Pine Cove is a huge, Christian summer camp in Texas. Saying Pine Cove, wearing a t-shirt, or sticking a bumper sticker on the back of your minivan tells your neighbors you’ve lived among the enthusiastic counselors, who “Jump for Jesus” pretty much all day. You’ve studied the Bible with a dozen of your new best friends, sharing your tearful testimonies in a tight circle. You’ve sung silly songs about “Ants in My Pants” and “Crank it Like a Chainsaw.”
You have done all these morning, noon, and night.
And you have loved them all.
This Spring a friend invited our kids to a Pine Cove Day Camp. One week of the silly songs, the crazy counselors, and the tearful testimonies–and all at a church a few miles from our house. None of our kids were thrilled for a week away from home, so Pine Cove Base Camp was the perfect opportunity to dip their toes in the water…without falling into the proverbial camp lake.
The first day, Nate and I dropped off the big kids at the church, which was located at the intersection of two highways. At the entrance to the massive parking lot, a dozen counselors jumped, screamed, and did two-touches to welcome us. When we drove past, they cheered, “You’re Here! You’re Awesome! Nowwwwww…..let’s go!”
Nate cried, clarifying he was NOT staying at this crazy place.
Elisabeth’s eyes became circles of wonder. And fear.
Sam waved and screamed back, “YOU ARE AWESOME TOO!”
Catie started tapping my arm. “Who are these people?”
“Camp people!” I said. “These are my people.”
And they are. Even though I didn’t realize it when I saw those Pine Cove tshirts and bumper stickers all over town, camp people are all really the same. Whether we are at a Lutheran camp in California, Camp Lone Star in Texas, or Pine Cove Day Camp, camp people are camp people.
And they are my favorite kind of people.
For the next week, the kids fell in love with their counselors, conquered obstacle courses and shyness, played ridiculous camp games (“We had to chase the counselors with shaving cream and try to get the socks off their hands and feet. They sprayed us with water. It was the BEST GAME EVER!”), and wore themselves out. I mean wore out, y’all.
As the kids looked forward to camp every day, it became harder and harder for me to drop them off. Even though I had a long list of errands to run and a cute three-year-old in the back seat waiting for some quality time with me, I really wanted to be at camp.
Just walking through the door, and the energy and enthusiasm and silliness and friendships of these Camp People was palpable. I wanted to be part of the magic. I wanted to learn all the cute chants, (“Take a seat! Take a seat! Take a looaaad off your feet! What? What?”). I wanted to hear the Bible studies and all the campers’ aha moments that built their faith. I’m telling you, these counselors are my people, because I even wanted to jump around in the Texas sun to welcome the campers.
By the end of the week, I was not only vowing to send my kids to sleep-away camp every summer for the rest of their young lives, I was trying to convince M we should open a Christian camp.  (For the record, we are not opening a Christian camp. M does not own a guitar, enjoy jumping for Jesus, or hugging everyone he sees. So weird.).
But I totally would have done it. Not kidding. It’s not only that some of my best memories from my young life happened at camp, it’s the community, and creativity, and enthusiasm of camp. It’s a place like no where else. If you’re a Camp Person, you are nodding your head right now and scheming a way to get back to camp. If you’re not, you’re just about to click away.
But don’t! Let me try to explain the magic…
I mean, I could totally write a daily blog about the wonders of camp, about the lifelong friends I met there, and how I really owned my faith for the first time at camp, age eight. Then I really owned it for a second time at age twenty, also at camp.
But I think I have a better example of the magic of camp. My first summer as a counselor we invented Blue Week. For one week, everything we did was blue. Yeah, we wore exclusively blue clothes, painted the campers’ faces blue, and asked the kitchen to dye all the food blue. Anyone can pull off that.
But camp is the Land of Creativity, of Community, and Silliness. We counselors invented ways to add BLUE into worship songs, we gave each other names that rhymed with BLUE or meant blue. We studied the Bible with the campers and found stories that might relate to Blue (Job was sad, God sent water, David liked soulful music, much like the blues). We were a bunch of silly college students having the summer of our lives.
This week, my kids had their own Blue-Week Silliness with the ridiculous socks Elisabeth is wearing in this picture. Pine Cove counselors wear long, ugly, orange and green tube socks. It’s one of their ridiculous, quirky camp things. On the last day, they give a pair to each camper. Even my kids, who hate socks, rocked the socks to be part of this zany community.
Pine Cove also gave our kids cool Bible studies, a DVD filled with pictures from their water slide and bungee-jumping adventures, great memories, and a love for all things Pine Cove. As we tried to drag them out of there on the last day, Sam was begging for a t-shirt, and Elisabeth insisted we needed a Pine Cove bumper sticker on the back of our minivan. Catie asked if she could go to sleepaway camp next summer.
Yes, daughter, you are now a Camp Person.
And your mama is coming with you when you go.

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