Camp Friendships Now – Community for Life

PPThen         PPnow

Summer camp has been the most consistent part of my life from an early age. As an Army brat, I moved with my family all over the country throughout my childhood, experiencing different landscapes, church families and climates. In all those transitions I made and lost plenty of friends, entered and exited several different school districts, got comfortable in and then uprooted from different children and youth ministries. One thing remained constant, however, and that was the week or two I got to spend at camp each summer.

Now I didn’t always go to the same camp – my parents are wonderful, but not wealthy enough to ship me cross-country to Camp Awesome year after year. Instead, my mom would register me for whatever Girl Scout or church camp that was nearby and had decent reviews. I remember taking my stuffed animal fox to my first sleep-away camp in the 1st grade in upstate New York, staying for two whole weeks at canoe camp in the Ozarks, and taking a backpacking adventure on Mt. Rainier through a summer camp in Eastern Washington. Eventually my dad retired in the lush green landscape of Western Washington and I landed a little more permanently at Cascades Camp and Conference Center in Yelm, WA. At Cascades I went through the multi-step CIT program, spent 6+ summers in almost every department on summer staff and even gave a year and a half of my time during college as an intern.

I think it’s safe to argue that summer camp has been one of the most formative experience in my adolescence, if not my entire life. It was at camp that I experienced the call to ministry, felt the presence of God and witnessed lives won for salvation. Even more importantly, perhaps, is the Christian community I experienced at camp. 

At camp I met incredible mentors, extraordinary friends, and my husband. Through my time as a camper, CIT, summer staffer and intern at camp I experienced an authenticity in relationships I have never known before, and a willingness to dig deep and experience life together as Christ calls us to. I found this was especially true in a group of women I was partnered with for regular prayer (Prayer Partners, or PP’s as we kindly refer to one another) and the four of us still remain deeply invested in the lives of one another. I even got to know my own sister in a much deeper way as I witnessed her progress through different roles in camping ministry and blossom beautifully into the woman of God she is today.

This week Jordan (my husband) and I had the privilege of hosting our good friends from Cascades as they journeyed to their new home in New York. It was so refreshing to spend time with them, because it felt like we didn’t have to try. Because we had the shared experience of camp (and of meeting our spouses at camp) it was 100% natural to spend the evening laughing together and reveling in the adventures we’ve both embarked on in our still young marriages. Even though we hadn’t made much effort to keep up with each other over the past couple of years, it was as though we’d been neighbors forever because there was a particular freedom in the commonality of camp.

I bring all this up to remind you that camp is life changing. I would not be the person I am today without the support, encouragement and company of the people I met at camp. I would not know the vastness of Christ’s love if it weren’t acted out by the people I met at camp. I would not keep on keeping on somedays if it weren’t for the prayers from my prayer partners from camp. 

At Otyokwah our catch phrase is “Where Friend Meets Friend.” It sounds cheesy, but the meaning is all to real – Camp is where I met my friends. It’s where I met my spouse and it’s where I continue to meet Jesus in the midst of His work. The relationships formed at camp create a community of Christ-like friendships that form the incarnational kingdom of God.

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About Mark

Mark Dubler has been a leader, host, and participant in camps and retreats for the last twenty years. He holds an M.A. in Educational Ministries from Wheaton College and is the Executive Director of Otyokwah Camp and Retreat Center, a Christian facility with a rich history of providing personal, life-changing experiences.

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