The trip seemed to take forever as we eagerly noted the landmarks along the way. Arriving on campus felt like stepping onto holy ground.
It’s funny I loved camp so much, because horsemanship was and remains a big part of DBC and I’m not much of a horse person. Most years, I opted for archery, crafts, and swimming instead. Back then, the pool was nothing more than a concrete box built into the middle of a creek, icy water flowing in one end and out the other. The path leading to it became downright treacherous after a rain, but we loved it. Green scum covered the walls of the pool. The cold sucked your breath away when you jumped in and your teeth chattered through the entire lesson.
The dining hall/chapel had a sawdust floor, and to this day the smell of sawdust evokes pleasant memories. Except for the kitchen, plumbing did not exist. Paths through the woods led from our rustic cabins to an outhouse. Each morning our counsellor would fetch a pail of warm water for us to pour into tin washbasins on a makeshift bench along the outside of our cabin. We found it a novelty to wash up outdoors—you could make as big a splash as you wanted and spit your toothpaste right onto the ground!
This spring, I had an opportunity to return to Dauphin Bible Camp. I felt overwhelmed to see how the place has grown and developed, and thrilled to see it obviously still thriving. Only a dog was present to greet me that Sunday afternoon, so I wandered around trying to get my bearings—a nearly impossible task. Nothing from my day remains except a couple of the old cabins. One thing has not changed: it still felt like holy ground. Camp was a place where I learned to meet with God in the midst of his glorious creation and made friendships that helped me through my adolescent years—at least one of which has lasted a lifetime. My friend Jeanette and I met when we were 12-year-old cabin mates and still see each other as often as possible even though she lives in Alberta. (And yes, even though the boy we both had a crush on invited her to the Saturday night banquet. The nerve.)
It’s not surprising that camp can be such a spiritual highpoint. Jesus did much of his work in the great outdoors—teaching from hillsides and boats, walking from town to town, praying in gardens. More importantly, he held a special place in his heart for children. I admire those who give of themselves so selflessly to bless and encourage kids through camp. If you are one of them, I hope you know you are making a difference. May God reward your service to his precious kids, and may you be granted little glimpses of the impact you have made. Thank you for what you do!
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”