The Gift of Special Camp
Last year, as I made plans for my summer off from teaching, I got a special gift. The gift came initially in the form of a reminder. A reminder from God. He helped me remember something he had put on my heart many summers earlier while attending JEMS Family Camp at Mt. Hermon. It was the opportunity to attend another camp - one held at the same time called Special Camp.
I came to know about Special Camp because there is one designated day when the conferees and aides at Special Camp visit Family Camp. It is an opportunity to meet and dine with the Special Campers and watch them as they worship in song. It was during one of these visits that I sensed that this was a ministry in which I might participate. And so I put the thought in the back of my mind that when the youngest of my two sons was old enough to go to Junior High camp on his own, I would apply as an aide to Special Camp.
Well, as you probably might guess, in the interim I got caught up in other things and forgot about Special Camp. It would be ten years later that I would hear God’s voice again about this ministry. But, ten years later meant that I was ten years older! Hence, the second form of the gift came through my being accepted as an aide, even though I was in my mid-fifties, had applied quite late in May, didn’t have any prior experience and wouldn’t be able to arrive until the second day of camp. I took my acceptance as affirmation that God wanted me there.
It was at Special Camp that the gift was fully revealed. What I experienced at Special Camp was a glimpse of heaven. It was a week in which I understood what the “special” in Special Camp means. These campers are truly special because they know how to accept and embrace others unconditionally and without judgment. They are not impressed with our credentials or turned off by our failures. They’re special because they know how to worship and praise God joyfully and wholeheartedly. In their midst one is free to sing as the Spirit leads. They’re special because they live and interact without pretense in interdependent relationships. Through their trust in us they teach us how to trust others. They’re special because they model what it means to live each moment in God’s grace and love. What a gift to experience all of that!
God also allowed me to see how individuals called to this ministry can participate with him to make every aspect and activity at this camp special for the campers. The schedule, lessons, craft activities, worship times, social and athletic events are planned and implemented with such care and attention because the purpose is clear: to manifest and share the love of God. What a gift to witness and participate in that!
And so, as we begin a new year, I look forward to experiencing this special gift again in 2006. It is the perfect gift from a loving God who offers it to all who want to experience a glimpse of heaven through Special Camp