Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why I (still) Like Christians: Camp Buckeye!

Why I (still) like Christians:  
Camp Buckeye!

(That is me on the right and my best friend Jenny on the left at Camp forever ago.  I forget the guy's name . . .
 and it was Nerd Night, people.  I'm supposed to be dressed like that).

This post has been written in my head for a long time . . . 

Summertime means Camp.  It always has.  

Camp Buckeye is a small, grassroots Christian camp in our area that our family became involved with when we were kids.  We all started out as campers, and most summers one or more of us still find our way back to camp, in one form or another.  

Of my three brothers and I, a couple of us are pretty turned-off to organized religion.  There is some cynicism among us, maybe a skeptic or two, a little disbelief.

We all still believe in Camp Buckeye.

Nate and Vi are these idealist-types who catch a dream and actually pursue it, whatever the cost . . . and twenty-five years later, when most people their age have retired and bought a condo, their campfire is still burning.

He was a teacher, she was a social worker.  They gathered the people and resources to purchase an old boyscout camp with this vision:  God, kids, and the woods.  That's. All.

And from it's shear simplicity, something miraculous happens, Every. Summer.

Each year, Camp raises funds and works with local social services to provide scholarships for kids who would never otherwise have the chance to attend camp.  

Every year, kids from devastatingly broken lives, and church-going kids from middle-class Christian homes live together and hike and swim and sing songs, and the church-going kids don't know the difference.

Every year, the same kids have head lice, or nightmares, or don't get picked-up on time. 

Every year, counselors hear stories that would break your heart.

Every year, God is in the woods and the kids know it. . . .  Maybe it's the fresh air and healthy food.  Maybe it's the silence, or the green beauty, or the lack of television and rotten parents and labels . . . but there is safety, and tangible love, and grace, and kids. just. know . . . God is there.

Maybe these kids will never ever enter into a church.  But they have had a week in the woods, God was there, and somewhere, something green begins to grow.

I'm always amazed at the way that camp affects the counselors.  Sixteen, seventeen year old kids who if not at camp would likely be at the mall or working out . . . are given a chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves.  They fall in love with the kids, their heart breaks, and it changes them . . . .  Camp finds the idealist in everyone.  Given the opportunity, idealism opens wide in teenagers.  At camp, when given responsibility and told to go make a difference, they thrive.

I had the opportunity to work at the camp for a year or so, and I saw up close the kind of sacrifice that goes into maintaining camp:
The goals are huge.
The work is endless.
There are never enough funds.
There is an organizational nightmare required to keep it running that I can not even begin to grasp.

It may run on the tightest budget, and have the simplest agenda of any ministry that I have been a part of . . . and it just may be the most fruitful.

Nate and Vi are still the backbone of camp, still dreaming, giving, working . . . tirelessly . . . to maintain a place for kids to meet God every summer.  There would have been plenty of reasons to become burnt-out, plenty of hours of work never noticed, but somehow they keep ahold of their idealism, their simplicity, their love for God, kids, and the woods. 

And that, is one of the reasons why I (still) like Christians.
I  grabbed this quote from Vi's facebook status, because I think that it sums-up perfectly the work that they have given their lives to at Camp:
No moral effort that has for its final issue only the destruction of sin can hope to be successful. The motive is inadequate , and the undertaking is impracticable. You cannot fight the moral battle armed w/negatives---no matter how sound those negatives may be. Jesus did not come to destroy thorns. He came to grow fir-trees. He did not come to uproot briers. He came to plant myrtles. As the one grows the other dies. Instead of the useless shall come up the serviceable; instead of the ugly shall come up the beautiful; instead of the thing that wounds shall come up the thing that heals. This principle of displacement, this ousting of evil... by good, runs through the teaching of Jesus"
 -A Thornless World by Percy C. Ainsworth - Weavings

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

This post made me smile Jess... it reminded me of the many wonderful memories I have of the summer camp I attended - and was later a counselor at - for so many years. :)