I have a confession. I was one of those youth parents who preferred to drive the church van to take the kids to church camp rather than pick them up at week’s end.
It’s really not hard to understand why. It was the potent dirty-socks smell that wafted from suitcases and backpacks after a week of outdoor activities in 100-degree temperatures without a parent to insist on a daily bath. And it didn’t help that the two-hour trip often took place in a church van with a malfunctioning air conditioner. By the time my third child was headed to camp, I had mastered the art of early volunteering to get the prime “delivery-to” assignment.
Those memories came rushing back today as I read tweets and blogs about youth groups making their annual treks to church camps all across the nation. In fact, I found myself wandering down the dangerous path to the “good ol’ days”, recalling my own church camp experiences as a youth in the early-to-late1960’s.
A group of us would pile into family station wagons and head to Lake Bridgeport, the Methodist Camp for the North Texas Conference. We almost always packed a lunch of fried chicken which we ate at a roadside park along the way. We knew it would be the last good meal for a week, but somehow we didn’t seem to mind.
Once we arrived at camp, we would rush to check out the girls’ screened-in cabins which were separated from the boys’ by a hundred yards and a walking bridge strictly designated as the boy-girl boundary line.
Back in my day, we rotated seats in the dining hall. Everyone eventually sat in the dreaded “scaper” chair which meant you had to scrape your tablemates’ leftovers, including powdered eggs, into the trashcan.
There was no air conditioning at camp. Four-square was the game of choice, and water balloon fights always came on the last day.
But it was Vesper Hill that made me want to return year after year. Twice a day, we would hike up the rocky path to the point that overlooked the glistening lake. Once in early morning, once at sunset. With the lake as a backdrop to the hand-hewn cross in front of us, we’d sit on rustic benches and drink in the holiness of the moment. There was something very sacred about that space, that scene.
Oh sure, times have changed. The youth now eat at McDonalds and ride in mini-buses. The camp has a swimming pool with water slides, a challenge course, and air-conditioning throughout.
But I have a feeling that it is Vesper Hill that still speaks to young hearts and beckons them back, again and again.