|My sister and me at Suttle Lake United Methodist Camp, 1973|
I, too, was given a similar blessing from my parents. Every summer, starting at age thirteen through eighteen my parents paid for me to go to church camp. By high school I was attending two week-long camps per summer. One year I went to three. Not once, until now, did I even consider the financial cost to my folks that came with this blessing.
I absolutely loved church camp. I loved everything about it -- staying in a cabin full of other girls my age, being in a small group with boys and girls and our counselors, meals eaten together in the lodge, singing, campfires, nature walks, meditations, and friends. So many of my happiest memories from my early years happened at camp. And many of my oldest friends I met or got to know better at camp.
Normally I don't spend a lot of time reminiscing about high school days, but two events this past week brought some wonderful memories forward.
First, my mother recently gave me a batch of old photos she found in some boxes. Among the photographic treasures were two pictures of a church youth leadership team called SYMCO that I was part of during my senior year. The thirteen of us on the council were responsible, along with our advisors, for planning and implementing a summer camp we called "Workshop." In addition, our team met once a month at various churches around the state to provide leadership and enthusiasm for youth group programs. It was a tremendous experience being part of SYMCO and I became very close with the other twelve members. With the reappearance of these photos I felt compelled to find my former teammates. I contacted one person from the team, Sue, who I've stayed in touch with all these years. She remembered everyone's name or knew where to find them. With that information I posted on Facebook hoping to generate a reaction. So far I've found ten of the twelve and four have responded to me. I am thrilled at the prospect of renewed friendships.
Secondly, another camping buddy, Greg, created a private Facebook page this week for long ago youth group members from all over the Oregon-Idaho conference. Since all of us were active in our church youth groups in the 1970s, we are all in our sixties now. To a person, everyone loved camp. One of my oldest best friends, Ken, remarked that he loved camp so much and all his best friends were campers as well. I think it was our shared experiences that made us and kept us as best friends. Another friend, Kris, concurred that many of her happiest moments happened at camp. It is just a thrill reconnecting with these people. My older sister, Kathy, and I had a long chat this week about how much church camp meant to us. The photo (above) of the two of us at Suttle Lake Camp was taken when I was a sophomore and she was a senior in high school. We were not only siblings, we were also (and still are) great friends.
Which brings me back to the blessing. I just got off the phone with my mother. I thanked her for the blessing she and Dad gave me by funding my ability to attend so many camp weeks each year. Mom, who is now 91 years old, said she didn't think camp was very expensive in those days but was happy to acknowledge my thanks. She remembered going to church camp at Suttle Lake as a child and can vividly remember many things she did there. I have very vivid memories from my camping experiences, too. I have been richly blessed by my church camp experiences and continue to be blessed by friendships formed or cemented there.
My very favorite church camp location was Suttle Lake in the Oregon Cascades. The website describes Suttle Lake United Methodist camp as a "Sacred Space." I wholeheartedly agree. The website also has an archive of old records and photos from the early days. Who knows, maybe my mom is in one of the photos from the 1940s. Wouldn't that be perfect? Because of its location in the mountains it was also a wonderful spot for winter camping. My husband and I have figured out that we both attended the same snow camp at Suttle Lake one year when we were in junior high, though we didn't know each other at the time.
|Camp Magruder is located between a small lake and the Pacific Ocean on the Oregon Coast.|
Camp Latgawa UMC Camp is located in Southern Oregon. I not only attended camp there as a teenager but I also have very clear memories of being there as a kid when my parents hosted a camp for college students. The camp's motto is "finding something special at the end of the road." It is a truth universally acknowledged that when we leave the paved roads of our lives we often can find ourselves. I did that through camping.
Apparently my first camping location, Loon Lake, is no longer a United Methodist camp. I have really fond memories of living with other campers in a teepee beside a stream for the week-long camp. It was my first and only experience living in a teepee. What fun! To get to this camp a barge had to ferry campers across the lake as it was only accessible by boat. In addition to teen camp, my parents took the family to Loon Lake camp for several years when they were hosting college camps. My siblings and I were like the camp mascots.
Such wonderful remembrances! Such a blessing!
PS: Please share your camping stories below in the comment section.
PPS: Here is a shout-out to a few (out of many, many) friends that I remember sharing camping fun with:
Loon Lake: Linda W. and Kay L.
Camp Latgawa (which has been renamed since we attended camp there): Sue T., Sherrill B., Linda L.
Camp Magruder: Gerry H., Ken W., Andy G., all my SYMCO partners, Paul L., Rita S., Greg W. and so many more.
Suttle Lake: All of the above plus Tami F., Lael H., Ken B., Michael B., Kathy K.
Family Camp at Magruder: Many of the above and Barb S., Kristen B.
Counselors and advisors: Betty and Wayne H., Tom T., Michael S., Norm B., Wes T., Max, Bob H., plus many I have forgotten your names but not your kindness and devotion. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
For making it all possible for me to attend camp so often: Bob and Shirley K.---Mom and Dad! I love you!