A Debt of Honor

Another year at camp has come and gone for me. Together with 40 wonderful campers and 18 super staffers, I spent the hottest week on record (109 degrees heat index) at Camp Idlewild in Surry County, VA. Camp Idlewild and I go way, way back. My first year was as a 9 year-old in 1966... which was also Idlewild’s first year of operation. Lynn’s first year was also at age 9... and my mother was her first counselor. In fact, camp was such a big part of our lives that I drove us to camp to give Lynn her engagement ring. (OK, we broke the camp rule against kissing that one time). I once turned down the chance to speak in a lectureship in Germany because I had already committed to direct camp. Some of my best friends in ministry have worked with me on the “Idlewild Bible Faculty” during camp. I was at Camp Idlewild for 30 straight years before taking an unplanned hiatus several years ago. Three years ago, Denbigh took charge of the Middle School Week and Idlewild and I renewed our old acquaintance.

As I've gotten older, I look forward to camp with a little less enthusiasm. I don’t have the wheels I used to and the camp hasn't gotten any smaller. There are fewer and fewer churches in our area supporting the camp, so the work is harder for those who are still involved. There is never enough money and never enough volunteers.

But working at camp during the camp week is pure joy when I see the enthusiasm and delight on the faces of these kids. Camp is still the highlight of the year for some of our kids... just like it was for me. Some examples of how some of these kids feel about camp—

  • Rachel planned her baptism at the because somehow making the commitment to follow Jesus for the rest of her life seemed more special because she did it at a place and surrounded by the people that were so special to her. (Two other campers were also baptized).

  • Netanya fell off the slide in the pool and gashed her arm and needed 8 stitches. She was very upset… until she found out that she wouldn't have to leave camp early. The stitches were no big deal; she was extremely brave through that whole ordeal. But she wasn't going to leave camp early!

  • Tia asked me on Wednesday not to use the microphone during my devotional talk. She said that the microphone reminded her of me doing the closing ceremony on Saturday and she didn’t want to be reminded that camp was going to end.

The reason I go to camp every year is not because I enjoy it as much as I used to enjoy it… but because our kids enjoy it as much as I used to enjoy it! I have a debt of honor to people like J.E. Thompson, J.L. Thompson, Steve Pugh, Maggie Dossett and a host of people who gave a week of their lives to make camp a sacred place for me. I hope last week was a great week for our kids. I hope it stays an important week of fun and spiritual growth for many generations to come.