The following mid-summer reflection was written by summer staff Riley Garmatter, a student at Bluffton University, and was shared as part of the annual Builders Weekend worship.
Community, as defined by Oxford Languages, is a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. When I think about transformations in my time at camp I think of community. Not only in my own life but also in the lives of my campers. I came to camp knowing only one other person here, and she was my boss! I have never been to southwest Michigan and that being said, I’ve never experienced the overwhelming joyful peace that Friedenswald holds.
When I think back to the version of me that held nerves about coming to camp inexperienced and compare her to the version of me who has gone through the polar bears and the swamp hike and the homesick primary campers, I smile, as I recognize she has grown in community. I now have over a handful of new friends, new experiences, and new songs to hum around my family, yes, I’m talking Martian Bop.
Friedenswald is truly one of the best places I have been that practices fellowship in community. There is intentionality around growing friendships, having fun, and making the earth just a little more green. My campers and I could agree that while the maggots in the compost are gross, and when a retainer gets thrown in the goop it’s even worse, we’d sort and pile out the waste again and again because it’s helping God’s beautiful and good creation (including us)! When campers first arrive there is a sense of tension. Not a bad tension but one that brings questions, enthusiasm and a longing for a friendship. It is so fulfilling to watch the campers shyly say hello to one another on the picnic table of their cabin to see them sharing their social media on a scrap piece of paper and hear them talking about their master plan of getting the same cabin assignments next year.
The joyful comments that are made by campers have told me that we are doing something right. We get to see campers flourish and grow, stepping out of their comfort zone and into their growth zone, day by day and hour by hour. It’s like magic when they let camp transform them. I think that’s Jesus present here. Friedenswald, it’s more than just a camp. It is a community of loving people who get to invite others in and welcome them to transform their hearts into welcoming the good that God has provided. Friedenswald is more than just a camp.