You might think that Family Camp sounds like a pretty weird idea. But that is because you are thinking that you will have to spend time with your family. That is not true. Yes, you will have to drive to camp with them, and you will likely have to sleep in the same cabin as them, and you may even occasionally have to eat a meal with or near them, but once you get there, you will not be spending much time with your family at all. At least, not if you don’t want to. Family Camp is a place you go with your family where your parents have so much fun with their friends that they forget they even have a family. So if you’re a kid, you’ve pretty much got the run of the place.
When I look back on my life and try to identify the influences that kept me walking on the straight and narrow and gave me a vision for the good life, Family Camp is always the first thing that comes to mind. I went to church every Sunday, but that was no replacement for a yearly trip to Family Camp. At Family Camp, you do not have quick conversations with people as you’re heading out the door after the sermon. At Family Camp, you build relationships over meals and across campfires and every moment in between. After a week of eating together, singing together, swimming together, and laughing together everyone there is family.
So if Family Camp is not really about your family, then what is it?
Well, it isn’t about the camp. We had to switch camps when I was a little girl and things changed, but it was still Family Camp. We all have fond memories of specific places at Arrowhead—the camp-wide Frisbee golf course my dad made up, the new bench on the waterfront that commemorates our favorite boat driver Dave Shea, or even the crummy couches in front of the fireplace. But we could adjust to having it just about anywhere, if we had to. Family Camp is more about the people than the place. But that isn’t exactly true either, because the people tend to change—at least a little—from year to year. Somehow it always feels like everyone there is an old friend, but we always manage to have a few new couples to invite to the Trulywed Game.
So it isn’t about your family. And it isn’t about the camp. It’s not even about a specific group of people or a specific place. If it is not about any of those things, what is left? I guess I’d have to say that at the heart of it, it is about fellowship—like-minded people sharing meals and worship and fun for a short period of time that has been blocked off for just such a purpose. It’s not about having a stereotypical nuclear family but about becoming part of the family while we were there. It was this yearly dose of community that gave me a vision for the happiness of family life and the fulfillment that comes from committed church family.
Growing up in our culture, I could easily have drawn the conclusion that the good life is a life of extended singleness with no attachments to anyone but other young, single people. But not even the accumulated noise of all the television I watched and music I listened to that glamorized the unnattached life could convince me that there was anything better than living in a church family. I went off into the world with high hopes, but none higher than the hope that I might get to have my own family and join a church family who would love the kind of fun I had at Family Camp.
And if I someday get to heaven and find out that the dwellings Jesus has been preparing for us are more like cabins than mansions, and that my room is more or less a screened-in porch whose windows let in the earliest rays of light and calls of the loon, and that the floor tilts a little too much towards the lake, and that I have to share a bathroom, and that my bed is nothing more than a rickety metal bunk bed with a thin mattress, then I will smile and say “Wow. It really is just like I pictured it.”
Even if I have to share it with my family.