I stood in a wooden cabin, on the edge of a lake. Girls bunks to my left and my right.
Two college-aged girls, the counselors of my daughter, Maddie, were giving a recap to parents about what the girls had experienced in camp. They closed with a prayer. With admiration, I watched these counselors praying wholeheartedly in gratitude for the past two weeks of camp and for the girls and their families as they prepared to head home. I shook my head at the beauty of the moment. Two 20-something girls, there 24/7 for 2 weeks, with modest pay, to shepherd the hearts of twelve 12-year-old girls. What an experience for these young girls to have. Two weeks with a loving college girl as your guide, teaching you to better know Jesus, to spend time in his word, to find the relevance of his word to daily life, in camp chores, sports and activities and interactions with cabin mates.
I could see this bond had happened for Ellie, our oldest daughter, too. When they parted, her counselor Anna had tears in her eyes. Tears of the soul. It was incredible to see that kind of love in a young person (see photo).
I remember the first time I was ever exposed to this camp. Katie had served there as a counselor in her twenties. She wanted us to consider it for JP, then 7. It was a parent night at a Methodist church. Eleven years ago. A camp counselor was there; he spoke of the experience they offer the kids. They showed a video of camp. We could see kids on ziplines, water skis and sailboats; in swimming pools, track races, and wrestling meets; on camping trips, beneath water falls; in games of soccer, ultimate frisbee and basketball. I was Catholic. I had never been to a Christian summer camp. Never even seen one. Didn’t even know college age counselors could act as guides of faith development for young children, in the context of athletic and camping endeavors.
That was 2011. 11 years later, all four of our kids have attended this camp, Summer’s Best Two Weeks. They have grown in faith and in character there. We have discovered that the Holy Spirit is alive in these settings, among these staff and these counselors. Moved by this experience, our family, though still Catholic, learned to find and see God’s Spirit present in a nondenominational church community near our home. To the point we started describing ourselves as “dual citizens:” breathing in the Spirit from both Catholic and non-denominational lungs.
As JP hit high school, we discovered this same Spirit in the Young Life community affiliated with his school. Now 18, JP has played a big role in growing his high school’s Young Life community. To the point where 75 kids showed up last week at our home for a community building event. JP was even asked to share his faith testimony that night. On the eve of his departure for college, he gave his witness of faith, a faith tested and deepened in high school.
I speak much of the Catholic faith. I wrote a book about monastic life. But I feel such gratitude as I think of the rich ways we have encountered Jesus – his life, his Spirit – “outside” the Catholic Church.
Jesus once prayed to the Father, about his disciples. “May they all be one,” he said. I think he meant it. Anyway, in our experience there is already a unity. A common bond; a common love; a Spirit that hovers in common over Catholic and non-Catholic waters. How much our family has been blessed by it.