A few weeks ago, I wrote about how my ultra-beloved summer camp, Camp Arnold, is undergoing some major renovations.
Maybe I should stop calling it my summer camp, because Camp Arnold is my year-round camp.
I’d thought that I had seen the last of the A Frames. I’d said my goodbyes both verbally, visually and emotionally. I spoke and then wrote words of sorrow and excitement, I stood on the porches for the last time, and I cried a few tears for those precious little pointy buildings. But I hadn’t actually seen the last of them, because I randomly chose to visit camp on the day they began to tear the A-Frames down.
After my last post, the response blew me away. People shared it and commented on it, asked to re-post it, and I sat amazed that so many people cared so deeply. Some of the most tender responses, though, came privately. Through messages and texts sent to me by my friends who I have met, grown with and loved at camp. There were lots of exclamation marks and sad emojis. Some selflies of people crying.
and I realized how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to witness the complete destruction and rebuilding of what was affectionately known as “Boys Town.” It’s rough, it’s emotional, it’s SO SAD…. but I get to see it with my own eyes. I got to stand with cold feet on the empty cabin porches and run my hands along the soon-to-be-discarded old plastic mattresses. Not all of my camp people are able to have sacred little moments like that. And as hard as it is for me, it would be infinitely more difficult if I couldn’t see it. and I don’t want my friends to have to endure that, so I’m committing myself to documenting this transition as often as I can.
I arrived at camp the night before they came to tear down the A-Frames. The news of that rested well in my soul until Mark Nottle almost accidentally talked about them bringing in the dumpsters to put the A-Frames in. I had imagined camp without the A-Frames. I had imagined the A-Frames being torn down, but I had NEVER imagined them putting those sacred buildings IN A DUMPSTER. LIKE ORDINARY TRASH. Mark ALMOST called them dumpsters. I can’t remember what he ended up calling them, but the damage had been done. I had something to dread.
We showed up in time to see them finish tearing down Sol-Duc, the cabin I had written about in my last post. Then we watched them completely tear down Columbia. Buildings that had stood tall and strong in the face of ice storms, summer heat, crazy children, rain storms, lots of moss… were gone in minutes.
You want to know about one of the bravest things I’ve ever done? One of the bravest things I have ever done in my entire life was stand at Camp Arnold and WATCH the cabins that started it all get demolished. Oh, and I didn’t even cry. I’d already used up my A Frame emotions.
I mentioned to Mark and Sarah that one of the worst parts of it all was watching these people who didn’t care about the buildings just knock them down as if they were inconvenient pieces of garbage. No respect, no sensitivity… just destruction. But you can watch for yourself. This is a video of the last moments of Columbia, Pod 3, Camp Arnold.
One of the strangest truths about Camp Arnold (maybe all summer camps, but I only know Arnold) is that time actually stops making sense there. Days are so long but then a week zooms by. Or weeks will drag on forever despite the days passing quickly. That’s one of the crazy things about God, too. He has no real time economy, just eternity. Minutes and days and hours and weeks and months and years have no impact on God, except when he looks at us and we are changing. Just one more way I think Camp Arnold is the closest to Heaven you’ll ever experience on the earth
So at the end of these crazy days, we always sing the same benediction, TAPS. We extend our right hand towards the camp fire and as we sing we lift it up towards heaven, and as it comes to a close we bring our hands back down to rest.
These are the words we sing;
Day is done. Gone, the sun from the lakes, from the hills, from the sky.
All is well, safely rest. God is nigh.
When I posted the picture of the half-destroyed Columbia cabin, I captioned it with this: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.”
Those cabins HAVE endured a lot. Ice storms, summer heat, crazy children, rain storms, lots of moss… and they have served us so well. They’ve provided physical, emotional and spiritual shelter for thousands of children and adults. They stood tall, proud and stable. And before they could become an eyesore or a danger or a nuisance, Camp is finally letting them rest. Their purpose has been fulfilled, their job is over.
I am who I am because of Camp Arnold, please have absolutely no doubts about that. I currently serve as an advocate for the same kinds of kids that Camp Arnold cares for. But instead of pouring into them for five days, I’ve got them on a long-term basis. I have traded in summers at Camp Arnold (at the cost of my broken heart, btw) for year-round ministry to children. The work that God started in my life many years ago in those cabins is still going.
This is my prayer.
I pray that when my time has come, when God decides to lay to rest my broken, weary body in exchange for a new one, that I will have given my everything. I want to have stood tall in the face of storm and crazy children, providing shelter and challenge and refuge for those who are hurting. I want to be loyal and dependable. I want for people to look at the landscape of their lives and have a hard time imagining it without me.
I. want. to. be. an. A-Frame.
And in that moment – I am sharing this on the internet so SOMEONE had better remember this and make it happen – I want for everyone to gather round me and extend their hands to my body and sing with trembling hands and a quivery voice that same benediction that I am committing to pray over the hillside of Camp Arnold.
All is well.
God is nigh.
and at this point, we all say together:
“May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.”
What a powerful legacy those buildings leave behind even in their final moments.