I remember vividly a summer storm in Tennessee that totally interrupted all our regular plans one night at summer camp. The power went out and the sky occasionally lit up with lightening, then came the deep boom of thunder. Trees were tossed around like rag dolls, dropping branches from their canopies. We had heard the tornado warnings and knew some could be moving in our direction, but only had battery-powered weather radios for information from the outside world. We hustled every camper (around 200) to the safest place at camp in a storm like this, the below-ground dining hall of the main building.
Everyone was understandably rattled, but we also knew our first priority was to reassure our campers and restore a sense of safety and ease to them. The summer staff, by instinct, plunged into singing every song they knew, by lantern and candlelight. They brought energy and excitement like they usually did, singing at the tops of their voices, banging on tables, and getting most of the campers into it, too. Where the building had been shaking with thunderclaps, it was now shaking from voices and handclaps. In the midst of a concerning situation, we were making the best of it--reminding ourselves we had each other, and “each other” can pull joy from just about anything.
Years later that night stays in my mind. I'm not sure I remember anything else from that week. This is something I've noticed many times in camp work--sometimes when hardships push us to call on-the-fly audibles, they have a deeper impact than what we originally planned. And it's not just the scary or hard parts that are memorable. It is the strange, stubborn joy that can arise when we pull together and make the best of a challenging situation.
As we scramble to plan in conjunction with ever-evolving wisdom and guidelines for Covid-19, I know this is not going to be a summer like the ones we've become used to in recent years. I know it will be challenging and stressful for our staff. I know the solutions and interpretations to guidelines for reopening will seem too restrictive for some and too risky for others. We will all enter this experience with some level of trepidation and uncertainty, because none of us have ever gone back to camp after a global pandemic. But, if it is anything like much of my other camp experience, I suspect we will make it meaningful and joyful in the midst of so much newness.
Despite the worries, frustrations, and baggage we will bring with us, summer camp is happening this year. Did you read that? Summer. Camp. Is. Happening. There is no doubt it will be different. I can promise you some parts of it will be more tedious. But I also trust there will be moments of pure magic, because time and again I've seen a group of people make the most out of difficult situations in ways I could hardly imagine. Out of necessity, we will change the ways we've traditionally done things to lower the risk of this stubborn virus. But one ingredient that won't be altered is that a group of kids and staffers will be brought together for several days to connect with God, nature, and each other and to have fun. When they do that, they usually find a way. And somehow that joy heals during scary, uncertain times. When we go home, we may look back on this summer as the weirdest one we ever had, but I suspect it could also be one of the most meaningful.
*PHOTO: Sunset over the Pacific Ocean at Camp Magruder (Troy Taylor).
Yes, we DO have an actual camping brochure for Summer/Fall 2021 and even a few 2022 dates! Kids will find events at Magruder, Sawtooth, and Suttle Lake in July and August. There are lots of opportunities for family and other intergenerational camping throughout the system--you can even contact your favorite site to talk about designing your own family event there. You want adult retreats? We have adult retreats! Download the brochure here and start your camp plans now!
*PHOTO: The Magruder boathouse is waiting for you to come row, row, row your boat this summer or fall (Troy Taylor).
When I was in high school, "Magruder Magic" was the name of a well-known high school camp. Though I never attended it, many of my church youth group friends told me stories from that camp of close-knit relationships, long walks on the beach, and a deepened awareness of God's presence. I experienced my own magic at Magruder's Music/Art/Drama/Dance camp and at Loon Lake, which emphasized community-building while living and cooking outdoors. Later, my call into ministry came while counseling at Loon Lake. "Magic" is the word we often use for that camp experience that is so profound it goes way beyond words and rational explanation. Our gratitude for your gifts also goes beyond words. Your financial support undergirds our ability to create the sacred spaces where the "magic" of God's love is revealed. --Laura Jaquith Bartlett