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.