Every Child Deserves a Great Camp Adventure in Faith
Lake Anne, still waters pristine blue, nestles among green wooded hillsides. Quiet rustic cabins stand near the abandoned sandy beach. It’s early May, and there’s hardly another soul in sight. Camp of the Rising Son is at rest. I stand in silent awe of God's art. As the psalmist wrote, “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! (Psalm 113:3, ESV).”
But, wait. Do I hear a sound? I pause and listen carefully. I hear it! I hear the distant thunder of a thousand kids storming this way. It won’t be long until the cabins are chaotic, the beach busy, and the lake alive and loud with laughter.
Summer camp is almost here!
The scene carries me back. I was 9 years old. Nervous as an ice cube in the sun on a sweltering July afternoon in the Deep South. In fact, it probably was July. It was definitely Deep South. My friends and I were all packed and ready for the Great Camp Adventure, my first.
It was 1954. And we were going to Camp Sumatanga – 15 miles away. Yes, 15 miles, mind you, far away from home, safety, summer boredom, farm chores, and the life we knew. It was a milestone event. For me, just the name – Sumatanga – conjured up notions of mystery and intrigue, things to explore and discover. Summer camp grabbed ahold of this country kid’s heart and mind with a fierce grip that has never let go. The Great Camp Adventure owned me.
I admit a lot of details are fuzzy. However, I recall this one thing all too well: Someone gasped and pointed at my suitcase. I, and I alone, had not followed instructions: “Every suitcase must be labeled with the owner’s name and address.” I was mortified. Terrified that I’d ruined it for all of us, we’d all be sent home. But my aunt quickly found paper, pen, and tape and rescued me.
To be candid, I don’t recall a lot about my first week at church camp. But I’m certain of this – it was a very good week. How do I know? I was hooked on camp.
Church camp, Boy Scout camp, 4-H camp. If Mom and Dad would let me, and could afford it, I was going to camp. Some quarter-century later, I was honored to help lead a few Sumatanga camps for country kids, some immersed in their own first Great Camp Adventure. And I’m confident that a throng of wide-eyed, nervous youngsters will have their first adventure this summer at Sumatanga, the Methodist campground in north Alabama.
I’m so glad that my stop by Camp of the Rising Son brought this 60-year-old memory bubbling to the surface of my mind. I tracked down CRS director Carrie Browning, and she can’t wait for that stampede of kids to burst onto the grounds. She hopes to host a thousand kids or more this summer, and she still has openings.
“We have 23 activities campers can choose from,” Browning says. “The favorites are probably water sports – canoeing, sailing. And horseback riding.” Among other options are archery, climbing wall, zip line, ropes course, pottery, and fishing. That’s still not half the list. But the fun stuff is surface stuff at CRS.
There’s a deep, serious strand woven through each camper’s CRS experience.
“Camp of the Rising Son tries to share the abundant life in Christ with our campers,” Browning says. “We do that through building relationships, with hands-on activities and fun things, and with the time we spend in God’s Word.”
Almost 20 camps are on the calendar this summer, most for students ages 7-12, and many of them still have vacancies. A few specialized camps serve teenagers. Founded in 1980, CRS is a support ministry of French Camp Academy, a highly acclaimed, 130-year-old boarding school for students in grades 1-12.
Browning is herself a product of CRS. She grew up in nearby Kosciusko and first went to CRS as an 8-year-old camper. She returned as a camper for five summers and then began working as a counselor. This summer will mark her 23rd at CRS. She has been director of the camp for seven years. What kept her coming back?
“Its impact on me,” she says. “It had an impact on my life as a kid.”
Ten-year-old Nan Pittman of Tupelo is going to CRS for her second camp this summer. “I loved the activities,” Nan says. “I did horseback riding, swimming, and crafts.” She’s eager to return, and this time, she’s taking brother and sister, Sam (8) and Gracie (7) with her. But even with all the fun things, Nan is well aware of the deeper things that go on and the most important thing about CRS.
“We get to meet new friends,” she says, “and most important, we get to learn more about Jesus.”
How do you measure the impact of Christian camp?
“It’s tough to put that in quantifiable terms,” Browning admits. “But the kids come back again and again. And we get to hear their stories. We get letters, sometimes years later. We hear from their parents what a difference it’s made. Those personal stories – that’s how we measure the impact of a week at camp where Christ is lifted up and kids are challenged to follow Him.”
Editor’s Note: For more information on French Camp Academy and Camp of the Rising Son 2015 dates and registration, visit campoftherisingson.com or call 662-547-6169. To search for a Christian camp nearer your home, contact Christian Camp & Conference Association (ccca.org, or call toll free 888-922-2287).