I am writing this propped up on a bunk at Green Lake Bible Camp. I am listening to the not so dulcet sounds of my tired campers winding down for the day. The first few nights are always the hardest for kids: getting acclimated to so many new faces, new foods, not to mention a bed that doesn’t feel like home. In my years working as a camp counselor (and there are many) this one thing I know for sure, the first night at camp is always the hardest. Turns out this is still true when the campers also happen to be your kids.

My husband Michael and I were given the great opportunity to serve as the resource pastors for Family Camp this week. Camp was something which formed me deeply as a kid and as a young adult, but it wasn’t something Michael ever experienced. It’s been fun watching him uncover some of the most beautiful and the most difficult parts of living in close Christian community.

There is nothing quite like Bible Camp to teach us how to live alongside other people who God also loves, who God unites us to as family, especially when we start the week as strangers. There’s nothing quite like Bible Camp to teach us how to exercise and practice grace with each other through solving problems, big and small, together. Never mind we also need grace for one another when we play together as well. There’s nothing quite like Bible Camp to embrace the spirit of play which can show up in the best of Christian communities. We can be silly, irreverent, and still filled with awe over the majesty of God.

Watching my children learn this too has been a joy.

What I wish for them, and for all our Vinje and St. John’s kids coming back from a transformative week of day camp, is for them to see connections between the God they meet at camp, and the God they meet in their Christian communities in the pews. It takes many gifts: guts, grace, patience, forgiveness and play, all of it glues us together, one another, to belong to each other in the Christian community we call “Church”. Because the benefits of a week spent at camp can be incredibly long lasting. It can change your very life.

This summer, I was driving a van-full of tired but joyous middle school kids back from our mission trip to Sioux Falls. We were on a break at a rest stop when I received a message from a friend I had met when we were ten years old at Camp Emmaus. She was dropping her oldest child off for a week at the very same camp where we first met. Some 30 years later, she and I are still friends. And as I looked in the rear-view mirror at these beloved middle schoolers, I was reminded that it was the transforming gift of her friendship—she and the Christian community we found at camp—which taught me how to be my beautiful, messy, silly and beloved self. And I would not be so dedicated to walking with others through the struggle of adolescence without having formed that friendship with her. I certainly would not be driving a van-full of them anywhere, anyway. And I thanked my God for the gift.

Dear friends, I am so glad for your commitment to supporting the ministry of camp and your investment in all our youth. Thank you for the gift of this week to serve alongside my family in this experience of living in Christian community. Thank you for the campers you have sent to Shores of St. Andrews, to Green Lake, and to the Willmar Area VBS. Thank you for your generous, supporting financial gifts. Thank you for the gift of your time investing in keeping up and caring for these sacred spaces. Thank you for your prayers for young people to be transformed by the love of Jesus. It happens everyday at camp, and the benefits of just one week can and do last for generations. 

And tonight, as my children finally sleep, I am just so thankful for this gift I could never earn. This gift of camp which can only really be described as pure grace.

In Christ,
Pastor Erika