Seeing God at Camp
(counselor Nye delivered this message at the Annual Sunday Service in 2012)
Camp is like an ocean.
If you really think about it, there are only really two types of oceans out there.
First, the Pacific. When Balboa first laid eyes on this body, the only name he could give to it was one redolent of smooth, un-agitated seas, an environment of warmth, gentle sailing, calm and serenity. It appeared this way of course, out of contrast with the second ocean.
Second, the Atlantic.Typically cold, bitter, unforgiving. A sailor can never be at east, at peace in these waters. Not when there could be super-waves, perfect storms. The Bermuda Triangle is in this ocean. These waters claimed the lives of many able-bodied men; even the most famous ship of all sunk in the Atlantic. This body of water earned its name because according to legend it claimed an entire continent, the lost land of Atlantis, in its violent rage and tempest. Waters such as these are not traveled lightly, with a peaceful mind.
It seems to me that life is similarly dichotomized. You’re traveling along in the South Pacific, and before you know it, you’re in the North Atlantic, frantically fighting in a maelstrom of icebergs and mountainous waves, only to just as suddenly end up in the tropics once more.
And this is how camp has been for me. Sometimes I find myself weathering literal storms, but most are of a more figurative nature. Each week of campers is a new voyage. Perhaps this is why we give them names like Pilgrim, Explorer, Discoverer… Voyager. Each week begins, I get a new boatload of children, and I test the air, looking for that red sky in the morning.
But most times, there will be no warning, and lightning will strike. Two polar personalities between campers, injuries in Mission Impossible, a rainy week that gets spirits low. Not all of the weeks, not even half, usually only one, or two. But in those weeks the only sensation I can ascribe my counseling state to is that of a frantic captain, desperately seeking to keep his boat afloat, to ensure that his campers are safe, happy and seeing God.
However, it is on those wild waves, not the placid Pacific, that I see the face of God. One particular bible verse comes to mind: 1st Kings, chapter 19, verse 11. Elijah, the prophet, is paid a visit by God.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
The strangest thing happens on those weeks. In the climax of the storm, there’ll be a moment in which everything just seems to stop momentarily. One week it was when during a time of singing, a stubborn camper broke down and after not having partaken all week determinedly stared at me, desperately trying to catch the song by reading my lips and listening to my voice and following along. I sang the song to him, looking at him instead of the card, and we sang that way until the song ended, I singing to him, he singing back. I saw God in his face, in that whisper among the tempest.
In another week a camper felt excluded from his friends, and sat outside of the pavilion. I sat with him for a while, and we just looked out at the mountains, admiring their beauty together. We sat talking until he felt calm enough to rejoin the group. When asked what he had learned at the end of the week, he said that the mountains were made by God.
I enjoy the placid weeks for what they offer me: rest and peace. But I have found that it is after the turbulent weeks that I am the most satisfied and spiritually “full”. Last year I was much more exhausted after I had finished a week of difficult campers, but this year I see it more clearly, so I almost relish a difficult group. For it is in the tempest when I hear the quiet whisper, when I see the face of God.
Max “Nye” Halik