‘A camp cabin is a messy thing’

February 22, 2023 | Focus on Camps | Volume 27 Issue 4
Ellie Cressman with Thomas Beech | Silver Lake Mennonite Camp
Sauble Beach, Ont.
Shirley John, an Indigenous elder, enjoys strawberries with Silver Lake staff. (Silver Lake photo)

When thinking of the word “faith,” Silver Lake comes directly to mind. Camp provides me with the space to integrate faith into daily life. Campfire songs, morning and evening reflections, and sessions are all valuable parts of camp that invite faith-based reflection.

From being a camper to a counsellor-in-leadership-training, to a staff member, my faith journey has been rooted at Silver Lake. Ever since I was a young camper, I valued the strong community, beautiful nature and safe environment I found at camp. These elements encouraged me to engage in meaningful reflection and discussion with campers and staff of various ages and experiences.

Last summer, I conducted a nature session that incorporated a guided walk throughout the camp, stopping at certain areas to reflect on various stories and Bible passages. I was amazed by the insightful reflections the campers shared, and I realized that I was learning as well as guiding.

Hearing their various thoughts grounded me. Camp has taught me to keep my heart and mind open, and that listening is vital for growth. At Silver Lake, we listen to different people’s perspectives and open ourselves to nature, which allows us to listen to God.

Silver Lake is, at its core, about relationships. It’s about being with each other authentically and meeting each person you interact with on an entirely human level. Camp forces you to build relationships organically, simply being and doing alongside others. You have no choice but to sacrifice for others, learn across differences, and recognize the dignity of those around you.

A camp cabin is a messy thing. With a group of people living alongside one another for a week, there are bound to be numerous challenges, lots of conflicts and surely a healthy dose of chaos. This is not a knock on Silver Lake, but maybe its greatest asset. Life is messy, and following God is messy, and being at Silver Lake reminds you of how beautiful that is.

A camp cabin is also a profoundly joyful thing. Everywhere you look, there are smiles, friendship, acts of kindness and unbridled excitement. The best in each person is brought out through the authentic relationships they form with those around them. Camp exposes the deeply human in each of us, in all its messiness, richness and beauty. At camp, you are plunged head-first into the complexity of divine humanity. 

Shirley John, an Indigenous elder, enjoys strawberries with Silver Lake staff. (Silver Lake photo)

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