Why We Send Our Children to Camp
By Marta Hummel Mossburg, alumna
After 36 hours of planes, trains, trams, cabs and tugging overstuffed suitcases on cobblestone streets, my eldest son, Hank, and I arrived at our hotel in Tel Aviv overlooking the Mediterranean Sea last night. This afternoon we start a 10 day tour of Israel, tracing Jesus’ steps through this ancient land graced with the birth of our Savior.
The trip stretched our budget, means two weeks away from my husband, and other two children, two weeks away from school for Hank, and promises a lot of trekking. It also, through direct contact with the places Jesus lived and routes he walked, immerses us in our shared story of salvation amid few distractions, great discussion, gorgeous views, and others seeking to know more clearly how to know Christ and make him known. In other words, it’s a lot like camp, with different scenery.
More importantly, though, it is a part of a strategy of embedding Hank’s identity (and each of our children) in Christ and deepening his understanding of the God who both knitted us together in our mother’s womb and has the power to move mountains. My husband Dave and I know it will not happen by osmosis. As Rod Dreher wrote in The Benedict Option, “American Christians are going to have to come to terms with the brute fact that we live in a culture … in which our beliefs make increasingly little sense. We speak a language that the world more and more either cannot hear or finds offensive to its ears.”
In a country where “my truth” now substitutes for “truth” and even those who profess faith in Jesus define themselves by their online presence or arbitrary cultural hierarchies, we want our children to know first and foremost they are followers of Jesus. And not only to know it, but to be able to explain it and defend it with grace, courage, and humility, even if it costs them “friends,” or likes online, or real consequences like actual friends, or job opportunities as they grow up.
That is where camp (and this trip) come in. It is a place where the joy that comes from living a life rooted in Christ is manifested daily. It is where friendships that last lifetimes are formed, God’s beauty and power amazes and daily habits of praying and reading the Bible often start for the first time. It is where God is bigger than one denomination and different worship preferences and His presence so palpable it’s almost as if His footsteps are visible on the paths to the beach and Dining Hall. And it is where the songs – often Bible verses – become so ingrained that I teach them to my children 25 plus years later.
If we want to reach the culture for Christ, our children first need to know what it can and should be so they do not absorb what others tell them it is. Camp is one significant way to give our children a glimpse of the Promised Land in addition to teaching them the tools they need to live lives of purpose and excellence through daily routines and physical challenges many never thought they could achieve.
Besides, who wouldn’t want to go to camp? When summer hits, I always long for the chance to be on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee once again, waterskiing and hiking and laughing in grungy clothes and no makeup. I know a lot of us who went, saw our best selves there and conjure those memories not to relive those days, but to be the person God created us to be in the present. It’s one of the best gifts I received and want to regift it to our children, for their spouses and children – and the world.
Editor’s note: Here’s the LINK to register for camp!
Marta Hummel Mossburg went to camp in the “ancient 80s”, as her children Hank (10), Charlie (8) and Elsa (6) say. Hank is going to camp for his third time this summer and Charlie will go for the first time. She and her family live in Chattanooga, TN. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.