Camp is a Mission

Illahee campers prepare to float wishboats

Each May, I embark on a mission trip- to an island called “camp. “  The counselors and other directors travel with me.  We eat three meals together- three hours a day in the dining hall- travel to activities and enjoy evening programs before settling down to bed at the same time each night.  In fact last summer, I left the Heavenly World to go as far as Dolly’s Dairy Bar to the west and the Hannah Ford Farm to the east.  A few years ago, we were giving an engineering friend a behind the scenes tour of camp.  After seeing the dining hall kitchen, laundry facility, infirmary, stables, maintenance shed- all the framework of camp, she observed- “it’s like its own city….the Vatican City….” While that isn’t entirely true, she did have a point.

This week our family is joining a small team to travel to northeast Thailand where our church supports a small mission in the northeast corner.  With the recent passing of King Bhumibol, the beloved monarch who reigned over 70 years, we will be entering a country in mourning – hence, an entirely black wardrobe (the opposite of camp’s Sunday whites).  We’ll be helping with English classes in a few schools and hosting a weekend “camp” at the mission. Gardner decided that lanyards will be the perfect craft and she has helped me with my knot tying technique.  We’ve packed lanyard string that matches the color of the Gospel story.  We also found some Modge Podge in the Busy Bee to make tissue paper cross collages and the journals left from last summer’s Faith and Fellowship. One of our veteran counselors, Toya, has been teaching in Bangkok for the past 6 years and will be joining us for the weekend camp as she did when we were there two years ago.  Not only is it exciting to be with an Illahee girl on the other side of the world, she also speaks Thai and will be helping us with skits, relays (think Illahee Olympics) and songs. I can barely say “hello.”  As an extrovert, sign language only takes me so far.

Gretchen is planning her own family’s first mission trip to Guatemala for this spring, and Lindsey pursues mission opportunities in Brevard as a leader of Young Life where she is committed to serving local high school students.  While I’m no expert, I have found that each time I’ve reached out past my own comfort zone to serve, I’ve grown more personally learning more from the community around me.  Instead of my having so much to teach or lead, I find that my own faith grows when I share a story, a smile (universal language) or a hug.  It’s such a privilege to serve campers and counselors during the summer and to mentor them, and it’s also exciting to take Illahee and the skills and ideas we have at camp into the world and community.  The flickering lights of the wish boats on the canoe lake are a visual reminder of Illahee’s prayer that closes the camp session…..”Lord, give me grace when I go from the mountains, away from the things that bring peace to the soul…take me in spirit back, back to the mountains to rest in thy presence and be still and know.”

As we travel across the world next week, I’ll be sporting my Illahee book bag, Nalgene water bottle and carrying the camp spirit with me!