Exactly ten weeks from today, we will celebrate the end of 2017 and ring in the new year. With 2018 will come plenty of resolutions, superstitious foods for good luck, and proclamations of “new year, new me.” But for Camp Deer Run, the new year will mark the beginning of the celebration of our 60th anniversary.
To count down the last ten weeks of the year, every week we will be posting a blog written by a staff member or CDR Alumni recounting each of the last ten summer themes at Camp Deer Run. Starting this week with the summer of 2008 and ending with the summer of 2017, we’re going to take a walk down memory lane. Then on January 1, we’ll reveal the theme for the summer of 2018!
In 2008, the 50th anniversary of Camp Deer Run, the theme of the summer was Unplugged: Connecting with God. Back then, instant messaging had taken the world by storm and Twitter was just starting to become popular. The language of acronyms like lol (laugh out loud), ttyl (talk to you later), and brb (be right back), had become part of kids’ daily vocabulary. The theme “Unplugged” aimed to disconnect campers from the world of technology and connect them to God instead.
I was a camper in Men’s 2 in 2008. Nathan Wilhelm was my counselor, and Andy Garner was my group leader. I honestly don’t remember much more than that except the theme verse of the summer. It was an easy one to remember, “Come near to God, and He will come near to you.” It comes from James 4:8. It’s a simple concept: if you seek Him and try to get closer to Him, then He will be close to you. But the verse continues, “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” I don’t know about you, but to me, that doesn’t seem nearly as encouraging as the first part.
Although it doesn’t seem like it, the second part of the verse may be even more important than the first. James is saying that if we want to draw near to God, we have to realize where we stand. We are sinners, we are double-minded. We get so caught up in the world that we forget that we don’t belong to the world but to God. In the light of God’s grace we can’t help but acknowledge our sin, and to mourn our failures. But that isn’t the end of the story. He tells us to wash our hands, purify our hearts, and repent. In repentance, we come near to God as a child seeking forgiveness from a loving Father. And God, in His mercy, runs to us with open arms to lift us up out of our grief. It reminds me of Psalm 40:2, which says, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
We come near to a perfect, holy, and pure God, covered in mud and mire from our sin. Through Christ, we are washed clean. By grace, through faith in Jesus, we can approach a holy God as His holy people, blameless and pure in His eyes. As we repent, we are forgiven by the grace of Christ, and as we draw near to God, He draws near to us.
At Camp Deer Run we unplug ourselves from the world, literally and figuratively. We leave the technology behind, we leave our worldly worries behind, and we come close to God. That’s the beauty of camp: it’s a refuge from the world, a showcase of God’s creation, a place where God is present. But as you’ve often been told, God isn’t limited to the gates of Camp Deer Run. You can unplug from the world right where you are, spend some time alone with God, and come near to him.