The naturalist John Muir, who was raised as a Scottish Presbyterian, spoke of going to the woods as "going home." Most who have visited, worked, played, and lived at Bethelwoods would surely agree with that sentiment. Ideally, a home is a place where you are welcomed and affirmed, where you can rest, play, and learn in a community that acknowledges you as a unique child of God. Bethelwoods has served as a home for several generations in that way and its valued ministry continues on today as well.
I grew up attending summer camp there in the 1980's and then returned to work as a counselor for four summers in the early 1990's. In those experiences, I crossed paths with those who I'd never see again but who left a positive impact on me that I still carry now. I also made friendships with others that have lasted throughout the years and that continue to shape and mold my direction in life. In our current age with the ephemeral nature of virtual meetings, text messages whizzing around, and social media feed updates, it's the tangible memories of gathering with others in a place so real and set apart like Bethelwoods that speak to me the most.
Sit back for a minute and try to imagine those memories in your mind's eye because I am certain that you too share many of them in your own way:
Director of Children's Ministry, EPC Columbia SC
When I first started working at camp in 2012, it was the office assistant position. It was a summer only position. I applied so I could be close to my 2 youngest children who both worked at camp that year. In the fall of that year I was asked if I would be interested in being the office manager starting in 2013. I accepted the position with great excitement.
Not only was working for a Christian non-profit something I always wanted to do, but it gave me the opportunity to meet more people.
My family had recently moved and I was hoping to find some new friends. And boy did I ever. There have been quite a few people that have become very close friends that I met at camp either through working together, our non summer programs, our guest groups, camper families, and members of the ministry team.
So essentially, camp to me is building relationships, learning about others, helping others, while keeping Christ at the center of it all.
- Colleen Johnson, Office Manager
Bethelwoods. Where do I start? Bethelwoods is a sacred place where I can step out of the real world and step into a place that provides calm and peace. Bethelwoods as a child, a camp counselor and a mom provide me different experiences but in all of these roles, I find peace and comfort when I make the left turn into the camp driveway. I cling to childhood memories with my church family and to memories I made as a camp counselor. I cling to hope that my child will experience Bethelwoods as a child just as I did and hold those memories near and dear to her heart as well.
I remember coming to camp as a child with my church family. We had countless church retreats here. We’d play games, tell stories over meals, enjoy worship at the campfire, and even annoy our parents to take us canoeing into the lake. One fall, a dad agreed to take us canoeing. We got to the middle of the lake, he took our paddles, and then began singing to us. Thirty years later, we still talk about how we never asked him again to take us canoeing. I have fond memories of camp with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and church friends.
The summer between my junior and senior year of college, I worked as a camp counselor at Bethelwoods. The following summer I was a unit coordinator for a short stint at camp. While I always loved camp as a child, this was going to be a stretch for me. When I heard I got the job, I have to admit I was a bit nervous. I had no clue how to build a campfire and what if these people actually wanted me to sleep in the covered wagons and actually take a group of kids hiking and tent camping? This was going to get me out of my comfort zone and require me to share my faith with children and even other camp counselors. After a summer of being stretched spiritually and getting out of my comfort zone in other areas, I must admit, this was one of my favorite summer adventures. I have such fond memories of my time as a counselor. I got to see the opening of the new swimming pool. I was used as a counselor most weeks but also got to lifeguard some as well. I made friendships that even continue to this day. And yes, I even learned to build a campfire AND enjoyed taking campers on tent camping excursions during the week.
After college, I got the opportunity to serve on the ministry board for Bethelwoods. This was a neat time to see the other side of camp. I got to see how decisions were made for camp. While on the board, I got to see camp start the process of adding new cabins, help make decisions for summer camp options and create more friendships.
This summer, I got the opportunity to introduce Bethelwoods to my daughter through family camp. While 2020 has been a very different year for everyone, I am so thankful Bethelwoods offered this option for my family. Emma Grace still talks about things we did at Bethelwoods. She talks about twin Lexi and the “other big kids”. Emma Grace has even told people that when she turns five in April, she’s going to big camp without her mommy and daddy. However, she has invited our extended family, her preschool, and daycare to come to family camp on the weekends when adults are allowed. ☺ To see Bethelwods begin to invest in my child warms my heart. To see the camp seed be planted and her faith be poured into and fostered makes my mom hear smile. Some parents would call me crazy to let my child go spend a week with a bunch of college kids at camp. However, Bethelwoods, to me, is such a sacred place that has shaped my faith and life as a child, young adult, and mom that I will not think twice about sending Emma Grace there each summer.
- Katherine Crawford Dix