November 23, 2016
It didn’t make sense. Only six kids signed up for the camp I deaned that summer, and we had it anyway. A skeptic might have asked, with good reason, whether it made for a wise use of resources. A pastor and an adult volunteer were out of the parish for seven days, a camp staff member was assigned to us, and even the director (Lee Padgett) accompanied us part of the time to teach us water skiing. With a camper/adult ratio of 1.5 to 1, few high schoolers in the Commonwealth were better supervised that week. It didn’t make sense. A simple analysis of costs and benefits might have suggested it shouldn’t have happened at all.
But in our faith “the wind blows where it chooses” (John 3.8) and a shepherd steps away from the ninety-nine and value can be hard to assess. Still, it’s fair to ask what return the Conference has gotten on its investment.
Was it worth it or not?
Three of those six high school campers have continued, as adults, in conversation with me about life and faith.
One, who went on to become a staff counselor during college, told me she fell in love with Aldersgate that week. In the years after that she and I served Jesus together on several Chrysalis weekends, and our paths crossed often at Annual Conference until she moved out of state.
Another eventually became president of his fraternity at a university near my home. One semester he asked if I would lead a Bible study with him and several of his brothers in their house on campus, and I enjoyed the privilege of reading portions of the gospel of Mark with a small group of college men. He shows up at Aldersgate a week or two most summers to volunteer.
The third was my go-to volunteer counselor all through his college experience. We worked camp together enough that its rhythm seemed natural and the transitions between fun and serious, deep and silly became instinctive. It was a proud moment for me to witness his commissioning as an officer in the Navy. Even now we’re studying the Bible together long distance, and he leads a Bible study on his ship. This young man is now in the process of becoming a lay leader so that he may assist the vessel’s chaplain. With his commissioning, I lost the volunteer counselor I depended on, but at that ceremony I got to know his younger brother who has since become my go-to volunteer camp counselor.
That week of camp was certainly only one episode in the spiritual formation of these young people, within a larger context of congregational and family nurture. It was, though, an episode that mattered, and one in which the seeds planted continue to bear fruit.
Maybe it didn’t make sense. But if you ask me, we’ve had a fine return on our investment.
Summer camp season is coming soon and will be here before we know it. Registration for the 2017 camping season begins January 1, 2017. Watch for the link on the homepage of our website. www.kyumc.org.