Journey to unity

February 8, 2024 | Focus on Camps | Volume 28 Issue 3
Brent Musser | Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp
Campers at Hidden Acres. Photo by Ben Watson.

Hidden Acres’ “Narnia Closet” carries the adventurous explorer on an unexpected journey. What begins as an innocent cleaning closet winds through a maze of stored items, a section so low you must crawl and finally a floor covered with basketballs, before exiting into the ping pong room on the other side of Stonehouse. Just as the “Narnia Closet” leads a person to an unexpected place, camp can lead children (and adults) into unexpected encounters with God.

One place this happens is in nature. God’s creation surrounds us with structure and nourishment, providing a place to be and live. It also flows within our bodies: in our blood, through the nervous system, in our lungs and muscles and bones. It provides the stuff of our very being and life.

We do not just exist in nature; our whole existence is bound up together with nature. It is easy to overlook this in our daily lives. I climb that tree. I pick that flower. I watch that squirrel. But the more time I spend paying attention to God’s creation, the more difficult I find it to maintain these rigid distinctions. My life is woven together with the life of the tree, the flower and the squirrel.

One way of imagining this nature, in which we are all mixed up, is as the outpouring of Godself in a tactile, perceptible, beautiful world. As young people, we learn the necessary skill of differentiating our “selves” from the things around us, navigating our way in God’s world. But eventually we need a pathway to appreciate the ways we are connected to God and God’s creation.

This is part of what camps like Hidden Acres offer children and adults: an opportunity to touch, smell, see, hear and experience nature. A family of screech owls perched on a branch during a nighttime walk might spark your curiosity. Perhaps the striking orange-red of a newt meandering along the mossy rocks will draw you in. Or maybe the towering yellow birch tree reaching for the sunlight in the forest will cause you to look beyond your normal horizons.

These encounters can lead us to see our “selves” not only in the world but as inextricably knit together with it. In that revelation we might begin a life-long journey of appreciating nature in all its complicated wonder, learning to respect the world and discovering God where we least expected. 

Campers at Hidden Acres. Photo by Ben Watson.

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