Monday, July 18, 2005

Faith Works 7-23-05
Jeff Gill

Paradise, With Insects

Paradise. From ancient Semetic root words for "walled garden," a "par dis" is the term for the original garden, an Eden where creation is begun and maybe even fulfilled.
In the enclosures of ancient lands where precious plants and herbs were tended, a glimpse of divine purpose and potential was seen in a safe place carved out of the chaos of wilderness, with nurturance and growth the rule within the garden walls.
Church camp is called many things, but rarely a paradise. Bugs, poison ivy, mealtimes with a table full of cabin mates, and showers open to both the night sky above and daddy longlegs all around: these do not fit into most people's conception of paradise.
But that "par dis," the "walled garden" of the ancient near East, is something of what makes the camp experience so remarkable and transformative. We may be in the woods, but in a place defined by tradition and history. Our home is a cabin more open than enclosed, but we enter (at whatever age we are at camp) into a new community where relationships and roles are not assumed and enforced, but where quiet children can show unexpected gifts for leadership, or city kids learn something of what goes on beyond "where the sidewalk ends."
Why yes, I did just return from camp; why do you ask? Yep, it shows. Camp people can be quite annoying in their assertion that a week at camp can be the seasoning that flavors the richness of the entire year. We want, we expect everyone to go to camp (it could be 4-H, or Scouting, but church campers can be the very most obnoxious), and we will not stop talking about it.
It can be hard when you know you're right.
Really, to engage in a long-term intentional Christian community, which is a fancy way of saying "church camp," is to experience one's faith from a variety of angles that can't be found in the lowlands of everyday life. What camp folk have to remember (and we don't, always) is that you can't live up in the mountains all year 'round, either; Moses had to come down off of Sinai to share the Word with the people, and camp is just a prelude to the hard work of living your faith the next 51 weeks.
Up at Templed Hills a few weeks back, Badger Camp ended and 68 kids from 3, 4, and 5 grade with 18 adults (some young, but all quite mature) headed home tired, bug bit, and much more aware of what a faith community really looks like when you are consciously living out love, forgiveness, and compassion.
We all missed Dory Smathers, who had been a cabin counselor on Second Level for some years now, but had some lame excuse for missing out on 2005.
If you give the child "Badger" for a middle name, Dory, all is forgiven!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, supply preacher around central Ohio, and for one week each year, church camp director. You can semaphore him or flash signal mirrors to[

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