Summer Reflections: Living Waters by Chip May

As the season comes to a close over the next month I wanted to share with you some reflections on the summer. 

The sun is setting on Lake Michigan and it illuminates the Chapel on the Beach’s cross. We are together, worshipping, and celebrating the gifts that God gives us through our baptism. Couples, families, and individuals come forward to the baptismal font to remind each other that they are not their own – that they belong to the God of the Resurrection and they belong to each other. Wet hands make the sign of the cross on each other’s foreheads, families huddle together, embracing each other, prayers are sent heavenward. Living water for the dead.

I have to admit, these moments have always had a profound effect on me, but this summer, well, it has been even more impactful. See, while we were planning for this summer with all the uncertainty that the pandemic brought with it, it was for these moments we were praying.

All of the Camp experience is meaningful, but I knew that if we made it to the closing service, not only would we have made it through the week, but also it is at the font that I most realize and remember that Jesus is in charge, and I am not. I need to remember that, because I forget. I get caught up “running” Camp and forget that God is working through us, we are not working with God. Jesus is not just another member of the program staff. It is at the font that I remember that Jesus is doing a new thing at Camp and that I would be smart to open my hands and receive His gifts. 

To be honest, it has been a stressful past three years or so at Camp Arcadia. The shoreline erosion that challenged our buildings, the most recent flooding threat to our basements, and then the pandemic, has caused me to use the phrase “save Camp Arcadia” way more often that I would like. During this past year Camp looked like a patient in critical condition in the hospital with bandages and tubes hooked up to them. Piles of rocks and sand dotted our campus, new access paths and trenches created throughout, and recently installed sidewalks broken apart to make way for water pipes. Then the pandemic hit. 

After weeks of learning and trying to figure out if we could run Camp we asked ourselves if we should. Yes, we could legally operate Camp, but to do so, we would have to institute safeguards and restrictions. We would have to wear masks inside, our retreats would be smaller, less  programming and more of it outside. Meals and lodging would look different. I asked myself, and others asked the same question, would these changes damage the Camp Arcadia experience so much that it would be better to not run Camp at all? 

There were two reasons that we decided to move ahead with the season once we decided that we could do so legally and safely. First, we knew that for those that could come, they were going to need Camp more than ever, even with a mask on. Secondly, was a recognition that God could continue to work through Camp Arcadia to bring people closer to Him – even, or especially, during a pandemic. The Camp Arcadia experience with all its traditions was not so precious that we couldn’t change it. Masks and social distancing would not prevent the Holy Spirit from working faith in the hearts of our guests and staff. 

And He did. This summer is one I will never forget. I saw God working through our staff and our guests. We were all so raw – worn down by life in pandemic, not to mention the racial and political unrest in our nation. There is a saying you have heard me say before, “God doesn’t speak any louder at Camp, it is just easier to hear Him.” Well, this summer our hearing was turned up a notch and we were open vessels ready to be filled with living waters. 

I am overflowing with gratitude for our amazing management, summer and fall staff, for the opportunity to serve you, for those that came this summer and for those that supported us from a far, for all of your prayers, encouragement and generosity, for a protected shoreline and dry buildings, for safe and healthy season so far, and for an incarnational God that chooses to enter our brokenness and who does not take a summer off, but continues to bring life to a bunch of weary but hopeful souls on the shores of Lake Michigan. 

13 Responses

  1. Camp was a different Experience, both as a guest and as EOS but awesome in a very unique and inspiring way.
    Seeing you, Jess and Rachel working together crossing functional roles was inspiring to me.
    The slower pace was welcoming as a guest and EOS. We loved the take out lunch, karaoke and trivia night.
    Thank you for a great camp season, despite the overwhelming challenges.

  2. Out faith and relationship with our Lord deepens when He walks with us through the valleys of our lives.

    Thank you to you, the staff, and financial supporters for being instruments of God’s love to all of us who visit Arcadia.

  3. Chip,
    While I am saddened that Karen and I were unable to attend Camp this summer, I am pleased to know that you and your staff were able to successfully offer the Camp experience in a limited format. I am also pleased to have observed that my grandchildren wanted to come to Camp on their own, and did so.

    We hope to be able to experience Camp Arcadia in 2021, and may even see a lower lake level. Congratulations on working your way through the issues of 2020.

  4. Thank you Chip, Full time Staff, and Camp

    Thank you Chip, Full-time staff, and Camp Board for having the courage to open Camp this summer. It is evident to us by the way things worked out this summer and especially the times we were there that the Lord Jesus guided you and the guests to help make this a special time to be participants in growing together in the Lord. When you had the faith to get out of the boat the Lord enabled you to walk on the water and to lead others to the waiting arms of Jesus. God’s Blessings! Paul and Peggy

  5. We definitely missed our Golf & the Gospel family this year, as well as the entire staff at Camp Arcadia! But, we all know that God is in control of EVERY situation, both good and bad. He is guiding us through this event, and we will all come out stronger because of it. We are surrounded by His love and mercy. We are awed by His gifts to us. We are humbled at His feet as we thank and praise Him. He is PRESENT in every sunset, every wave that crashes, every breeze that stirs the trees. We praise him.

  6. Thank you Chip for sharing so honestly and for being such a faithful witness to what God can accomplish when we trust in Him more deeply. We were so blessed to be able to attend a Family Week Lite in July. We continue to marvel at how God worked through you and the entire staff to provide what is most familiar about Camp – the opportunity to find rest and refreshment in Jesus while also having fellowship (albeit from a distance) with other believers. Thank you all for persevering. Thank you (and the board) for your prayerfulness about the whole season. Thank you for giving glory where it is due – to our Lord who keeps providing for Camp and all of us! Jesus truly is Living Water and when we drink from His well, we never thirst again.

  7. Thanks for all the hard work to you and the Staff Chip. It certainly still “felt like Camp”, even with the masks and hand sanitizer!

  8. You were right…this year more than ever we need that time to get away to “be still” and know that He is God. It is so much easier to do that at Camp Arcadia. Looking forward to the women’s retreat this weekend.

  9. We’ll never forget our first experience at Camp Arcadia, serving alongside Kingdom workers we’d never met before—in the middle of a pandemic. Can’t say enough good things about the management team and how well you all work together to create a good experience for guests, as well as good cheer and camaraderie amongst all who serve. Loved finding new friends amongst volunteers. Have tried to describe the closing service several times but I choke up and words fail. Thanks so much for allowing us to be a part of Camp Arcadia!

  10. Chip—We are SO thankful you decided to run camps this summer; the restrictions did not dampen the blessing we experienced during our time there. Another joyful RKD memory for the Haga’s. Thank you!

  11. As much as I missed camp and Lutherhostel this year, I was happy to support your efforts with prayer, notes, and $. Really enjoyed the Deans programs and Facebook postings. God is at work everywhere and thank you and staff for for the courage to carry on His work with Grace and Joy despite problems. A testament to your faith and a powerful witness to us all.

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