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When I was ordained by Bishop White in the New York Annual Conference, he told my class, “I expect you to spend a week volunteering at camp.” I took those words to heart! I had never been to summer camp until the summer of 1984, when I volunteered to be a program director at Camp Epworth in upstate New York.
After that first summer, I was hooked! I loved seeing the impact a week of camp could have in the lives of campers: for one week, they were blanketed in God’s love, 24/7. They connected with the earth, with each other, and with God in ways that helped them grow in their faith. Many former campers have told me that the lessons they learned at camp have stayed with them throughout their lifetime.
As I continue to learn of the ministries of our Mountain Sky Area, I am spending a week visiting two of our camps: Beaver Creek Camp in Colorado and Flathead Lake Camp in Montana. It’s been great to see that our camps are continuing to touch and change young lives.
This afternoon, we had chapel by the lake. Last night, a junior high school student approached Rev. Tyler Amundson and asked to be baptized. Tyler and the youth spent time reading the bible and exploring the meaning of baptism. After their talk, the youth was more sure than ever that he wanted to be baptized.
So this afternoon at chapel, we remembered Jesus’ baptism. The youth was asked the questions of faith and then he, his mother, and Tyler waded out into Flathead Lake. Tyler took him by the arm and lowered him into the water. As he emerged from the water, a cheer went up from those of us gathered at the shore’s edge. And a big, bright smile shone from this young man’s face as he walked from the water into our outstretched arms, waiting to surround him with our prayers.
This is the power of camp. Young people discover not only God’s love for them, but their love for God. They experience the power of unconditional love and unconditional acceptance in the fellowship found in games, bible studies, and camp fires. The dream of Beloved Community becomes a reality.
When was the last time your church sent a child to summer camp? When was the last time someone from your church volunteered at camp? The seeds of faith planted at camp bear much fruit throughout a person’s lifetime. Make an investment today!
I am already looking forward to visiting more of our camps next summer. Stay tuned for the Bishop’s Summer Camp Caravan, 2018!
Grace and peace,
Bishop Karen Oliveto