I saw Erik (name changed for anonymity) sitting on a bench, reading his Bible one overcast summer morning. Nearby his cabinmates played basketball. Amid cheers and bouncing balls, this fifth-grade boy was intently reading a Scripture passage. Then large raindrops began to splat against the pages of his Bible. Campers and counselors ran for shelter all around me. But I stood transfixed as Jeremy, Erik’s counselor, walked to him, sat down and held his raincoat over him. Safe from the rain, Jeremy and Erik read the Bible together.
Here at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp in northwestern Montana, and at other ELCA outdoor ministry sites nationwide, summer staffs are preparing for ministry. The counselors—college-aged young people—share their Spirit-given gifts to create places where children and adults feel safe. Safe to question their faith. Safe to try something they thought they couldn’t do. Safe to love and serve others generously. Safe to nurture and explore their faith.
Camps are also a place where young adults feel safe to explore their call to ministry. Rollie Martinson, professor of children, youth and family ministry at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., says more than 70 percent of students cite an outdoor ministry experience as one of the top reasons why they attend seminary. No surprise then, that next year of 16 college graduates on our summer staff, three will serve overseas through the ELCA Division for Global Mission, two will volunteer with Urban Servant Corps, two will teach in Gambia and three will attend seminary. Nor is it surprising that amazing, faithful servants like these work at every ELCA camp nationwide.
Outdoor ministries train servants for Christ’s church. And I’m thankful for the many “Jeremys” who have taught me how to “be Christ” to God’s children. Please pray for all of the ELCA outdoor ministries that we may continue to provide safe places where young and old can play, worship, learn, grow, pray, create and then leave, renewed to be Christ’s servants in the world.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers