Off to Camp


Representing our ELCA Outdoor Ministries – Luther Crest (Alexandria, MN), Crossways (Clintonville, Hatley and Waupaca, WI) and and Camp Calumet (Freedom, NH)

Tomorrow our family arrives at Luther Crest Bible Camp for our annual pilgrimage into ELCA Outdoor Ministry. If you think sending kids to camp from Connecticut or Southern New York to upstate New York or the other parts of New England states is a long journey, I suggest making the trip to Alexandria, MN. Luther Crest sits upon Lake Carlos a short 1400 miles away from our doorstep. The trip is worth every mile. It always is. It is also worth every mile driving about six hours from home (just a hop skip and a jump compared to Luther Crest) up to Lake Ossippee in New Hampshire to Camp Calumet. I look forward to our annual Hammo weekend the 2nd weekend in September where the congregations of our Synod come together at Hammonasset State Park in Madison, CT for a youth gathering. The programs are different, the people are different, the lake and accommodations are different, we even sing different songs, but “camp” wherever it is experienced is so often the same. The last statistic I heard was that around 80% of seminarians in the ELCA named a “camp” experience – whether as a camper or staffer – as a foundational formational experience that helped them discern public leadership in the church as God’s calling in their lives. One of the things I like to do at camp is have conversations with current summer staff. I want to hear their stories, as yet another summer unfolds. As a former camp staffer, and life-long advocate of outdoor ministries I can share quite openly I am biased, but I will also share that hands down, dollar for dollar, I believe our outdoor ministry sites are the number one assets our congregations have outside of our primary faith communities, and our family units to help form faith.

Why Camp?

camp.benchI believe outdoor ministry offers some missing pieces to this over-busy, scattered, technology driven, achievement based, twenty-first century society in which we live. Imagine this – for as long as you are at camp – whether it is overnight or for several weeks, the camp bell – not your pocket sized electronic device – tells you that it is time to do something new. Imagine living in a community with the same people, twenty-four hours a day, and you want to be there, with them. Imagine conversations about faith, doubt, God, church, and life having immediate application to the way you lived with others, right here and now. Imagine scripture being opened to you, and wanting to learn more. Imagine praying several times a day as a normal thing and part of your everyday experience. Imagine play and adventure being the medium where the real learning took place. Imagine rediscovering your connection with the land, the water, the sky, and the other creatures that share this earth, as the place God created for us to live. Imagine goofiness, laughter, and spontaneity as a part of everyday life. Imagine being accepted, truly accepted without pretense, for you are, and valued by others as someone created in the image of God. If you can at least begin to imagine it – I hope you can see why I believe it is so important to keep returning, bring our kids, and share the story. We have no other place – not even at church, to do such things. I welcome you and invite you to camp, anytime you can go.

Brining it Home

camp.sign.calumetI think the great challenge people have when they have moving and formative experiences in their lives is making the connection to their everyday experience once they get back home. I remember going on a trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua in seminary for two weeks, not watching television (and not missing it) the entire time I was away, and yet the first thing I did when I got back to our apartment was drop my bag at the door, sit on the couch, and turn on the TV to see what I had missed. It is difficult to extend the experience. Maybe we are not meant to replicate those experiences back home – but we can be changed by them, if we open ourselves to see the “normal” things we go back to doing in a different light. Maybe we should leave more time for spontaneity, open conversation, and genuine interaction with each other. Good things can happen in those spaces. Maybe we could think a bit more about opening scripture together and being changed by it in the here and now and the way we live. Maybe prayer doesn’t have to be separated from the rest of our day, or forgotten completely in the frantic pace in which we move. Maybe what we need, is a time to be refreshed by the campfire, to tell the stories of faith as our ancestors did, take in the smells and the sounds and the sight of real light, shining in the darkness. Maybe then we could be renewed in a way that changes everything else. I wonder. I invite you to wonder with me. God might stir something up among us in a new way.

The “Moment”

camp.sign.luthercrestThere are lots of things that happen in a camp environment, but to me the quintessential “moment” happens when we driving past the camp ‘s welcome sign on the driveway. Nothing has happened yet, but the anticipation reaches its zenith. Soon the fun will begin. Soon we’ll be among friends, greeting one another with hugs and smiles. Soon we’ll learn the theme for our time together. Soon we will witness God up to something. Imagine driving in to church and expecting the same things, and longing for it again when you drive away. That is the power of outdoor ministry. It can be, and is, the power of all ministry – as we look, and see, and listen to what God is doing among us, and see that it is good.

Pastor Geoff

LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth!
You made your glory higher than heaven!
From the mouths of nursing babies you have laid a strong foundation
because of your foes,
in order to stop vengeful enemies.
When I look up at your skies, at what your fingers made—
the moon and the stars that you set firmly in place—
what are human beings that you think about them;
what are human beings that you pay attention to them?
You’ve made them only slightly less than divine,
crowning them with glory and grandeur.
You’ve let them rule over your handiwork,
putting everything under their feet—
all sheep and all cattle, the wild animals too,
the birds in the sky, the fish of the ocean,
everything that travels the pathways of the sea.
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the earth!

(Psalm 8 – Common English Bible [CEB])

Lake Ossipee at Camp Calumet

Lake Ossipee at Camp Calumet


About geoff sinibaldo

Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Son, Friend, Change Proponent, Goofball, Seeking Faithfulness in the 21st Century
This entry was posted in Camp / Outdoor Ministry, Church & Mission, Faith Everyday. Bookmark the permalink.

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