I have had a complicated relationship with my beloved Camp Sumatanga throughout my life, particularly related to summer camping. It was an amazing place full of amazing people that I credit in large part for helping me become the person I am today. But I was a relatively late-comer to the camp world, not until I was a sophomore in high school. I dove in head first and soaked up everything I could, serving any way I could. But there was a part of me that always felt like I was an outsider. Even now, there is a group of folks that I generally went to camp with that get together regularly. I love them all and think of them all fondly, but I am not a part of their group. Yes, it still hurts. Yes, it will probably always hurt.
After I graduated from high school I decided it was time to take a step back from camp for a while. Something just didn't feel right about it anymore. It didn't fit the way it once had. I knew I was trying too hard to make myself squeeze into a place that I would never fit and it was better for everyone if I backed off. Life happened and I got busy and I stayed away for about 7 years. I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea that not only could I be involved in something for seven years, I could be AWAY from being involved in something for seven years and have returned! My return was generally thanks to a wonderful saint named Allison who somehow never forgot about me and saw something in me and wanted me to be a part of her camping magic that she always works.
Coming back, everything suddenly fit. I had a place. I had people. I know that a part of that was my own personal growth that had taken place (and has continued to take place over the past several years). I felt like I was a part of something that mattered. I was able to connect - with God, with people, with myself. It really was a homecoming in the best sense of the word.
I'm sure I've said it before but I'll say it again because it matters. The name "Sumatanga" means "a place of rest and vision." While you are working on summer camp, those concepts seem a bit elusive. But it is a kind of rest from the things and stress of the world and allowing yourself to simply be and take the things of the day as they come. The vision is definitely there, but it is something that you have to be open to seeing in fleeting glimpses. I definitely see moments where the Kingdom is right there in that place. I see moments where I know who I am and why I am doing what I'm doing. I even see hope and peace and joy and love and all these other amazing things that are so much harder to see in "real life" and thus reminding myself what it means to look for them. The REAL rest and often times the understanding of the vision comes later, but without this time and place couldn't come at all. Let me tell you, there is NOTHING like the sleep you get the night you come home and crash into your own bed after an amazing but exhausting week!
I need the rest. I need the vision. I need the excitement and exhaustion and sunburn and chiggers and laughter and sweat and tears and hugs and everything else that comes with a week at camp. I need to be reminded of who I am and whose I am. And so I will joyfully return...