Embracing the Bus (Why it’s wise to go away for camp)

BusIt’s been quiet over here because our kids spent last week at camp. Camp is a lot of things – it’s fun, crazy, memorable, God-centered and powerful. It’s also exhausting. I can honestly say that my most exhausting ministry moment is climbing onto the bus to head to camp, and one of my most exhilarating is climbing off the bus back at home. This is especially true living on the Central Coast, because every camp is at least 4.5 hours away by bus. For us we spend 5-6 hours on the bus each way to get to camp. That ride is wearying.

Honestly, if I had to choose between a 6 hour ride and a 30-minute ride, I’d choose the 6 hour one (I’d like a 2 hour ride even better). Why? Because the physical distance puts kids in the mindset to explore everything around them. When our kids get to camp, they’re running around like the bus dropped them off in a new continent. Everything is new – even the lizards that are exactly like the ones back home. This sense of newness and openness to new things isn’t only external either. All week at camp I noticed kids willing to open themselves up to every type of new experience. Whether it was learning to skateboard, worshiping with abandon, or opening up to discuss heartfelt topics, I’ve always noticed that going away to camp enables kids to step outside their own box of comforts and expectations.

There are many reasons for this, but I think the first one is the simple act of going away. Sure the bus ride feels like purgatory, but it tells the kids “we’re going away from normal life, so you can branch out”. And they do. Every year I’m amazed at the surprising ways that kids respond to camp. I know it’s partially because the long trip frees them from the shackles of expectations and societal norms at home. It tells them that, because they are in a different location, they are freed to engage with God in a truly different way.

I may not love the looooong bus rides to and from camp, but I’ll live with them, because they wordlessly communicate to my students that this week is going to be different than normal. It’s a small price to pay!

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