As I sort through thousands of pictures of campers taken over the course of the summer, I see more than smiles, laughter, and the bonds of true friendship. I see the presence of an active and dynamic God working in shaping the lives of campers, counselors, and staff members. These pictures lift up the power of the church’s outdoor ministry and speak to the life-giving nature of being in a relationship with one another and the whole of creation.
While camps and conferences require a tremendous amount of time to plan, organize, and implement, the rewards for the participants last a lifetime. Campers experienced what it means to be church in its purest sense. That is how to have genuine concern and compassion for others (even if they are different), the hunger and drive to improve oneself and embody the gospel, the importance of healing and transforming the world, to recognize that they are beautiful creations and deeply loved, and the importance of spiritual relationships with God, others, and creation. Naturally, the various age groups approached these concepts in different age-appropriate ways, but they all experienced joy and love here at Slumber Falls Camp.
Divine play is critical to the spiritual development of our children and youth. Play promotes imagination, dexterity, emotional health, physical strength, and cognitive development. Our children and youth sense God’s presence around them. Divine play in an outdoor ministry context helps hone their awareness and develops their skill sets to respond to God better. In divine playing, campers learn how to engage others in healthy ways that promote community. Christian values are undergirded, and counselors and staff are there to help them navigate and find the language to express themselves when they face challenges or realize their deficits. Divine play is about the experience and the being, not necessarily about the end result or win condition. Campers are free to be themselves, ask questions that are on their mind, and encouraged to think how they can affect the world in positive ways.
I was fortunate enough to take a course in seminary on ministering to and with children. It was during this course that I realized how important play is to the wellbeing of our souls. While the class focused on children, I saw many correlations for the spiritual health and wellbeing of adults as well. I thoroughly enjoy playing. Some might say that I play too much or that I am always smiling. I am constantly working on living a joyful life. Divine play is central to this way of becoming for me. I hope that our church can translate our faith into that joy that campers experience here at Slumber Falls Camp. I believe that Divine play is intoxicating, inviting, and transformative.
With the campers back at home and preparing for school and last minute summer excursions, the realization that the positive experiences shared at each of the camps will continue to breathe life and transform them for years to come. Seeds are continuously being planted in receptive Christians lives. I hope that our campers bring divine playing into their schools, communities, and churches in order to offer a different way of living and being in this world.