Do you know this song?
“Where do I go when I need a shelter?
Where do I go when I need a friend?
Where do I go when I need some helping?
Where do I go? Back on my knees again…”
Do you have a physical place that you go as well? Is there someplace that you retreat to that is a special place, a comforting place?
For me that place is Camp Wanake. It has been like a second home since I was 4 or 5. We came here as a family every year for Memorial Day and Labor Day. I came here as a camper every summer that I could. I was on staff for 4 summers. I volunteered for years after that. Now that I have my own family, again I come for those family camp weekends. Our children come to camp every summer. 2 have been on staff (so far). It is part of my blood.
What makes it so special? Besides it living up to the meaning of its name “beautiful spiritual place among the hills?” It is one of those places that never changes. Sure, physically, there have been changes over the years… new buildings built, old ones torn down, buildings that were bathrooms turned into craft houses… additions to buildings, slight changes to camping programs… new property purchased, property sold, other property purchased…
But what doesn’t change are the basics. God is Nigh! The sign leading to Vesper Hill declares this and it is true. There is a peace that settles over this land. The spirit is the same from 1946 to today.
The dining hall, while now linoleum (instead of cement floor with shuffleboard triangles and 4 square painted on it), air conditioned, painted and other improvements, is still the dining hall. The ceiling still has “oatmeal” for insulation. You still have to “hop” your tables. The kitchen still cooks the same foods (mostly). The wood beams, the brick fireplace, the sandstone walls… all the same for the last 60+ years. A hub of camp and a meeting place for everyone!
What else remains the same? The smell of the cabins, the dilapidated pool shower house (really? We were sure that wouldn’t withstand the 80’s and it is still here – it even survived the severe storms this summer that took down 100s of trees… none of which even came close to hitting it!), the smell of a campfire, the joy of children playing games in the yard in front of the barn, the frog pond, the trails, people singing, laughing, playing, making new friends, renewing old friendships, the views from inspiration points (though there are more trees now), the feeling of peace and rest and being home that comes over you when you drive down the dusty gravel driveway.
What memories are evoked as I drive down that driveway? 40 years ago… coming as a family and camping in our tent… my father teaching us about nature and loving nature… my dad singing, he loved to sing and he loved leading singing, especially at camp. 30 years ago… being on staff and meeting and loving some of the best people on earth and growing with them and being able to still call them friends after 30 years… people like Wayne, Kris, Tom, Billy, Russ… to name just a handful. There is something about the bond of working with each other 24/7 for 3 months that bonds you like no other. 10 (or so) years ago… bringing my children here as campers for their first time for a whole week (they had already been here as family campers) and then hearing their excitement and joy and chuckling at their tears and “re-entry issues” as we went home because camp is so wonderful no one ever wants to leave. 3 years ago… when my oldest was dropped off for her first year as a summer staff… so proud of her and her choice to be part of the ministry of serving God by leading and teaching children in God’s great outdoors and helping them come to know more about Jesus. Of course there are all kinds of great memories in between, but those are the primary ones that come to mind first.
What has changed? I could list so many things that have changed in my lifetime. But none of them are significant enough to counter the feelings that being here evoke. Some changes include: the driveway, the “new/green” shower house, less apple trees, the loss of cabins 1, 2, 3, and 3A as well as the Porcelain Pagoda, turning the Cedar Chest into a craft cabin, building 2 new retreat centers, new pool system, new caretaker’s house, new Ranch property, …. and so on… oh… and WIFI! 🙂 Some/Most of the changes in the last 30 years have been for the better. Though, the WIFI could stand to have a booster since this post is now on day 2 of trying to get it to go. 🙂
I pray that this place remains basically unchanged in the next 60 years, so that my children’s children and grandchildren can also enjoy and grow and love in this special place.
This place has brought me peace through the years. It has brought me love. It has encouraged my children in closer walks with Christ. What more can you want when you “..need a shelter… need a friend?”