"When I graduated from high school without ever having set foot on a church campground, I thought I had narrowly avoided what I assumed must be an annual week spent alternating between awkwardly trying to turn strangers into friends and feeling guilty for not having a dramatic call story to share around the campfire. Luckily for me, I was wrong on both accounts. It turned out I had not “escaped” the Methodist camping experience; the summer after my second year of college, my Wesley Foundation friends invited me to something called Big Kids Camp for post-high-school-age young adults. It also turned out that Big Kids Camp was nothing to be afraid of...in fact, it’s probably one of the closest things to (young adult) heaven that I’ve ever experienced: the meals are provided, the naps are unlimited, and the people don’t judge you if you eat ice cream three times in one day.
Each time I’m at Big Kids Camp, I like to read the following, which is written on the wall of the dining hall: “At Crystal Springs Camp and Retreat Center our mission is to provide a welcoming Christian sanctuary while removing distractions between our guests and God.” For me, my big distractions are technology and the need to feel “productive.” Coming to Big Kids Camp forces me to put away Facebook for a few days and helps to remind me that sometimes catching up with a friend, meeting a new one, or simply staring up at the stars are the most productive things you can do.
The heart of Big Kids Camp happens every night at sundown, when we gather around the campfire to sing praises and share whatever is on our minds. Nobody is required to speak, but anyone is welcome to. There’s a shared understanding that whoever is speaking will not be interrupted or judged. I’ve often wondered how our lives and world would be different if we could end every day around a fire with our neighbors.
Another highlight is our sunset trip to Lake Michigan, which happens on Saturday night or Sunday night depending on the weather. It is such a striking reminder of the immense, beautiful creation that is always nearby waiting for us. After five years of attending Big Kids Camp, it has gotten to the point where I don’t feel like summer has officially begun until I’ve waded along the lakeshore, played a game of Nine Square in the Air, and canoed down the Dowagiac River. Luckily for me, Big Kids Camp happens this and every Memorial Day weekend at Crystal Springs."