Ligonier Camp

Her tears began right as I was locking our front door.  While my younger kid, Phoebe, had been dressed and ready since 6 AM, my older one, Hannah, was struggling as we were about to leave for Camp Ligonier, a one-week Christian sleepaway camp located outside of Pittsburgh.  

Sleepaway camp was a foreign concept to me.  My summers were spent watching gratuitous amounts of television, loitering at malls, and creating lip-synch routines to Richard Marx songs with my sister.  What I knew of sleepaway camps came solely from television, and Christian sleepaway camps were an even more abstract concept.

When Hannah expressed interest in attending a sleepaway camp, I was hesitant and flooded with fears.  Fear of being away from my kids—with two years of Covid-imposed togetherness, I had grown accustomed to monitoring their every meal, every move, every everything.  Fear of harm—we’re not a family of athletes, so it just seemed inevitable that someone would fall off a rock wall or that there’d be an archery event gone awry.    

Her tears continued as we turned into the winding driveway of the camp.  Even more tears as we said our goodbyes at the cabins.  With tears in her eyes (and a right eye swollen shut by an ill-timed stye), I assumed I had made a terrible mistake.  

But six days later, it became clear that my fears were unfounded. At camp pickup, both kids were beaming, talking nonstop about their amazing camp experience.  Stories about wild animals in the communal bathrooms (which are nicknamed “the KYBO”—ask my kids what that stands for), hilarious skits put on by the counselors, and the delicious camp food.

But the most incredible stories were about how they grew spiritually and encountered God in new and surprising ways throughout the week.  Both of them were deeply moved by the daily Bible studies, nightly worship services, and the friendships they developed with their bunkmates and counselors.  It was the first time they had heard testimonies of young believers and realized that they, too, have a story about God working in their lives.  They saw the stirrings of new faith in friends who weren’t regular churchgoers after hearing stories of Jesus for the first time.  Since coming home, Hannah has repeatedly told me that she longs to “go deeper” in her faith and knowledge of the Bible.  

Like many, I fall into the trap of parenting from a place of fear, deluding myself into thinking that my kids’ chances of thriving in this world depend on my actions alone, leaving little margin for error on my part.  But my kids’ week at Ligonier gave me a small taste of how God has graciously surrounded us with a community of saints called to encourage and challenge one another, including the youngest among us.  While, as a parent, I play an integral role in laying the foundation of my kids’ faith, I’m so thankful that I’m not alone in this endeavor.  The camp counselors and staff who loved on my kids that week left an indelible mark on my kids’ faith journeys.  Whether at Christian sleepaway camps or even here at Emmanuel, God is at work through His body of believers.

Hannah’s take:
I loved Camp Ligonier!  My favorite thing about it was the people.  I liked the counselors and the people in my bunk. I learned so much about God.  One of my favorite things to do was buy things at the camp store and eat them with my friends, then swim.  The food was really good. I think that anyone who signs up for Camp Ligonier will love it and want to go back next summer.