An Adventist youth leader reflects on the enduring significance of going camping.
The Oxford English Dictionary is meticulous about defining the word “camp” from the perspectives of noun and verb. According to OED, “camp” as a noun is a “temporary overnight lodging out of doors, typically in tents.” As a verb, to camp is to “live for a time in a camp, tent, or camper, as when on vacation” or to “lodge temporarily, especially in an inappropriate or uncomfortable place.”
In perusing these definitions, I am drawn to reminisce on a first camping memory that ever lingers with me. I was just about 10 years young and allowed to go solo on a camping trip with my church group. I remember—as though it were yesterday—our arrival at a small campsite off the Linden Highway in Guyana.
Beyond the delight of the journey, etched in my mind was the thrill of outdoor worship, sleeping under the stars, using flashlights at night, overcoming my trepidation of the dark, bathing and swimming in the creek, fire building and outdoor cookery, and accepting that adults who often looked all uptight at church were fun-loving in the outdoors.
Furthermore, I can recall that, after that trip, I owned and embraced my walk with Jesus, as well as my weekly church fellowship, like never before. In many ways this is attributable to that very first camping experience.
God Reveals Himself in Nature
The Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, has chosen to reveal Himself through general (history, human behavior, conscience, nature) and special (Old and New Testaments, prophets, and Jesus Christ) means of revelation. It is heartening to affirm that God has a multitude of ways by which His children may experience His majesty, might, and power.
That Adventist Youth Ministries (AYM) in my church region continues to align with all means by which God reveals Himself to His children is phenomenal! During the 2019 camp season, we were especially forward about God’s revelation of Himself through nature. Since He is a God of completion, the rustic blessings inherent in nature present quite the package!
Experiencing God’s Creation Up Close
There is something about God’s power, gentle touch, and intricate sense of creativity that warms the heart outdoors. There is something about walking on a carpet of grass, basking in the shade of majestic trees, cooling off in refreshing gusts of wind, sitting on a “soft boulder chair,” observing a trail of ants at work, gushing over a picturesque sunset, drinking in the love and emotional touch of a full moon, or being enveloped by a canopy of stars that turns the thoughts heavenward.
Experiencing God With Less Screen Time
There is something about having a bad Internet connection, limited electricity, or not having Wi-Fi and an available telephone network that turns the eyes to Jesus. There is something special about listening to God’s voice away from the noise, burdens, and distractions of electronics. The Holy Scriptures note that “in returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
Experiencing God in the Elements
There is something about God’s miracle-working, creative power when in direct contact with sunshine, rain, and wind. They are calculated to bring about improved moods, reduced stress levels, glowing skin tones, and a sense of rejuvenation that is second to none. There is no better spa treatment than nature’s gentle massage via sun, rain, and wind.
Experiencing God in Socializing
There is something about camping that fosters cohesive effort and improved communication. Somehow, there is more time to connect with others, build relationships, make new friends, and truly engage in a sense of community. There is a unique sense of unity — a “we’re in this together” mindset — that pervades campgrounds.
On Our Way to Our Permanent Home
Ultimately, one of the greatest blessings of camp ministry is the reminder that we are all “camping” in this world. Thus, it’s tolerable for life to, at times, be “uncomfortable.” Life here is for “overnight” purposes, and the “lodging” in this world is temporary.
Today, all are called to prepare, plan, and pack for camp with the assurance that Jesus is coming again to escort us to our permanent home.
The original commentary, Part 1 and Part 2, was posted on the Atlantic Union Conference news site.