Every time I walk outside in the woods in the summer, I remember my weeks away from home at summer camp when I was a kid, and I think of it because of the smell. The deep, musky, musty, spicy smell of summer. Of rotting wood and growing leaves. Of wet soil and tall grass. I went to camp for one week every year from third to sixth grade. That summer after sixth grade was my first year in middle school camp. That week was a great revelation to me. I learned about shaving my legs. I remember sitting on the porch of the lodge, looking around at all of the smooth legs and realizing I was the last girl left, who hadn't known any better (homeschooled, of course), still with soft blond fuzz covering my shins. After I got home, I got out one of my Dad's cheap disposable razors and went to work, and I remember sheepishly trying to hide the razor from Mom in a towel when she suddenly popped her head in the bathroom. As influential as that week was, I never again felt the need to go back to camp.
But there are two specific spots at Kenbrook Bible Camp that the smells of summer always bring back to me. Woodsy smells bring me back to a little dirt path that wound it's way down the hill to a tiny lake. The other is a big grassy meadow where we went to play capture the flag and where they held the crucifixion scene of the passion play produced each week for a new group of campers.
The camp was full of delightful places, and as much as I was feeling awkward there in my middle school years, I dearly loved it, and a week was far too short for me in upper elementary. There was a craft hut, full of pipe-cleaners and buttons and glue. There was a gift shop with little stuffed animals and all kinds of candy, and a bandanna with a map of the camp printed on it. There was a pool of course, with early morning swims, and an archery field, which I adored.
Last weekend I was privileged to be a delegate for my church at the BIC General Conference in Toronto. I have never been more impressed with a group of people in my life, or with the breadth of wisdom, ministry and geography for such a relatively small denomination. Kenbrook came up in conversations with others that I met there as it is run by the BIC, and I have been pondering how the church, in my case the BIC, or the church as a whole, has an arm that spreads through our whole life. My church offered half-off scholarships to go to camp, if you memorized a passage of scripture. Tonight as I walked, I tried to recite,
"I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from God, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let my foot slip. He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep."
And this is as far as I can go, but in fourth grade or so, I could have spouted the whole thing. This brings me to my quizzing years. Bible quizzing is not for the faint of heart, as in order to be competitive, students in middle school and high school memorize whole books of the Bible in a year. I stuck it out for a couple of years myself, not really getting to the memorizing stage, and then faded out in high school. But this week at general conference, I cheered for my church's quiz team as they quoted verses from Galatians to Colossians, and dueled teams from other churches in fierce, but loving competition, always congratulating a correct answer and always encouraging after a wrong one.
And now after the General Conference, I still pondering all that goes into church ministry and the strength of serving him together in unity. We learned about our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, and not pleasant parts, like Zimbabwe and Cuba. We reviewed our connection and covenant with Messiah College, and with other related ministries to all kinds of people from the mentally disabled to children in India. We also discussed some big domestic issues like health care, budgets, and same sex marriage. All throughout the conference there was no doubt that the hearts of all were in unity, but the particulars needed a lot of discussion, and there were some very heated moments.
Anyway, as I walked this evening, I felt very blessed breathing the hot, humid summer air, and beside a bubbling little stream, and looking over the cornfields, green with the recent rain. Again, some words from a familiar Psalm came to mind, that perhaps I learned in fifth grade.
"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."