First we had our annual Grandparents Camp at Camp Christian. This camp for children who have finished K-2nd grade and their grandparents has grown over the past 8 years. We started with about 20 and this weekend we had 87 participants. I have been part of the leadership team from the very beginning and it is heartening to see the growth and to experience the true joy of watching the interaction of children and their grandparents.
I have been coming to Camp Christian at least one week a year for over thirty years. I have counseled at Chi Rho Camp and Conference, been an assistant director at Chi Rho Camp for at least 12 years, been on faculty at Advance Conference for 15 years and a leader at Grandparents Camp for 8. That is a lot of time. And a lot of memories. At Grandparents Camp this weekend I was with the children of young people I knew from Advance Conference and some old friends from churches I have served. And then there are the places that are truly layered with memories - times spent with groups in the green chairs talking, doing Keynotes in the dining hall, fishing, dancing, singing.
And yesterday I went to First Christian Church in Zanesville and preached at their two morning services. I served there from 1985 - 90. Again I encountered people from my past as they reminded me of fun time and hard times we had experienced together. And the places in the church brought up my own personal memories of leading Bible studies, working with youth, being in worship.
I think that the gift of memory allows us to have moments of true and deep gratitude for the people who have helped us through our life journey. I found myself remembering the young woman I used to be and not only the fun and the joys of those years but also the times of struggle, doubt and confusion. Both the church and Camp Christian have been places where I have served God but also places where I have experienced God and been supported by others.
It is hard to express the enormous blessing of a life in this kind of community. Without a doubt there are stresses along the way - but the benefits of the love and spiritual growth that comes from a commitment to others truly outweigh it all.
I preached Sunday on the calling of the disciples which was also one of the stories that we taught the children at Grandparents Camp. Jesus said: "I will make you fishers of men" (or people!) and I think the church tends to focus on the latter part of that statement. So we talk about "Bring a Friend Sunday" and evangelism. But what I see in my own life is the promise of "I will make" - the promise of conversion for those who follow this countercultural way of love. As I look back I can see how the church and camp have really been places for me of spiritual growth and support.
Yesterday Audrey's church in Lynchburg had a reception in honor of Audrey and Miranda as they are leaving Virginia to go to Arizona soon. They found a church there that supported them and gave them opportunities to serve others. I am sure they will find another one in Tuscan. And right now Alyse and Reagan are at Camp Christian for their first week of Chi Rho Camp. It is so heartening to know that they will be encountering this holy place and are making their own memories.
I have been looking back this weekend and encountering the younger Margot and seeing how God has slowly but surely been working on me over the years. I am definitely on a journey of becoming more patient, peacefilled, loving and trusting and both the church and camp have been true laboratories of love for me. As I look back I see God as the companion guiding me over the years.
Here is a blessing by Maxine Shonk
May God the COMPANION be with you.
May you know God beside you, before you, behind you, above and below you.
May you be smothered by God's presence as you walk the path of your day.
May God's hands catch yours when you stumble and applaud when you reach the end of your days.
In the evening twilight may you know God's arm embracing you against the chill.
May God the COMPANION bring you blessing.