I just finished a week of camp at the Moravian summer camp called Laurel Ridge in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It’s been 20 years since I’ve been a camp counselor, and it was a wonderful week. This was the third Eco Camp, and my daughter Madeleine has been to all three. Since I had to drive her 500 miles this year to go to camp, I decided to just stay as a counselor and I’m glad I did. I had a cabin of 7 boys ranging in age from 8-10, and it has been a long time since I’ve been in the middle of so much energy. It was almost too much some nights, but my co-counselor was a young seminary student who was wonderful with the boys. I had to adjust to the fact that I am no longer the “cool” and “fun” counselor.I was the definitely the dad, but the kids really wanted a dad. Aaron started reading to them from the Gospel of John after we had our “candle talk” each evening, and they quieted right down. One boy told another that he should be a preacher one day. He started jumping up and down shouting “I’m going to be a preacher when I get big.” Then he said, “I can’t wait to tell them that at Temple. No, wait! I’ll have to be a rabbi!” We didn’t know until then he was Jewish. He was the one who was doing back flips on his bed the first night. Who knows, there may be a back flipping rabbi who loves the Moravians one day!
It was the first time Madeleine had ever gone fishing and I saw her catch her first fish. I caught a couple, but I spent most of the afternoon helping boys remove their fish and untangle their lines. I also climbed a tree, which I always loved as a boy, and caught salamanders in the creek. It was such fun. The purpose of the camp is to awaken a love of and understanding for God’s creation, and I think it succeeds admirably. David Guthrie and Rick Sides created the camp three years ago, and they apply Comenius’ theory of education. Children learn best by doing and by exploring according to their own interests. Adults are there to keep them safe and help direct them to healthy activities, but learning comes from the children’s encounter with God’s world not from adults talking. We had a couple of professors from local colleges there to help the children learn about the plants and animals. One of them caught frogs and mice and chipmunks (safely) for the children to observe. Another caught and banded some birds. An apiary expert brought his hives and campers got to hold drone honey bees. We chewed on black birch twigs and fresh mint to refresh us, and splashed in the creeks. Every camper got suitably dirty. No one had to be sent home for bad behavior, and all of the counselors were engaged with the same activities as the kids. One of the highlights for me was our long hike around the mountain. I never knew that 3rd graders could out hike me and still have energy to play.
For worship our last night we went to many of the sacred places where they had played and learned and laughed and hugged, and there we read scripture. We stood on the northern overlook and read Psalm 122. We stood looking over the ferns on the mountain slope and read Matthew 6. Do not be anxious. This world was made by God and is a good creation. Treat it with love. Treat it with respect. And know that you belong.