by Rev. Kay Ash
In just a couple of weeks the Summer Camps at the Bridgeport Camp and Conference Center will open with several of our KPUMC kids. If you have not been there, the Bridgeport Camp and Conference Center is owned by the North Texas Conference and sits on over 200 acres at Lake Bridgeport, west of Decatur. Over 1500 students of all ages are served during summer camping. Kids get to enjoy the usual activities such as archery, fishing, swimming and getting sunburned. However, there is so much more to Camp Bridgeport than the usual.
To begin with, Camp Bridgeport is absolutely beautiful. The hills, the woods, and the cross – everywhere you look, God’s creation will take your breath away. Further, we get to do things at camp that we do not get to do anywhere else: shaving cream wars, giant slip-and-slide down the hill, lip sync battles and, importantly, sharing the Word of God with each other all day, every day. The focus of our curriculum this year is the church; in each lesson we walk through the different areas of a church and discuss how the church works plus how to take the love of God outside of the church. Every lesson contains stories, games, activities and deep, deep questions to spark conversation. Our days are absolutely full to the brim, and hopefully, the campers collapse exhausted into their cabins each evening.
Despite all of our scheduled activities, Camp Bridgeport is also consistently a place of transformation. I have had the privilege of witnessing children dancing in the starlight, kneeling in prayer at the cross, showering each other with gifts, sobbing and clinging to each other during closing worship. Something about getting away, being surrounded by beauty, and being very intentional about loving words and behavior reminds all of us of what the Kingdom of God is supposed to be like. Camp Bridgeport is a place of love, sharing, equality, and deep caring without any judgment or conditions. Camp Bridgeport is a miraculous place.
Last year it was the first night of camp, and we had tried our best to wear out the kids so that going to sleep in their cabins would flow smoothly without too much of a struggle for the adult cabin counselors. However, sometimes the first night is harder than the others. After all the kids and adults were back in their cabins, our directing team visited each cabin to check on every child. It was very clear when we walked into the boys’ cabin that things were not going well; the level of chaos was pretty high. We tried our best strategies to get the kids to brush teeth and settle down, and when we finally left we had hope that sleep would come soon.
In the wee hours of the night, the directors got a text from one of the adult counselors in the boys’ cabin. There was one camper, a young 3rd grader, who had never been to camp before that just could not go to sleep. His adult counselors were getting worn out and running out of ideas. The directors offered prayers and some further ideas to help the young man get to sleep but stopped short of calling the young man’s parents in the middle of the night. (Experience has taught us that frantic parents driving in the country to Bridgeport in the middle of night is not good.) Ultimately, the camper fell into a deep and restful sleep.
The next morning, that very same camper ran up to me and said ,“I made it; I stayed all through the night!” He was beaming so proudly and he told everybody; it was truly a moment of transformation, a moment that child will likely never forget. Moments later, the adult cabin counselors ran up to me and said the same thing; they were so proud they had made it through the night with that young man. It was clear that they were transformed too. The sometimes hard work of loving each other without judgment, of never giving up, of holding one child’s hand until they fall asleep brings us so close to God that we are inevitably changed for good.
I invite all of you to come to Camp Bridgeport, I’m happy to show you around and share those moments of transformation first hand. I promise you will be absolutely surrounded with love and joy. This is why, in case anybody asks you, that the goat man has moved to the Central Texas Conference campsite! The goat man legend at Camp Bridgeport has been around for decades. Parents have told their children, who have then told their children, to watch out for the goat man while at camp. Unfortunately, the goat man antics and attempts to scare campers have gotten out of hand; so the story is, the goat man has moved. With this legend put to rest, campers are free to rest well and love each other boldly. We have got to rest, right? We have to have plenty of energy for shaving cream!