Yesterday morning heading north on the Interstate I take the exit for Bethel Road. I’m trying to remember the turn-off road to camp. And then what is the next turn? I miss the road but see a small sign and turn back.
Winding through farm land and carefully mowed houses until the woods come up on both sides of the road dark, green and cool. Just when it looks like the road goes even deeper into the forest, a clearing appears, a big sign and I’m here.
I’m here for the day as a volunteer for a camper with special needs. I’ll just hang out with him, making sure he participates where he can and supervise his favorite activity, wading in the creek.
We swim in the morning, but I forgot how steep that hill is to the top of the ridge. When we finally reach the top, a clearing surrounded by tall pine trees is bathed in bright sunlight. The perfect spot for a swimming pool.
All day memories reach out and tug at me: the pool, the gravel road straight up to the pool, the bridge to the cabins, the creek. But the most important picture I must take today for both Larry and I is the flagpole and the words below it..
I drove Jennifer down the road to camp for many summers. Once she had a drivers license she drove herself.
I’ve not been here since 2004, two years after she died.
She loved this place, loved being a counselor, even continued to work in summer camps while in college.
But the first trip for overnight camp was a little shaky. Packing for camp began a ritual that stayed with her through her twenties – make a list of EVERYTHING you need.
Notice the medicine list on the right. This kid had allergies of most anything growing outdoors along with a strong possibility of getting a case of poison ivy.
Her best friend, Brooke (on the left), joined her on this adventure; Jennifer was 11 and Brooke was 12 this year, two quiet, shy friends who could play together for hours with never a cross word.
Her journal from those days reads like a schedule (spelling is her creative version):
I just arrived at camp. I’m very very bored. My medcine just fell on the floor and broke into pieces. What a drag! This night we had a devotional then we did silly games. Dinner was pretty good with hambrugers, pato chips and walermelon. When I went to sleep I was home sick so Brooke slept with me.
The homesickness continued for both girls. She called me Wednesday night and then slept with her counselor. Brooke woke them up at 3 AM when she threw up.The next two summers the girls went to Brooke’s church camp.
As her participation in the church youth group expanded during her high school years, Jennifer returned to Valley View first as a junior counselor. During her junior and senior years she served as a senior counselor.
Counselors spent hours in training for their positions to learn teamwork, leadership skills, Bible lessons to teach, how to handle difficult situations, etc. Relationships with the counselors and her campers gave her confidence and a sense of purpose as no other activity did.
Throughout my day at Valley View these pictures flashed through my memory. After Jennifer died some of her friends who had worked with her at camp wanted to remember her time of love and service there. This is the plaque they left for such a memory.
I am so thankful for her years at Valley View Camp, for
- learning sacrifice for the team
- sharing her spiritual walk
- opportunities to grow
- those who have worked to continue this Christian camp for each generation that follows