When camp is over: thoughts on going home

I suppose that on this day, and last week, and next week, and all throughout this summer, tens of thousands of people will at some point go home from having worked and served at camp.

Substitute “mission trip” or “service project” for “camp” and add tens of thousands more to the tally.

Re-entry into real life for campers can be tricky to navigate – metaphorically speaking, anyway. Thanks to Siri and smart phones, it’s been ages since I’ve heard of anyone actually getting lost going to or leaving from camp, which is a good thing, but also has eliminated some of the camp adventure factor. I’m nostalgic about the lack of atlases on long road trips.

But re-entry for camp workers and servers is often even trickier to navigate, for at least several reasons: we were at camp for a long time; we lived in a large community of fellow workers/servers; we are going home to a family that doesn’t understand or buy into similar beliefs and motivations; we face challenges and difficulties at home that will make ‘living out my faith’ less normative and less, well, let’s say ‘glamorous’ for lack of a better term.

Working at camp and serving campers is a thousand times more exciting, motivating, and satisfying than being at home and serving family, friends, and neighbors.

For one thing, there is always music playing in the background. Loudly. (Unless it’s time for reflection, in which case it’s perfectly subdued.)

For another, there is a large cadre of fellow workers/servers to carry you forward, pump you up, and cheer you on. (And sometimes one who gets under your skin and you secretly wish would decide to give up, throw in the towel, call it quits, and get on out of there.)

Throw in some daily devos, adventurous movie-set-ish surroundings, and some regular one-on-one mentoring from a cool and winsome young adult (or a formerly cool, winsome-ish older adult), and it’s easy to see why the thought of ‘going home’ doesn’t always lead to a song and dance.

But home is real. Home is where life happens. Home is where Jesus is, lives, and waits to walk through life with us. Home is sacred. Home is real. Home is blessed (even when it’s not). Home is where the biggest miracles of all happen.

Home is where we are challenged and learn to do the most difficult things of all.

Yes, getting up at 6:00 a.m. every morning to cook for 5oo people is challenging and difficult. But learning to be gracious and kind, every single morning regardless of how early or late it is, to the person in your family that regularly drives you to the edge of rationality — that is a miracle of home.

Yes, learning to work as a unified group with 8 other distinct people (read: love some, could take or leave some, can’t stand some) every day for a month or a summer is challenging and difficult and requires you to ask for the Lord’s grace and patience each and every morning (for a month or a summer, that is). But learning to work and live as a unified group with however many other people are in your household or dorm for the rest of your time living therethat is a miracle of home.

Yes, pushing through the days when you are tired and frustrated and just want to give up or slow down or push off is challenging and difficult and requires you to dig deep down into your soul’s reserves of strength and commitment. But learning to push through the days when you are tired and frustrated with the everyday, mundane, boring, non-camp-ish, adventure-less (we think), pointless (we assume), blahblahblah (we snivel) details of life for the rest of your life — that is a miracle of home.

It’s not hard to be changed at camp. It happens all the time.

Being changed for life – that’s the point. That’s what God wants for us. That’s what Jesus does for us…if we are willing to surrender and serve and listen and obey when we get back home, just like we did when we were at camp.

Big things happen at camp. People are transformed. People meet Jesus. People fall in love with God. People work harder than they ever worked before.

But really big things happen at home. We learn to obey. We learn to listen. We learn to exercise patience. We learn to extend grace. We learn to love, deeply, truly, impossibly, faithfully, and without end.

Do not miss the miracles of home once you’ve left camp. If you do, you will also lose all the miracles of camp, and that would be a tragedy indeed.


Self-sanctification (in which I consider the folly of pre-folded life laundry)

[More musings from the world of summer camp.]

Laundry day. (Again.We are washing things clean. We are making all things new. All these things…

Laundry bags (Photo: CKirgiss)
Laundry bags (Photo: CKirgiss)

…things appropriately stuffed into bags – whites mixed with brights mixed with darks, socks mixed with jeans mixed with tees, sweat mixed with muck mixed with food. Laundry is a beautiful jumbled mess of dirt just waiting to be washed and worn again, no matter how dingy and stained it may be (dinginess and stains being the entire point of laundry in the first place).

There is only one requirement here: turn the clothes right side out, please. It cuts the folding time in half. For the most part, this small request is honored.

And then, behold, someone goes one step further and there is this:

Pre-folded laundry (Photo: CKirgiss)
Pre-folded laundry (Photo: CKirgiss)

Pre-folded grime. Neatly piled and packaged dirt. Laundry that looks to be already washed and ready to wear.

The fact that a teenager takes the time to neatly fold and politely package his laundry is endearingly delightful.

But I fear that far too often this is just what I do with myself. I gather the grimy stained pieces of my life that accumulate throughout any given day, turn them right side out, fold them, stack them, and package them neatly before handing them over – either grudgingly (“Really, they’re not that dirty. I could live in them for at least another day or week or month”) or flippantly (“Laundry. Whatever.”) or shamefacedly (“Oh. Hmm. Well, yes, okay. But, um, no need to look closely before washing them, and please keep in mind that most of those stains are beyond my control”) or angrily (“If you’d just limit the dirt around me – which you could do if you wanted…”).

Too often I care more about appearing washed than being washed. (But even if dirt can be hidden, its stench cannot.)

Too often I care more about hiding stains than exposing stains. (Stains flipped inside out, though, are still stains.)

Too often I care more about being in a neatly folded pile than being fully alive. (Neat piles of clothes, however, are pointless unless eventually worn.)

Were that large mountain of right-side-out laundry my life, it would be better left inside out when handing it over for sanctification since  sanctification is a from-the-inside-out process, starting in the heart, soul, and mind. Besides, God does not need to cut down on his folding time.

