I never went to camp as a kid because growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan seemed sufficiently uncivilized that I didn’t need to spend another week or two sleeping in a forest.
My children, though, aren’t me: they’re growing up in a city, where they rarely see the sun set or the stars shine, and the most conspicuous flora and fauna are front lawns and the neighbourhood dogs that pee on them. That’s why I acquiesced to my wife’s suggestion, 10 years ago, that we send our kids to camp, specifically Silver Lake Mennonite Camp located on Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula. I figured that there they would get to experience creation—or at least the Bruce Peninsula incarnation of it—in its full glory: hearing the wind in the trees, seeing the sun shimmer on the waves, smelling the smoke of a campfire and tasting really good well water. As our kids reported back to us summer after summer, all of this happened.
What I didn’t anticipate, probably because growing up on a farm is a fairly solitary activity, was how our kids would also develop special bonds with their fellow campers. These bonds seemed different from the ones they had with their peers at school, because they were forged under the open sky. As our two eldest progressed from campers in their first five summers, to Counsellors in Leadership Training, and finally to bona fide staff members, they experienced mentorships and fostered friendships that seem, from my perspective, to be the most important ones in their lives.
They also had opportunities to explore a different kind of spirituality, one based not on sermons, but on the harmony and beauty evident in creation. Their Mennonite faith has, I think, been shaped as much by their summers at camp as by their Sundays at church. If attending church has developed the bones of their faith, going to Silver Lake Mennonite Camp has filled those bones with marrow.