Friendships Make it “Heavenly”

We’re one week into this two-week session and the friendships are blooming. It’s wild how quickly girls can become friends, ready to take on camp (and subsequently the world) together. I’ve seen it at the tables in the dining hall, on tubes in the swim lake, and in the enthusiastic words of “you’ve got this!” as a friend climbs up the beanstalk. Once homesick or nervous about camp, these girls are thriving, and they are doing so as cabin mates and friends.

I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about children that allow them to become friends so quickly. Maybe it’s their innocence and belief that the majority of people in the world are kindhearted? Maybe it’s the enthusiasm they have for everything new and willingness to make mistakes? Maybe it’s because they haven’t had shame and fear baked into their minds like so many adults have, and are just willing to be silly and make fools of themselves?
I think it’s a little bit of all of that.

Sometimes I wish that I as an adult, could make friends as easily as I did when I was a kid. There’s that old joke that preachers never talk about Jesus’ greatest miracle: Having 12 close friends in his 30’s….

Speaking of Jesus, today in worship some of the counselors read the scripture from Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus is getting frustrated with his disciples (for good reason). They are attempting to keep all the kids away from him. He rebukes the disciples, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I saw many glimpses of the kingdom of heaven this week, and spoiler alert, it all had to do with the “little children” that Jesus is referring to.

I saw it when a camper was sick in the wishing well. One of her new friends didn’t want her to eat lunch alone, so she posted up her crazy creek chair against an old poplar tree while her friend sat on the wishing well porch ten feet away. From a distance I could still see the smiles created from this small act of inclusion and kindness.

Or yesterday during dinner at the farm, a camper who was especially nervous about thunderstorms decided to spend a few minutes under the awning of the barn while a lot of the girls were hanging out eating dinner. Her whole cabin came and sat beside her, and the magic recipe of silliness and radical compassion helped trump her fear in that moment.

It’s the small moments of often the smallest people where I see the kingdom of heaven.

A group of girls went out on one of our famous Llama Hikes this past week and as they were driving back to camp, they came around the familiar turn onto Illahee road and a camper with ecstatic joy shouted out “we’re almost back in Heaven!”

I mentioned in worship this morning that although camp is incredibly beautiful, and such a special geographic place nestled in these majestic mountains, what makes camp “heavenly” is the people here, the friendships they choose to make, and the kindness that overflows from each and every one of them.

This kindness was evident today during our fried chicken lunch followed by a usual Sunday dance party. During the afternoon swim show and Olympics. I see it as girls are just now starting to gather for a cookout dinner. Our good friend Mark is here with some of his Llamas to keep us company too!

After dinner tonight we have our traditional Sunday Night Campfire. Laurie and Gardner always shine as the mother-daughter singing duo leading the camp in all the classic songs.

I’ll finish off the daily blog with a poem written about Illahee from way back in 1957. I found it among some memorabilia hung up in the office. It’s clear that for a long time, it has been the people make this place heavenly. Thanks for letting your daughters be a part of that.


A place of God

Not just the mountains,
Nor the beauty of the trees
Moves me enough
To bring me to my knees

It’s the beauty of the people
And knowing that they care
That makes me want to,
Once again bow my
Head in prayer

Few places on earth share the loving and the giving,
That at Illahee is the only way of living

Illahee is a place of God
Because of the love we share
And here in this place of God, I find the
The answer to my prayer

-Bebo 1957