Wow. Tommy and I are back from our annual, week-long trip to Palmetto Bible Camp, and I am attempting to process the very emotional and spiritual (and physical) experience. Camp is normally a very mental experience for me too, but I was graciously let off the hook for much of that this year. Since we plan to stay in Nicaragua during camp time next year and aren't sure of what our involvement will be after that, Tommy and I had much more relaxed roles this year. Instead of spending many hours and brain cells in pre-camp planning, including writing production scripts and solving various logistical issues, we were able simply to show up and spend time with campers in Bible class, team activities, free time, etc. At times I felt more like a camper myself than like a staff member, which is funny to me because I'm sure I appreciated the "camper" experience this week more so than when I actually was one and couldn't wait to be on staff. I'm very thankful for the chance I had this year to participate in everything I did and, for the most part, to relax. (I really needed the break from all of the work I've been doing getting ready for Nicaragua.) However, I can't say that a part of me didn't ache to dive back headfirst into my usual role and to engage in the same creative challenges and camper/staff interactions of previous years. I did, though, enjoy brainstorming for the morning news skits, despite (or, maybe, because of) the fact that the majority of the effort exerted was spent on jokes meant only for staff (but don't tell anybody).
What I lacked head-wise, however, I certainly made up for in my heart. This week was especially emotional for me. As it was my last year for a while, the people were of much greater importance to me than the program. There is a whole handful of campers that I have witnessed growing up, and it hurts to think that facebook stalking will have to suffice to fill in the gap next year. I have to say that the group of campers we had this year was one of the very best I've known (rivaled only by last year's campers, but most of those made it back). The staff was pretty phenomenal too. We were definitely missing people I would have liked to see, but the dynamic among the people who were there was particularly positive. I am really going to miss everyone, though as much as and even more than I am brought low inside, I feel lifted up by these people. My nephew asked on the way home what one word would describe the week. The word that flashed boldest and brightest in my mind was "Love."
Finishing this last year of camp with my family who attend with me each year was a significant and bittersweet milestone on our way to Nicaragua. It has been remarkably special to share this time of "getting ready" with our family because, even though they are not moving out of the country, they are in the middle of their own spiritual epiphanies. We sang the song "We Are Not Afraid" (which I had never heard before) and my sister-in-law and I completely lost it. As I said, this was a very emotional week for me, and I tended to get weepy at anything that reminded me either of how much I will miss people or of the spiritual commitment I have made (though, if you know me well, you know that I am generally not a weepy person). As it happened, I had plenty of opportunity to encounter both of those situations.
Every year it seems that going to camp is the litmus test of my spiritual life at the time. I was pleased that I could tell a notable difference in my spiritual experience this time. For many years I showed up at camp expecting to have the spirit spoon fed to me, which I suppose was better than the years when I was downright closed minded and arrogant. This year felt like I may have actually brought the spirit there with me. I was even more pleased that it seemed I wasn't the only one in that boat. Each and every one of the chapel speakers spoke such truth that reinforced my new way of thinking and challenged me to keep on growing. Things were said on stage and in conversations that everyone desperately needs to hear. More than ever, I feel convicted to share our story with others. I did get to speak to one of the girls' cabins, and that experience really pumped me up to talk to even more people about what we're doing (and, more importantly, why we're doing it). I am seeing more and more how necessary it is for Christians to talk to each other about their spiritual walks because it is so easy to lose what has already been gained. I praise God that there was a lot of that kind of talking at camp this week.
This year may not have boasted a gigantic Bible production, and I did have certain emotional struggles to deal with. However, I could see God at work in a mightier way than I have seen before. This may have been my best year of camp ever. It will be very hard to be away next year, but I think my love bank has been filled up enough to last me for quite a while.
P.S. - Tommy is still in the process of getting photos and videos from our January trip ready to post. Be looking for more of that content soon...