Last month we heard from Ellen Powell, a long-time camper and staff at Crystal Lake, who shared what the spiritual value of camp has been to her (click here to read her fantastic article!) Today John Biggs, CS, who has served as one of our camp practitioners, shares with us what he has gained and seen at camp.
How would you answer the question – “What does camp mean to you?” (send us your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them in the comments section below!)
Next time we’ll hear from Elizabeth Hull, a camper who got to attend camp this summer and also visit China!
FROM JOHN BIGGS, C.S.
I’m privileged to have had the opportunity to serve at several Christian Science summer camps as well as Discovery Bound events as practitioner. Attending camp from this vantage point has given me some precious insights into the blessings that bloom here! I’d love to share what I’ve gained specifically from my time at Crystal Lake Camps.
The first thing that struck me about Crystal Lake was the eagerness to live as family. This sense of family is astounding. I felt it from the moment I got out of my car upon arriving for pre-camp. There was a group of counselors standing nearby, and while a few friends I already knew bounded over to hug my wife and I, the rest came along with smiles and were quickly introduced. Even though I can’t think of anything specific that anyone did, I do remember feeling so aware of how willing these people were to be my friend and to include me in their lives. Those friendships quickly blossomed and I feel so honored to know and be great friends with the counselors I’ve met at Crystal Lake.
Sometimes as a practitioner at camp, it can be tempting to feel a little separate from the daily camp life – to feel like some kind of lighthouse, helping folks but not able to get too close. However, at Crystal Lake, I have felt like a companion and fellow traveler, basking in the warmth of our universal family of God’s children as we explore “Love’s divine adventure” (see Miscellany p.158).
I suppose this next insight is the natural follow-through to the first, but I am amazed by the love that the staff continues to shower each other and the campers with after camp ends. A sense of family does not end after the final session; it is nurtured in continuing friendships through Facebook groups, emails, phone calls, and camp events throughout the year. Every time I go to the staff or camper Facebook pages, I am overwhelmed with how much love is so genuinely given.
This sense of being loved, no matter what, is far more than a fluffy feeling or a quick recharge of ‘spiritual batteries’ once a year. It’s an abiding sense of being loved because we are each so lovable. And if you don’t quite know why you’re lovable, you can be sure someone from your Crystal Lake family will tell you! Quite simply, this is the kind of love that saves lives – steadfast, sincere, and illuminating. From this sense of being loved, I’ve learned that Love truly is not just for thinking about – it must be lived.
I have been impressed to see how all the campers I’ve engaged with at Crystal Lake are willing to dive in to prayer and not just reside on a surface level of turning to God only when they are hurt or sad. The atmosphere at CLC and the daily interactions of counselors and campers communicates to the kids that they can really engage with this stuff; it’s not just about being handed a present-moment thought to get them through the day, but to really dive into it.
No matter how many times they happened, I was still pleasantly surprised with the healing depth of my conversations with campers as we walked to dinner, during breaks in archery, or cooking over the fire during camp-outs. The campers were willing to share their insights and their questions, and along with this, they challenged me to truly hear them and not just have a pat answer ready to go. The kids know that they are worthy of respect and give it back, reciprocate it in our conversations. They are willing to be treated as thoughtful and sincere seekers and thinkers.
I was chatting with a teenager one day who was feeling down about an allergy, so we talked outside for maybe 20 minutes or so. It was clear these were ideas she hadn’t thought about deeply but she was really receptive and was asking me questions. I also had conversations like that with the youngest boys, one in particular who was feeling homesick one day. He was open to new ideas that I was sharing, and would say: “Ok John, I’ll try that and we can see how it goes and talk again later.” I was just really impressed that these kids wanted to be involved in their spiritual growth, and weren’t just waiting for counselors to do it for them. Every single one of them deserves such respect. A great reminder that we are all in this together!
Crystal Lake’s schedule and atmosphere provides many perfect opportunities for this listening and sharing to take place. You have set class times throughout the day, but they are spaced out enough for these conversations to happen as you’re walking from place to place together – you don’t feel rushed to get from riding to archery. The lack of stress at CLC seems to be directly proportional to the opportunity to have these chats. One camper this summer wanted to be engaged in her activities for the day, but knew that sitting and praying for a while was important, even if she was a little late to dinner. There is freedom in not being bound to the habit of rushing from one thing to the next. All of the daily activities at camp support the primary purpose of learning spiritually. The form is entirely to serve the substance, rather than trying to cram the substance into the form.
At Crystal Lake I have learned – and am still learning! – that the instantaneous spontaneity of Love always heals. If I think I need to plan out how a healing is going to take place, I just remind myself to mentally travel to the back porch of the main lodge and look out over the lake, hearing laughing campers and a warm greeting from a passing counselor. In that space, it is so easy to remember that we are all loved, and since it is God who loves us, we could never for one second be absent from any of Her infinite good. We are all made fully capable of living and knowing that Life is our life, and at Crystal Lake, I’ve seen the tangible proof of this. I am so grateful to be included in the warm embrace that Crystal Lake Camps offers to the whole world!
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