Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Creation Calls

Yesterday morning, for just a second before I opened my eyes, I was transported 300km and 17 years. For that brief moment between dreams and reality I thought I was 19 years old and at Manitoba Pioneer Camp; I thought that until I realised that my bed was softer than my bunk and my duvet was warmer than my sleeping bag and I didn't hear the scurry of tiny mouse feet across the floor. I'm 36, not 19, and I was asleep in my bed, beside Mr. Awesome with the sounds of The Wee Ones at the breakfast table, not huddle in my bunk with a roommate asleep overhead and the sounds of birds chirping and waving lapping against the rocks drifting through my open window.
Maybe it was the cold air that filled my room from the window left open, maybe it was the gentle sound of rain hitting the roof or maybe its just this time of year but I was suddenly homesick for a place I was only a part of briefly but has stayed in my heart these 17 years. Spring always calls me back, creation itself seems to beckon me to that little island on Shoal Lake with those plywood cabin, rows of red and aluminum canoes and the craziest, most beautiful group of people I've ever had the privilege to work with, live with and mature with.

I applied for the position at MPC on a whim. One afternoon, as I was leaving the university library, I noticed a green photocopied flyer on the jobs bulletin board. It said something about Real Wilderness, Adventure and Fun and it had a picture of a ton of kids sitting on a dock. I paused and read over the job openings and realised I could do almost any of the jobs listed and I didn't have any plans for the summer and I desperately wanted to do something that was me, for me and completely independent of my parents.

Right there on the spot I called the camp office. After mispronouncing the camp director's name and fumbling my way through a brief phone interview he invited me to stop by his office on my way home from university. Three hours later I was walking out of the camp office with a job and a list of supplies for the summer and meetings I'd have to attend before we left in three weeks. Wilderness Camp? What the heck did I know about wilderness camp?!

I had no idea just what I would be learning, or how I would change over those four months, that cool crisp morning in late April, when I climbed into one of two club vans headed for Shoal Lake. I felt awkward, lonely and slightly mental to be doing this crazy thing, but mental or not it was the best decision I had made up to that point in my life.

That summer, living, working, sleeping, churching and learning with 40 strangers who quickly became family was the most amazing thing. Sure I learned wilderness skills like paddling, setting up a camp and how to cook spaghetti for 120+ people and I worked harder than I ever had before, hauling canoes, clearing a drainage ditch and feeding pigs (like real pigs, not just sloppy kids). I set up mouse traps and peanut butter pails and I even dodge a bear or two but it was the life lessons that real stuck with me.

Being at camp was like being in a maturity incubator. In those 4 months I began to figure out the kind of person I really wanted to be. I learned about joy, strength, beauty and community. I learned that I was capable of than more than I thought, that I had talents yet undiscovered and that life only gets better when you operate in a team. I learned to value of meditation, the paradise that is a silent walk in the woods and that the sound of waves lapping against the rocks is like contagious laughter.

I survived my first real heartbreak that summer and I discovered the healing power of kind words. I experienced my first crack at real leadership and learned a few hard, but necessary lessons along the way. I learned that part of being a mature person is getting past disappointments and loving people when they are at their most unlovable. I also basked in the security and joy of having friends who always had my back, were ever ready for a laugh and who loved me enough to speak gentle words of correction into my life.

Manitoba Pioneer Camp holds a special place in my heart and a magical hold in my memory. That summer I spent there was among the greatest life experience I've ever had. I am grateful for the people I met there, the lessons I learned and the memories I have. I love that I will forever be connected to that cedar scented piece of heaven on earth.

Every Spring, as the snow melts and the rains come, I think of all the staffers and campers who are preparing for their own MPC adventure and I pray for them. I pray that they will learn, grow and make friends. I pray that they will try new things, meet new people and experience all that that place has to offer. Mostly, I pray that they will cherish their time there because it all goes by too fast. In a blink, you are married, with kids and a life a million miles away from that sandy beach and lofty lodge but if you let it, MPC will sink into your heart and you'll never be too far away from it, not really.

"...becomes an extraordinary space where all distractions can be stripped away to reveal the realities of God, the wilderness, and each other."
~Chris Milne, Director of MPC, from The Ripple, 2007

No comments: