At Lakeshore Camp and Retreat Center in Tennessee, where I began camp work, there is a Cedar tree behind the Alford Recreation Building. It is on a hillside in hopes it will stay put and prevent erosion. While I worked there, I dug the tree up when it was about a foot tall. It was growing on the side of the highway and would, no doubt, be mowed over when the state trucks came by with their giant trimmers to mow the shoulder. I didn’t know if it would make it, but it had a better shot by the Alford Rec Center than the road.
Now it is about 20 feet tall, big and wide. When I go back to Lakeshore, I hardly recognize it because it has grown up and out in all directions, becoming something I could hardly anticipate when I saw it as just a sapling. It has added branch after branch, with branches coming from those branches. It is living more and more into its possibilities, and as it does this it shapes the hillside where it was planted years ago. I am proud of this little tree, proud to be part of it taking root in this place.
There is something sacred about nurturing something, no matter at what stage, when you see it grow beyond the place it began. We go in hoping to help one thing happen, and often those efforts result in more than we anticipated. At camp, I have seen faith bud and flower in ways I could not have guessed--and at that point they are far more beautiful than anything I could have just cooked up on my own.
I have watched kids who came in quiet and reserved, singing at the tops of their lungs at campfire and volunteering to pray when we ask someone to step forward. I have seen the wallflower adult who was just there because they needed help, growing in faith more than many of the others. I have seen the angry kid who has faced hardship most of us haven’t, discover love and compassion for the first time. And, all of these encounters continue to shape my faith and tell me the type of believer I want to be. In times like these I am sure I want to wake up each morning and walk out into the fields sowing seeds as long as there is daylight.
People come to Camp Magruder at many different places in their spiritual journey. The way we share food, lodging, activities, and life in general in such a beautiful setting opens up doors for discovery. We may realize things that had been hidden to us before we stepped on the grounds for our time away. Some may come in longing for something, but just can't see the way forward yet. We hope to help shine light on what the next steps might be. It may lead to branches and branches from branches.
I am amazed by how time spent at camp can uproot someone from their listless location, set them down in new soil, pour water over them until new roots take hold. They get a purpose, they dig in, and they help sustain a hillside. From there, they will begin to chart their own path of growth, reaching higher and higher, thriving. And we, will return to it when we are lucky and stare upwards into all of its branches, full of wonder.
Much Peace to You,