Chris Whitmore is spending the summer working at Pioneer Camp, and we asked him to give us a bit of a picture of that work, and what keeps drawing him back.
Ihave spent the last eight summers working at camps for various lengths of time and in several different roles. Last year, I had the opportunity to spend a full four-month season at Manitoba Pioneer Camp and I am very excited to be heading back this summer. I often get asked what it is about camp that keeps me coming back year after year. I hope to give a bit of an answer to that question here.
I used to tell camp staff that they were not there for themselves, but for the kids. I have since changed my mind on that. The only authentic way we can go to camp is to go for ourselves. Whenever I think that I am at camp only for the campers – whenever I think I am at camp to help the campers – I am quickly reminded of just how little I can do on my own and how much the campers have to offer me. I hope that I can help make camp an amazing experience for the campers, but I really go to for what it can do for me. I learn an amazing amount through the challenge of camp and I always leave with more questions than I had when I got there. I go to camp for myself and the campers go for themselves. Our different goals draw us together into a relationship through God and in the wonder of creation.
The above is a bit of a start on what draws me to camp, but camp is not without its pain. One thing I find particularly challenging at camp is knowing that some of the kids experience camp as an escape from some very real dangers and some very real pain in their day-to-day lives. What makes it harder is knowing that there is often not much I can do once they leave the island. Of course, I can tell them to keep in touch and let them know that I am always available and that the community of camp is always there for them. More powerfully, I can also tell them that the relationships they make at camp are not limited to the island. Rather, they have connected through God to one another and to a much larger community.
It is an amazing honour to be able to tell kids — kids who often feel alone, abandoned and unloved — that there is a community of people who are thinking about them and who care about them. Camp can open up relationships, but it is this full strength of community that gives those relationships such important meaning.
This summer I will be sending updates about what is going on for me and for the camp as a whole. These updates will be my small way of welcoming you into the community of camp. Thank you for your interest and your willingness; for your thoughts and prayers. As at the beginning of every summer, I am both nervous and excited to go back to camp and I look forward to us joining together in that experience.