Recently I watched The Last Duel on HBO Max. It is set in 14th century France in the time of knights, chivalry, castles, and crusades. Without revealing too much, the impetus of this story takes place when the wife shares her experience of what happened to her during her husband’s absence. Ridley Scott, the director, tells the story from three historical viewpoints, which appears to be pulled from court records. We get to experience the “truths” as perceived by each character as each personal account unfolds. The layers of personal identity, perceptions, and beliefs of that time period shed light on the reality of each individual. Watching the movie develop reminded me of the Gospels. Four accounts recorded in the Bible, each told from the perspectives of the writers for their communities.
What got me thinking after watching the movie was how knowledge and beliefs are passed down from generation to generation. Especially when it comes to understanding our bodies, science, and our beliefs. Teaching Christian ideals and beliefs at summer camp and giving young people the room to discover, grow, and claim their faith journey is a sacred undertaking. The sacred bonds that form when sharing authenticity, mutual understanding and respect, and safeguarding a sanctuary for these conversation can last a lifetime. It is an honor when young people share their stories, lives, and hopes and dreams for the future, and it is humbling when they open up to their fears, concerns, and apprehensions about what the future holds. For some of them, they feel that Slumber Falls Camp is their only outlet. I ask them about their support structures back home, and most of them identify friend groups for conversations of great importance, even if they have loving and supportive parents or guardians. I always ask why they don’t speak with their parents, pastors, or other adults in which they say they love and respect. The most common responses are that my parents would not understand, they don’t know what I am going through and cannot relate, or the topics seem to be off limits or taboo creating a sense of awkwardness or shame.
This has been a common theme among youth that I have personally worked with in the past 25 years. Perhaps this is not a new feeling but one that has also existed much further back in our history. Somewhere I heard or read that television also contributes to this notion of how parents are viewed. Many of the teen sitcoms often portray anyone above 18 years of age as distant, aloof, or dim-witted. Oftentimes adults are this source of jokes or ridicule because they just don’t get it. It’s up to the kids to solve the mystery, believe in something that the adults can’t comprehend, or some other storyline that it appears only young people can solve. How do we change this perception? What is holding children back from talking to their parents? If we knew, then we could make strides to changing those perceptions by creating other opportunities or spaces to see that perhaps we want to help them grow more than trying to punish or guilt them.
Something is different at camp for many of our campers. Something magical happens at camp during family groups and cabin groups. At some point during the week, the feelings, lessons, and trust that is generated during a week of camp allows for a sacred space to open up. The safe place is a healing and restorative place that invites young people to talk about what is on their minds. It’s a place to explore feelings, apprehensions, hopes and desires for the future and talk about ways in which their life can become better. These conversations are where transformation happens. Campers open up to each other, let down their guards, and show their vulnerability. The trust gained by their counselors throughout the week allows them to see that adults can be a source of guidance, and they will handle it in a life-giving way. I hope that through our program and curriculum that we are able to correct some of their perceptions about the world, so that they know they are not alone. These open, honest, and sacred conversations are one of the ways in which we experience the divine and create the foundations for communities that are grounded in spirituality, unconditional love and acceptance, and foster a framework or how the church can be to each other and to the world.
Summer camps are one of those incredible experiences that you cannot replicate in its entirety in any other ministry that I know. As a whole, Christian summer camps are growing nationwide. Slumber Falls Camp is blessed to have families, churches, volunteers, and supporters supporting this ministry on so many fronts – programming, facilities, development, annual funds, and sharing the good news!
Camper welfare, health and safety, Christian education, and community building continue to be at the heart of what we do. It is very relational. It is very personal. It is sacred. We are always looking for passionate individuals that want to answer the call in their life to be a source of life and guidance for a young person. If this is something that you have thought about or would like to explore for the first time, please do not hesitate to call the office.
We are excited about 2022 and all the possibilities that we have planned and unplanned. If there’s anything that we can do to help you, your ministries, or your church family, please reach out to us. We also have space on the property for family reunions, Church retreats, and other groups to gather. Blessings and peace on each and every one of you. Jeremy