In but not of

February 8, 2024 | Focus on Camps | Volume 28 Issue 3
Nadya Langelotz | Camps with Meaning
Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg.

While I’m new in my role as associate program director for Camps with Meaning, I am not new to this place, or rather, these places. What has always shimmered at camp is the particularly thin space they are between us and God.

The two scriptures that ring in my ears when I think about camp work are John 17: 16,18: “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. . . As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world;” and Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind.”

Camp, for me, and from what I see, is a recognition of the world—hard and good and mysterious—and at the same time, an acknowledgment that we are called to live differently within it. This is what kept me coming back to camp. Here are a few examples of the way Camps with Meaning fosters this thin space.

Retreat: Contrary to the way of our world, camp exists without our constant communication lines. Campers and staff alike leave their phones at home, or in a designated area, and the only life is face-to-face, real-time relationship. It’s simple, but it’s profound.

Accountability: While camp is for fun and bountiful laughter, there is also a sense that the community relies on one another. The silliness of each day is possible because we know the balance between stepping in and letting go. We are bound to each other, and it keeps camp safe and intentional. It creates a rich ground for vulnerability and trust.

Resilience: In our regular lives, we are not always asked to do new things each day, but at camp we are. Try the zipline? Pray out loud? Carry a canoe over our heads? Run around in the dark with the sounds of unknown animals around?

Post COVID, our capacity for this newness, and courage to step into it, has somewhat diminished, but camp works hard to be a place where this kind of resilience is encouraged and supported.

Especially after the tumult of the last few years, camp is poignant in the way it remains attuned to the needs of campers and staff and invites them into being transformed by the love of God, recognizing this as a powerful necessity for living well in the world with each other—in the world, but not of it. 

Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg.

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