Reflections on values with Camp & Retreat Ministries
Open Yourself to a Deeper Connection
Value 1: Wonder
By Jane Petke, Director at Suttle Lake Camp
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
- W.B. Yeats
Recently, I’ve been giving some thought to the various accounts of the “Wonders of the World.” They range from the first known list that highlighted seven classical antiquities in the Greek world, to more modern polls and efforts, which catalogue the world’s most spectacular natural wonders and human-made structures. Close to home, we even had the clever tourism campaign by Travel Oregon, listing the seven wonders of Oregon inviting visitors and residents alike to explore places of natural beauty such as: Crater Lake, Smith Rock, the Painted Hills, the Wallowa Mountains, and more.
What do all of the places on these lists have in common? How did they earn their title of being a “wonder?” I believe that those who witness and experience the grandeur of these "wonders" are filled with awe. These places inspire and invite our imaginations into a greater mystery. When combined with solitude and/or reflection, distinct opportunities arise to experience a time of centering and a connection to something bigger; whether it’s a sense of purpose in life, new perspective, or an opportunity to be aware of the of the Holy Spirit's presence.
These senses of wonder and awe are experiences that our human hearts hunger for and need, but unfortunately it’s not always possible to travel to The Great Pyramid of Giza, Machu Picchu, or even Crater Lake.
I have always been fortunate enough to have places of natural beauty close to home: places such as beautiful city parks, a special tree in my backyard growing up, access to forests, and much appreciated camps. As a youth, Camp Indianola, located on the Puget Sound, was one of those special places for me. There was an un-namable gift in sitting among the drift wood or high upon a rock at low tide looking across the water towards Seattle, Mt. Rainer, and the Olympic Mountains. The outdoor chapel and the silent trail leading up to it was holy ground for me (and many others too) during summer youth camps, church retreats, and later when I had the opportunity to serve on staff. The invitation to be quiet and sit under the madrone trees was powerful. It was an opportunity to just be; to listen. In these times, God’s presence was tangible.
From these experiences, I know that the beauty and power felt is not unique to certain settings, but can be freely tapped into in numerous places. This sense of wonder is possible any time we step away from our everyday routine and noise, willingly opening ourselves to a greater mystery. I’ve learned that having an awe filled experience is less about location and more about a willingness to be open and look beyond our immediate needs or desires, to something deeper.
I pray that our campers experience this at Suttle Lake when they’ve climbed to the top of the ridge to look out upon Mt. Jefferson, when they stop to admire the delicate beauty of a trillium in the spring, or when they marvel at the lake covered in ice at winter-time. I also pray that their experiences at camp encourage them to find opportunities at home to recognize and appreciate the gifts of awe and wonder; whether by taking notice of dew drops on a spider’s web or sitting under a tall tree. I pray that they have the courage to step out of our fast paced world, even if only briefly, to open themselves to the amazing grandeur God has to offer.
Camp Registrar Holly Dolan Attends UM Camp & Retreat Ministries National Gathering
At the end of January, I was fortunate to able to attend the biennial United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries National Gathering in Fruitland Park, Florida. The weather was cooler than expected, but the group of individuals assembled there more than made up for it. I attended workshops on topics as wide-ranging as Time Management, Purposeful Evening Programs, Welcoming LGBTQ Staff and Campers and Exploding Bibles! No books were harmed in the presentation of the last workshop, which focused on teaching the Bible through hands-on science experiments.
Led by the theme of @ the Table, evening worships were filled with music and messages, keynote speakers, Beth and Travis Allison, spoke about telling our stories, and individuals involved with camp and retreat ministries who had retired or passed since the last Gathering were recognized and lifted up to the assembled group. As would be expected at any camp-related event, there was food, campfires and, yes, s’mores!
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting people from across the country, putting faces to names, hearing their stories and learning how other United Methodist camp and retreat programs are structured, how they run, and what their successes and challenges are. But after all the learning, studying, and listening, what I took away from the event was the passion for our mission that so many individuals have. In a time when many programs are seeing a decline in attendance, when some conferences are voting to sell camps and retreat centers, completely dissolve, or simply disown these amazing programs; there are still individuals who get up every day knowing what they do matters, that what they do is changing lives, that what they do is more than a job, that it really is carrying on God’s work, reaching out to all of God's children, gathering them together.
Whether those coming to our facilities are United Methodists, from other denominations and faiths, local schools or family groups, our mission is to bring them together, at the table, figuratively and literally, and share our stories of Jesus, the Bible, and nature, and to send them back into the world hopefully a little bit better than when they arrived. Spending a week in Florida re-affirmed that our programs have the people who can make this happen, and for that, I am grateful to them all.