Were that neatly folded small pile of laundry my life, it would be better left as a muddled mess since muddled messes are more likely to desire and appreciate being cleansed and changed. Besides, God is not impressed by my attempts at self-improvement.

That I can – and must – humbly fall as I am at the feet of Jesus each and every day is not easy in a world that encourages self-made (and remade, and remade again) identities. But I can make no such thing, let alone remake it. What joy it is, then, to know the Maker of all things and the reMaker of all who would be remade.

And so my prayer for today is simply this: “Here I am, Lord – inside out and unfolded. Have your way with me.”




They’re Back (Michindoh Post 10)

[This post is tenth of a series in which I reflect on spending a month at camp for Wyldlife (middle schoolers) and YoungLives (teen moms). You can follow by subscribing to this blog below. All posts are categorized as ‘Michindoh 2013’.]

It’s a good day. After bidding farewell to Week 2 campers last night, we welcomed Week 3 campers to (what we will do our very best to make) one of the best weeks of their lives.

During the final approach to camp, “best week” may not be writ large on the horizon. Coming from any of the four directions, this is what kids will see in the final few miles:

Heading to camp (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the north (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the south (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the south (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the east (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the east (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the west (Photo: CKirgiss)
From the west (Photo: CKirgiss)

Though each of these views embodies a certain amount of lovely nostalgia and roadside Americana, none of them scream WOOT! WOOT! in middle-school vernacular.

Nor do they radiate AWESOMENESS! in middle-school style.

But the final view before deboarding the bus makes up for whatever might be lacking in the final few miles.

Work Crew welcome (Photo: CKirgiss)
Work Crew welcome (Photo: CKirgiss)


We’re so glad you’re here.

We’ve been waiting for you all day.

We are going to do everything we can to make this the best week of your life.

We are going to do this because someone did the same for us. Because we want to. Because it fills our hearts.

(But mostly because we love Jesus.)

Welcome to camp, everyone. It’s going to be great.

Wash Day (Michindoh Post 3)

[This post is third of a series in which I reflect on spending a month at camp for Wyldlife (middle schoolers) and YoungLives (teen moms). You can follow by subscribing to this blog below. All posts are categorized as ‘Michindoh 2013’.]

It’s Monday. In the non-camp world, that means a whole host of things (as whined about here, reflected on here, celebrated here). In the 5-day-week-Wyldlife-camp world it doesn’t mean all that much. Unless it happens to fall on Day 3 in which case it means workcrew wash day.

At Michindoh, we have a trim and lean work staff  of 23- just 15 Servers in the dining hall, 4 Special Project Peeps in the outdoors, indoors, and everywhere else, 3 in Retail, and 1 Sound Tech.

We have no laundry crew. But we sure do have laundry. Even after just 3 days of camp life.

So today Christina and I hoisted a stack of laundry bags into the car trunk, drove around to the other side of the lake whence is found the laundry facility, and started in on what should have been an easy task for two seasoned laundry veterans.

Laundry Day (Photo: CKirgiss)
Laundry Day (Photo: CKirgiss)

And it would have been easy except for this: lots of the clothes weren’t labelled with the owner’s initials (camp laundry rule #1) so we had to, you know, keep track of which bag the clothes came out of. And one of the dryers was down for repairs so we had to, well, wait for the other three power-operated-with-five-optional-settings dryers to keep pace with the four similarly power-operated-with-infinite-settings washing machines. Plus the room was terribly hot and humid so we had to, um, sit outside in the fresh air beside the pine grove while we visited and read and journaled during the wash- and rinse- and spin-cycles.

You can just imagine what a terrifically challenging task the whole thing was for, er, two seasoned laundry veterans.

The day wasn’t really about broken dryers or stuffy laundry rooms or un-initialed clothes (maybe it was a little bit about that). It was about washing clothes clean. Of course, it wasn’t really even about washing clothes clean since Christina and I didn’t actually have to wash anything – we just had to dump stuff into one machine, transfer it to another machine, fold it, and put it back into the appropriate mesh laundry bag.

Cleaning clothes takes almost no work at all, even if the clothes are really dirty and especially if the clothes are barely dirty.

But whether barely or really dirty, the clothes do both need cleaning. They both go into the same machine. They both go through the same cycles. They both get agitated back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and also around and around and around.

It costs the same to wash the clothes that are really dirty as it does to wash the clothes that are barely dirty. The machine doesn’t charge more for the really dirty clothes – nor does it charge less for the barely dirty clothes.

Really dirty and barely dirty are in fact both dirty, both not clean, both in need of washing.

In that hot, humid, one-dryer-down laundry room, standing among the piles of initialed and un-initialed clothes alike, I thought about this:

Unlike washing clothes on Day 3 of Wyldlife camp, washing human hearts is a labor-intensive and difficult task that only one Person is seasoned-veteran-(and-fully-Divine)-enough to successfully complete.

And human hearts, whether really dirty or barely dirty, surely do need washing.

And the cost to wash human hearts, whether really dirty or barely dirty, is just the same – no more for the really dirty and no less for the barely dirty.

And the cost is astonishing to consider because the cost is nothing less than absolutely everything.

Indeed, Jesus paid it all, for all, on the cross so that both the really dirty and the barely dirty – a distinction that ultimately has no significance – can be washed clean and made new.

And after being washed clean and made new, the formerly (really) dirty or (barely) dirty human heart is newly named . . . not with initials on a tag, but with an identity of the soul:
child of God . . . daughter . . . son . . . heir . . . beloved.

So there’s that: human laundry. It’s good for what ails us all. And sometimes – oh gracious and glory be – it happens at camp. For human hearts. Inside of middle school students. Who are beloved by the Father. Who washes us all. Just because He loves. Just because He can.