By: Zoe Bernard
Welcome home signs are posted as campers and staff members arrive to start their Camp Gray adventure. Some are coming for the first time, and some for the 100th time. Some stay for a couple of days, while some stay for three (or more) months. An old adage around these parts is: Come to Camp Gray for a day; leave a part of the family.
I hail from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, but I attend college in Louisville, KY, so I have stumbled across the question of ‘what is home?’ Living in these different places over the last many years, I am very comforted by Camp Gray being a constant home.
Camp Gray has been home to me for just about 14 years. I started off as a very apprehensive Settler in 2003. Instantly, I was hooked and I couldn’t wait for my next visit. I have returned to Camp Gray every summer since. After being a Trailblazer, a Pathfinder, an Explorer, a Voyager, and an LIT, I started my journey on staff. My first summer on staff, I was a nanny for the Hoeben kids, then a Settler/Trailblazer Counselor, and last summer, I was a Pathfinder Counselor. This summer I am thrilled to be working as an Explorer/Voyageur Counselor.
As a Voyageur, campers spend their week away from Camp in the wilderness of the northwoods. Voyageurs are challenged physically, while living simply (camping, cooking over a stove, etc.), forming a tight-knit group, and experiencing the beauty of God’s creation.
With the voyageur program, home is a very interesting concept. We welcome these campers to Camp by saying, “Welcome home!” Then, a day later, we send them out on trail 230 miles away as they leave Camp Gray for a week-long canoe trip atop the rivers and lakes of Wisconsin that challenge body and soul.
Home, in a Christian context, can be considered our ultimate goal in life – to get home to Heaven. When I think of Camp Gray being home, I fully recognize that Camp Gray is NOT Heaven, or even anything like Heaven. However, I do know that camp fosters a community of love and acceptance that makes it feel like home, and the mission of Camp Gray is such that our hope is that this home prepares us for our eternal home. In the movie, The Wiz Live!, Dorothy Gale says, “Home isn’t where you live, home is where you love.”
For campers and staffers alike, Camp is a place where they feel the authentic love and presence of Jesus Christ. Taking campers 230 miles away from home will be a testament to Dorothy’s quote. One of my many challenges for this summer is how I can make these voyageur campers feel at home while living in the wilderness far from both our Camp Gray home and their actual home.
My favorite sentiment of home is how excited it makes me! If home is where you love, it only seems right to be excited! How awesome is it that Camp Gray gets to be home for so many people? It is a great blessing to be able to share this home with so many and I am so very excited to find home off camp this summer with campers!