Why summer camp is magic

Why summer camp is magic

A couple days ago, my husband and I popped in on the summer kids’ camp that our church runs. Going is a little luxury we give ourselves as the camp founders, even though we no longer have the pleasure of working there all week.

When I was serving at kids’ camp, it was my favorite week of the summer. Even more fun than vacation. I’m not even exaggerating. My husband and I started kids’ camp at our church and trained others to serve in it and eventually to run it. We worked ourselves out of a job because it was the right thing to do, not because we didn’t want to do it anymore.

In fact, now that I don’t work kids’ camp anymore, I no longer have a favorite week of the summer.

Camp is really that magical. The rewards are endless.

The skits and the water games and the cheers and the contests. The cabin activities and the funny, profound observations that kids make. The hugs and the hair-braiding. Teaching someone to swim or lip-sync. Looking up at a star-studded night sky, with your jaw dropping in wonder.

Magic happens midst the sheer exhaustion that hits hard every Wednesday morning. Magic is the one-on-one with campers late Thursday night when they come to you and say they think they want to pray and ask Jesus to be save them.

It’s magic because summer camp makes you feel alive, maybe for the first time ever. And you don’t care about going home except that you’re so exhausted, and you’re tired of tater tots.

But I’ll tell you what the real magic is–what makes me choke back a sob. It happens every year, every day I’m there. The awe and the urge to cry.

It’s watching teenagers minister to kids. Watching big kids, who usually worry about texting and clothes and dating and try-outs, but for this one week, they only worry about their 8 little campers who ask a million questions and won’t fall asleep on Monday.

These teenage counselors play with kids and listen to them. They rub sunscreen on them and remind them to clean the lunch table. They teach them skits and dance with them and invent special handshakes, dance routines, and cabin cheers.

They radically change campers’ lives by being selfless for a few days. Vaguely, they remember a teenage counselor from their years as a camper—someone who listened to them and high-fived them when they won the relay race. But I’ll bet they’re not convinced that what they’re doing is so terribly impactful. They’re not sure they’re making a difference.

I am. I can see it. The counselors make me cry.

Just a few days ago, I watched teenagers (whom I remember as campers themselves) making little kids feel important. I watched their easy smiles and heard their encouraging voices, hoarse from cheering. I saw sheer joy and admiration in their campers’ eyes. Little kids, who weren’t homesick. Kids who were already wishing they could see their counselors every day for the rest of their lives.

I had to dab the corners of my eyes. This is why church matters—why church works (because church is summer camp–maybe the best kind of church there is!). We are one big family, learning to love and serve one another until everyone has grown and changed for the better. We make magic by giving ourselves away.

And the magic touches everyone. And then it births more magic.

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