“Come Ye Back to RKD”, by Beverly Gay-Photiades, 11-11-2011
“ ‘Come Ye Back to RKD’ … The sign posted at the camp exit beckons all those who see it to return again. And come back we do! When our family was new to Camp Arcadia, I was intrigued to hear the number of years other families had been coming to camp. Twenty, thirty, even forty years were routinely mentioned during the Saturday evening introductions. I wanted to know what compelled people to return and over the twenty years my family has been coming, I began to understand. Certainly, people return to vacation with family and friends, to enjoy the delicious meals, the dean’s program, the morning program, the beach and all the camp activities. All are great reasons to return, but that is only part of the answer.
“The real reason we keep coming back is our love of the sense of connection and continuity camp brings into our lives. Camp connects the human and spiritual aspects of our lives to a place that devotes itself to helping these connections happen. I love that my family has had some of the same experiences each of the last twenty years-Sunday morning worship at Trinity, Trading Post visits, Capture the Flag games, Craft Shop projects, playing violin in the Camper Talent Shows and continues to look forward to doing them again with each return visit. I love that we have friends at camp — old ones and new ones we meet with each visit. All these have built a common base of experience that says “This is home”.
“I am connected to this place”. In our busy lives, we often miss out on the joy that comes from being connected to others and having a sense of history in our lives. Contrary to the messages we get from the social media, connections are not about Instant Messages or Facebook postings. Connections are about the deep and abiding relationships that develop over time and will always be there in our lives. Camp is very much like the old childhood friend who continues to anchor our life throughout adulthood. The connection endures, even when separated by time and distance.
“This unchanging presence of Camp Arcadia in my life also reminds me of the unchanging presence of God in my life. As my family returns each summer, we invariably comment on how the essence of camp never changes despite the constant upgrades made to its facilities and programs. It occurs to me that this is like God’s love for us–never changing and always abiding. So now I understand why people continue to come back to RKD. It is to weave the connection to others and God into the fabric of their lives in a way that endures over time.
“I am most reminded of this when I think about my Mom’s first visit to camp in 1994. My father had suddenly passed away three weeks before a scheduled visit to camp. After much encouragement, I was able to persuade her to come join us at camp for what was to be a life-changing week. The compassion of other campers who had faced a major life loss helped heal her wounded spirit. She ate well, napped in the afternoon, took walks and made friends. One special friend was Ryan McKenna, all of about 14 years of age at the time. Like my mom, Ryan had a passion for flowers and gardening. By the end of the week she had an assortment of plants carefully placed in coffee cans awaiting transplant into her garden at home. And so began a friendship based on ornamental grasses and balloon flowers. My mom lived to make nine more visits to Arcadia with us. Each time we would pick her up for the trip Up North, she would ask us to wait while she dug up something from her garden to give to Ryan. Each visit would end the same way with containers of flowers from Ryan going home to her garden.
“My mom passed away in 2006. The ornamental grasses and balloon flowers still have a special place in her flower bed. Each time I see her garden, I think about her first visit to camp with the healing and friendship it offered her at one of the darkest times in her life. I remember how she grew to love camp and looked forward to the next visit and more flowers. In this Arcadia story, I see the embodiment of connections and continuity brought to fruition. I see my Mom’s connection to Camp and a special friend. I see the presence of God’s healing hand. I see continuity as a piece of Arcadia continues to grow in her garden and as a piece of her continues to grow in Ryan’s garden.
“So this is why my family continues to return to Arcadia. If you were to ask me if we will be back again, my answer is a firm “Lord willing, we will see you in 2012”.