“The mission of Beaver Camp is to provide facilities and programs, infused by God’s love, in which individuals of every age are invited to establish and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and others.”
There’s this place in the woods I go every summer.
To be perfectly honest, it doesn’t look like much. It is composed of a few buildings, a lake created by a dam, and lots and lots of pine trees. It is not famous for anything. On a map, it is nothing more than a minuscule dot nestled amidst the Adirondacks – that is, if it is included on a map.
And yet, it is to this dot I return to every summer.
Beaver Camp is easily my favorite place in the world.
I have to say, the concept of camp is strange. When I think about it too long, I realize that it takes a special kind of parent to allow their children to attend a summer camp. I mean, they’re entrusting their child to the care of a staff member for an entire week – someone whom they’ve probably never met before. Maybe this doesn’t seem revolutionary, but you need to understand – parents are entrusting their children to staff who are barely not children themselves. If you send your child to camp, you have my respect.
I’m inexpressively thankful that my parents are an example of one set of those special kinds of parents.
I began attending Beaver Camp as a camper as soon as I turned eight. It quickly became something I awaited with eager anticipation every year. I loved camp. In my eyes, the staff were larger than life; they were living legends. I adored them. I wanted nothing more than to be like them when I grew up.
So naturally, as soon as I was old enough, I applied to work on staff. Of course, I did not feel adequate, but as I’ve worked at camp year after year, I’ve come to realize that I never will. You cannot possibly prepare yourself for ministry. It is only by the grace of God that we can be used to minister at all.
Camp ministry is unique from other ministries in that the staff lives right alongside you. They do life with you. The people on staff are very tangible – real people with real lives and real stories. It was those on Beaver Camp staff who were the first example to me of what it actually meant to be beautifully alive and serve Jesus – being a follower of Christ doesn’t mean you have to be a stuffy prude who never has any fun. It doesn’t mean you have it all figured out. You can live an abundant, full life to glorify God…just by derpin’ around, faithfully serving Jesus.
Realizing this left an indelible mark on my faith. God is bigger than stained glass windows and exists outside of church pews and Sunday School. He desires to have an intimately personal relationship with us. The natural – no unavoidable – consequence of a relationship with Him is loving others. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) The staff’s loving interactions with me as a camper were an overflow of the love they experienced at the hands of God.
You see, when you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you receive the unique honor and privilege of sharing in an epic redemption story. The craziest aspect of this story is that God doesn’t need us to further His redemption plan. He doesn’t need anything we have to offer. Yet He still allows us to be a part of it. He still uses us in it. He takes our personal story and not only creates something beautiful from it, but then allows us to come into contact with people who will benefit most from hearing it.
Now that I’m on the other side of camp as a staff member, I have a completely different perspective of camp than I did as a camper. Camp is no longer a place to go for a week to reap as much as I can from the staff, but it’s a place to go for a summer to sow. It’s not about me anymore. To think that every camper had a story before meeting me, and will continue to have one after me is truly humbling. And yet, to somehow grasp that in the midst of their story, God brought them not only to camp, but to my specific cabin to be in my care for a week – it’s incredible. That I get to be a small part of their individual redemption story as they come to know Christ for the first time or continue getting to know Him on a deeper level – this I cannot comprehend.
And the thing is, you cannot speak truth into the lives of others without you yourself being changed. My campers have taught me much more than I could ever hope to teach them. As a staff member, I always anticipate witnessing my campers change…and yet I am the person who never comes away unchanged.
So what is it about Beaver Camp that draws me back summer after summer? Though the Adirondacks are certainly beautiful, and I have accumulated lots of fond memories at camp through the years, I’d have to say it’s neither of these things. It’s the love. It’s the legacy of love that the former staff invested into the current staff, who are continuing that legacy by now investing that into future staff. In doing so, camp is building up generation after generation of leaders for Christ.
Perhaps this place in the woods has more to it than initially meets the eye.