This weekend I’m going back to camp.
No, not Camp Ridgecrest. Sadly. But another camp nonetheless.
When I made the difficult decision not to return to Camp Ridgecrest this summer, my heart longed to work with youth again this June-July-August. After all, that’s been my story these past two summers: venturing across the country to impact youth and subsequently be impacted by them and my peers all at once.
And yet with last autumn’s return to southern California, I started experiencing drastically deepened connection with my community, purpose, and life here. Affinity for camp aside, I couldn’t just leave again quite so easily.
But I didn’t want to grow up either; I wanted to stay a kid at camp forever. My heart was pained at letting go of that wonderful part of my life. Letting go of camp.
Or so I thought.
Discovering the “Desire of My Heart”
As a Christian since Pogs, I’ve heard the phrase “desire of my heart” more times than Pogs I once owned. But what does Psalm 37:4 really mean? What are the desires of my heart beyond witnessing another Philadelphia Phillies championship or becoming a New York Times bestselling author?
Clearly, youth involvement has emerged as a desire of my heart ever since I discovered the wild wonderful world of tutoring three years ago.
If you were to tell me I’d fall in love with tutoring before I moved westward to California in 2010, I’d have laughed in your face. With my mostly unpleasant academic upbringing filled with ridicule and isolation alike? No way.
And yet here I am. Tutoring and interacting with obnoxious yet lovable kids every single day. My terrifying/intoxicating experiences at youth camps the last two summers have only furthered my fervor for youth involvement.
By choosing to stay in southern California this summer, it seemed I’d be sacrificing much of my soul, exposing a gaping desire of my heart.
Alas. Not so.
Rediscovering the Desire of My Heart
Earlier this spring, I was fortunate to be hired as a tutor at summer school. This tutoring position – my primary source of summer income – has intertwined both the academic and relational in ways I’ve never before experienced.
I work with many of the same kids from my middle school of the last year, so we’re already quite familiar with each other. Additionally, I now see them for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week.
That’s a lot of time. At my middle school, I usually saw these kids for 45 minutes at a time. Now, I’m seeing the same 40 kids for 35 hours each week for 5 continuous weeks. It’s basically “academic camp.”
Yes, those hormone-raging hooligans grate on me at times. But inappropriate jokes and nicknames aside, gosh, I love them. Every weekday, those seventh-turning-eighth graders fill me with such joy. Sometimes, I almost wish I could be their age and be their friend rather than their tutor.
Alas, being their tutor is pretty awesome too. I’ve helped them factor trinomials and graph parabolas, yes, but I’ve also laughed alongside them and talked with them about life — theirs and mine.
This tutoring job alone would have been quite “enough” to satisfy the desire of my heart this summer. But turns out God still had other desire-outlets for me.
Along with a weekly volunteering opportunity at a youth recreational program, I’m also revisiting another desire of my heart. Revisiting what I thought was lost forever.
I’m going back to camp.
Going back this very weekend.
Revisiting the Desire of My Heart
I only attended one camp as a kid. It was the summer after I moved to Georgia from Pennsylvania in 2000, and it changed my life. Totally transformed my perspective and attitude on life, rerouting my broken relationship with God in the process.
There’s magic at camp.
I’ve experienced this magic as a young adult the past two summers, and I yearn for such magic the rest of my life.
I guess God was still aware of this magical desire of my heart even while I thought I was laying it to rest this summer. Looks like I will return to camp this summer after all.
Two camps, actually.
In just a couple weeks, I’ll be employed at a day camp here in the city. Not quite Camp Ridgecrest with a lake and blob tower and COUNCIL RING, but still an opportunity to play games and tell stories and be a kid with kids who probably want to grow up way too fast.
And while I do all those delightful things by day, I’ll still be able to plug deeper into my southern California community and life by night and weekend — another genuine desire of my heart.
As to the other camp:
This coming weekend I’ll be embarking on a mini Ridgecrest-esque adventure. For three days, I’ll be a camp counselor with 39 other church volunteers and 40 foster teens. It’s a small camp with a 1:1 camper-counselor ratio, so I’ll be paired with a teenage camper for the entire weekend.
We’ll be doing team-building activities and zip lines and SOMETHING ON THE SCHEDULE CALLED THE AMAZING RACE OH MY GOSH YES.
I’m somewhat overwhelmed by the relational aspect of this particular camp compared with the last two summers. While I’ll be expected to “connect” with most/all 40 kids at this camp, my primary energies will go toward only one teen.
This camp will be intentionally inherently more relational than either of my previous camp experiences.
That’s exciting, but intimidating.
While I can’t exactly resonate with being “stuck” in the foster system, I can certainly resonate with this notion of “wandering” and feeling restless in my search for home. I hope I can make a positive impact on these foster kids, and especially with my paired camper.
I hope you’ll pray for me this weekend. And for my camper. I’d so appreciate it. And I’ll be sure to blog about the experience soon!
So, until next time…