Camp Community is Crucial for Faith:
One Mom’s Perspective

by Susan Bradley Arico, Deer Run Alumna & Camp Mom

 

Camp is in my blood, and in the blood of my family. I came to Deer Run as a camper for six summers in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I even did a month-long “January term” winter study at camp in 1995, sandwiched between a summer as a cabin counselor and two more as an LDP counselor. I met my closest friends and even my husband at camp! And when our oldest was ten, my husband and I became camp parents.

For the past four summers we’ve been camp parents—to one, two, and now three of our four kids. Despite my deep love for Brookwoods and Deer Run, though, I had no way of knowing at the start of our parenting journey how meaningful it would be to send our kids there, and how much they would need it.

You see, our family lived in Greece for the past three years, and it was a dry time spiritually. The Greek Orthodox church is the church of Greece, but very few Greeks attend services, let alone non-Greeks. Since our family spoke little Greek, it wasn’t an option for us. There were three tiny international churches in our city, each with a congregation of less than 50. In the Hellenic Ministries church plant we attended, there were virtually no children other than ours. During the sermon my husband and I ran an informal kids’ “Sunday school class,” and nine times out of ten the only participants would be our own four kids. This made for tricky dynamics, as you can imagine.

By the time we left Greece in June 2019, our children were 13, 11, 9, and 8. Because their main (and often only) Christian fellowship was with their immediate family, we were always looking to engage them in meaningful fellowship with other believing kids. But we had few options.

This is why camp was and is such a lifeline. For two weeks each summer, our kids are immersed in a vibrant community of faith. They’re singing praise songs and participating in Bible study. They’re spending time with Christian role models and hearing first-hand stories about God. They’re doing activities with same-age peers who also follow Jesus, and interacting with them around shared faith. These are things they didn’t have the opportunity to do in regular life in Greece. What a gift!

Our son had the same Brookwoods counselor, a guy who’s as fun as he is godly, two out of four summers and has bonded closely with him. His presence and voice of encouragement in our son’s life has been an answer to prayer. Our daughters have also enjoyed their counselors and learned many things about faith from them. This summer, one daughter came home from camp saying that Bible study and worship time each morning was her very favorite thing about Deer Run. It’s tidbits like these that prompt me to bow my head in gratitude to God for providing our kids with a place where they can drink from this spiritual well after a comparative drought throughout the year.

Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost give a tremendous gift to its community, and really the whole region, by being a hub of Jesus-centered faith that’s easily accessible to kids. It’s a place where parents can know that their children will be exposed to God in winsome ways, and where their kids will meet and interact with engaging models of permeating faith. These types of communities can be hard to come by, and being able to plug into one is an amazing blessing. We’ll always be grateful for the central role that camp is playing in our children’s spiritual upbringing, and how God has used it to help close the spiritual gap for our children.

Susan Bradley Arico was a Deer Run camper from 1986-1991 and was on staff in 1994, 1996, and 1997. Her husband York was on Brookwoods staff for three years in the 1990’s. The Aricos now reside in Connecticut. You may contact Susan, or view more of her writing on her blog, or her facebook page.