I realized last night that if I hadn't moved away, I might have spent last week as a counselor at the summer camp I went to every year when I was a kid. Most of the Churches of Christ in Corpus Christi, Texas go to a camp called Bandina Christian Youth Camp. It is about 45 minutes north of San Antonia, situated between two towns, Bandera and Medina (thus the name). And it is something I've grown to appreciate only with age. I started going there when I was 11 and became friends with all the girls in my cabin. And these girls were my camp friends for the next 6 years. I'm still in touch with one of them, my friend Misty. When I was in college most of my friends from my home church were counselors there during the summer, but because I had to work and I was not a part of that church any more, I never got to. So I would go back for Friday night, which was generally a type of reunion for alot of people. Parents would come then, who had gone to camp there 20 years before and were now enjoying watching their children having so much fun. One year I went up for Friday and I ran into Misty in the Pavillion (0ur cafeteria/worship hall) and she invited me to stay the night in her cabin. It turns out this was the cabin where she and I had met 12 years before.
Though I was not so religious, these were by far the greatest weeks of my summer. I painted cups and made bracelets and necklaces in Arts & Crafts. I stood by and watched the Campers vs. Counselors softball games. I greatly anticipated everyday at 11am when all the high school kids would get together in the "Gabezo" (really a gazebo) and sing as loud as we wanted. I always got a seat next to my friend Stuart, who had and still has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. And I hoped against all hope that we would sing Paradise Valley...or Ring Out the Message...728b, Our God, He is Alive. Now I appreciate the words of these songs for what they are, but then it was the music that was so beautiful to me.
But this week as I think about Camp Bandina, it is with a bit of sadness. One of my dear friends from my home church died last year about this time. The last time I saw him was at Camp, the summer after he graduated from high school, the summer after I graduated from college. I met him when he was about 11 and I was about 14. And though he was quite a bit younger than me, he has always been one of my favorite people. Such a kind and gentle spirit. I wish him peace now. One of my fondest memories of him was riding in his mother's Suburban on our way to Camp, him singing When They Ring Those Golden Bells into his portable Karaoke mic. It takes a special kid to rock the portable Karaoke mic. I think of him often, mostly when I'm singing a very happy song. I hope that's what he doing now.