I just read a very funny article by a columnist for Garden and Gun magazine remembering summer camp and church camp in particular. She went to Girl Scout Camp and the summer her mother deemed her to be too cynical at the age of thirteen, she was bound for a Baptist encampment run by two old ladies. Reminds me of East Texas Baptist Encampment run by an older couple that Peggy and I nicknamed Sam and Son of Sam. We never saw them smile and they sat on their porch in their rocking chairs seething judgement. They were used to GA camp and maybe Jr camp, but they were taken by surprise when First Baptist Houston came rolling in with wild recreation and evening extras that are now staples in modern campdon. It was hot there and the food miserable beyond belief and we were thrilled to find big jars of peanut butter on each table but sickened when we tasted and see'd that the peanut butter was rancid. Oh, we were adults at this camp...not official campers. I do believe we introduced Skipper and Dolly to those Jr High campers, Skipper and Dolly are fish that can do tricks....and we found them at the grocery store in a fresh fish display counter...So you can see where this all led. Anyway, back to the column, the author hated church camp. She hated getting up early, didn't like to be forced into saying each morning what she was thankful for and all the emotional stuff that can come with camp. She liked Girl Scout Camp much better and her stories of Girl Scouts reminded me of Dena. Dayspring gave her a surprise 50th birthday party held at Peggy's. My job was to get Dena at that party so she could be surprised. I was halfway scared she was going to call and decline attending. She thought she was going to a surprise party for Carolyn, the director of the class and also an August birthday. We got her there and yes, she was totally surprised with people from her workplace, church and family in attendance. I had been in contact with her mom getting pictures and hearing funny stories from Dena's childhood. Dena was a Girl Scout and the letters she wrote her family from camp are some of the most hilarious camp letters I have ever read...mainly Dena wrote to remind them when they could come pick her up and to also help them keep in mind exactly what camp she was attending. In between the reminders she also shared she and a friend felt sick, but they weren't sick after all but she was happy to know who to find if she thought she might be sick....then of course her sign off was to again remind her parents when camp concluded, where and when to pick her up. I also love that her sister was writing Dena and making up all kinds of wild stories of eating out every night and how the cats had totally forgotten Dena and they loved Janet more than ever. There are only a few camps I truly enjoyed. Back in the day GA camp was held at Peach Creek Baptist Camp in the piney woods of East Texas. I did not like that camp at all for various reasons but I was always made to go. One summer while spending the summer with grandparents in Illinois, I went to their church camp...which was with other churches for a glorious week. Hopefully somebody has rethought the name Camp Ill-Mo. Camp clothing rules were more strict than any other church camp I had ever gone to. I remember my mother was furious when she found out that several had concerns whether or not my clothes would be camp appropriate. My Aunt Mary, new aunt by being the second wife of my Uncle Charles, my mother's oldest brother, was in charge of making sure I had enough pedal pushers...a blast from the past term for capris...and other summer camp wear. Why she was chosen for this endeavor, I do not know but I do remember having lots of fun with her as we shopped the dime store racks for camp clothes. My cousin Lois and I got to be in the same cabin and our cabin won every sport award there was that week. I also was caught by the dean of the camp hanging from the rafters of our cabin like a monkey as I moved around from top bunk to top bunk. Okay, I just looked up Ill-Mo and the camp is still around and it is called Camp Manitoubi now but still a part of the General American Regular Baptist Churches. I recognized the cabins that have now been modernized, so no rafters but they have A/C.
Once I got into high school and went to camp with Willow Meadows Baptist Church, I surely enjoyed camp. One year we did Camp Houston which meant we stayed at the church all week and did mission projects and such around Houston. Then we went to camp in Palacios, TX the next year. I returned home changed that is for sure. Wait, I think it was Palacios then Camp Houston. Who knows but the Lord made such a change in me that even my father noticed a life changing experience had happened for me. When my parent's church purchased a Camp, Camp Tejas, my father funded a scholarship for that camp for children who could not afford camp. Then when their church sold the camp grounds he continued funding scholarships and low and behold, it was now going through First Baptist because Cindy Pitt, the children's minister, would do what my father wanted. She told me about the continuing scholarships against my father's wishes for me to know. Peggy and I went to children's camp one year to do an evening extra for the kids and got to meet the kids attending because of my father's generosity....only he was doing to them what he had done to my brother and I, sending them to camp with no spending money. I gave Cindy some money to give to the kids because it was my father's wish that those who got to attend camp be from families that had no other means to get them there. A lot of kids came from the children's home in Austin. Cindy convinced him to add additional funds for spending money.
It's funny, my father took the changes in me from loving camp, not from the work of the Holy Spirit. Even a few years ago when I had been called to meet his attorney, she relayed to me that my father was still upset that I had told him years ago, in elementary school, I mainly went to camp just to get out of the house. I don't remember saying that, but I probably did and wasn't smart enough to keep that info to myself. And just like the author who concluded that maybe what had been construed as cynicism merely was her observations as a fairly healthy, observant kid attuned to the foibles of human nature. Maybe too, I will change my mind that I have been cynical and instead change my thoughts to being observant and pretty good at being observant.