I've Been to Camp; 2nd Year Reflection
Growing up for me involved summers at Clarklake, Michigan water skiing, boating, swimming, and having an overall great time. During the school year my family regularly attended an Episcopal church; and, I went through the rigors of Confirmation classes, sang in the youth choir, and served as an acolyte. Since it was a downtown church in Toledo, Ohio, families came from various places across the city which meant we did not socialize with one another. I envied those youth groups whose members lived in close proximity to their church – they hung out together. As a result of this disconnected church community, I never went to camp as a kid and I never really understood what I was missing. Recently, however, I had an opportunity to experience a piece of what I had missed. Sometimes our youth comes back around for us to relive.
While taking Fred Bahnson’s Food Faith and Spirituality class last spring, as you might expect we ate together. It was a rich experience joining in fellowship with peers and friends, spouses and partners of fellow classmates. At one of these meals I spent some time chatting with LaTonya McIver, a fellow student, and Rodney Coleman, an alum of WFUSD. We shared our love of food and somehow the bread pudding I prepared left a positive impression on LaTonya. Later in the semester LaTonya asked me if I had plans for the summer and whether I would like to be the chef for Camp Discovery at her home church (United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church). Long story short, I accepted the position and off we went.
As a former chef, I was in my element and consulted with LaTonya about the overall theme of Camp Discovery. I made sure healthy and fresh cooking was on the menu each day. It was truly a discovery of new and different things for all of us, not just the youth in attendance. Amidst the singing, dancing, recording music, preparing food, and praying sweet grace uttered by the tiniest of voices, I discovered I had indeed gone to camp. Little did I know the stories shared at camp would be as precious to the adult as they were to the children.
We all ate lunch together, the youth in their classroom groups while the staff ate at one center table to supposedly “keep an eye on what was happening.” We all laughed and told stories about the mornings’ events. We planned staff coverage when someone had to leave early. We supported one another as some of us made presentations in our particular skill areas for the rest of the group. The summer was indeed filled with discovery. I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing new and exciting things. We learned to depend upon one another, some of us not knowing anyone before arriving at camp. Trusting and caring relationships were beginning to emerge as we served food side by side, washed dishes, taught children the educational rudimentaries, learned karate, practiced our zumba moves, and discovered that fresh vegetables from the garden were not only fun to look at and touch but were delicious as well.
Each day as I drove to Camp Discovery, housed in this wonderful old church, I realized how blessed I was to be part of this temporary family for the summer. I thanked God for sending LaTonya with the invitation. Soon I realized through our hard work, which was really disguised as playtime (shh, don’t tell anyone we had so much fun!), I had gotten my camp experience I not enjoyed as a child. I suppose I experienced all the things I would have had I been to camp, only this time I was as an adult and could appreciate it all the more fully. I made some lifetime friendships with LaTonya, Maria Nkonge, and Rodney; and, I formed strong bonds with Volii, Lauren, Arkita, and many more. We, I, became part of a community that will last in my memory for a very long time. I am so grateful God gave me the rich experience of going to camp.