Hearing God Speak: Reflections on VBS Camp

2015 VBS Camp Group Photo

Nine years. Nine years of retreat center beds, creating a menu that feeds many people cooked in a tiny catering kitchen, and re-learning to use the sound system every time.  You’d think in nine years that I would have learned all I can learn in this camp setting, but each year I find that there is a new surprise that comes with camp.

This year’s adventure began with a massive storm on Friday evening that knocked out power to one entire side of camp. The cabins were dark as we approached them to get ready for bed.  As I walked room to room to check-in on everyone as I do each year, I was greeted with headlamps and flashlights shining directly in my eyes as we gave hugs and said our goodnights. Even I found myself in bed by 9:45 pm.  After a busy day of settling in to camp, while unexpected, this slow time was gift to us – stilling our bodies and our inner being in preparation to hear God speaking to us.

The rhythm of our weekend changed from the chaos of arrival and getting organized, and we found ourselves suddenly in-step as the power returned the next morning. As we wrapped up our weekend together in our tradition of gathering in a circle to reflect on what we had learned and to share our favorite parts of camp, we had the privilege of hearing how God had worked within each of us.

2015 VBS Camp Reflection Circle

God spoke to a little boy frustrated when he couldn’t tie knots in an art project, but gained the courage to take pieces of the art project home to keep practicing until he got it.

God spoke to a little girl who visited a quiet corner in our prayer station where she could sit on a rug, stare at a candle, and hold a rock, a bead, or trace a finger labyrinth.  We called it the gazing station and it taught a form of prayer. She shared with her leader, “Now I get it! Now I understand what my parents mean when they say they need and want stillness.”

God spoke to a little boy in this same gazing station through the same candles and beads when I overheard him tell his dad when he picked him up, “Can we get a rug and a candle at home? It really calms me.”
2015 VBS Gazing Station

God spoke to a little girl who found the concept of breath prayers so intriguing that she turned her coloring into a visual breath prayer.

2015 VBS Camp Breath Prayer

God spoke to a little boy who hadn’t ever been to camp before and found himself making new friends and building deeper relationships with them.

God spoke to a little girl who learned just how many other countries and cultures there are in the world that she had never heard of.

God spoke to grown-ups too.

God spoke to grown-ups as we celebrated with those whose relationships became legally honored by Friday’s Supreme Court decision and we shared that joy with them in community with tears in our eyes from across the room as we led the children in making rice cake snack art.

God spoke to grown-ups through our mission station where we learned about other countries, cultures and the resources we have to care for others.

God spoke to grown-ups as we reminded one another to care for our own physical bodies in the midst of a camp schedule that keeps us constantly moving.

God always speaks at camp (and in our daily lives too). We just have to practice hearing it and seeing it when it is happening. It’s challenging to do in the midst of answering questions and drying tears and even harder when everyone is tired. And so we give thanks for one windy storm, one downed power line, and three cabins without power for one evening that set the stage for stillness to envelop us.

Even in the unexpected adventure, God spoke to each of us. And we heard.

– Renee Purtlebaugh, Minister to Children and their Families