Image212For most people, the word "swamp" doesn't have much meaning to them. If anything, they'll think of a boggy wasteland filled with mosquitoes and mud. But if you ask any of people in this room with me, they'll launch into stories of summers filled with joy, tears, and yes, mosquitoes. Each camper, counselor, and worker at Camp Swamp will not hesitate to mention all the lifelong friends they made here and ways their lives were changed forever.
For me personally, my faith was cultivated here. I started off coming as a small child with my family, mostly focused on comprehension of the world around me rather than the existence of a higher power. At the age of nine I began to come to summer camp, hearing perspectives I didn't know existed and meeting people whose colorful souls taught me how to be me and no one else. A few years later I wanted to become individualized from my parents and decide for myself whether or not God truly existed, and once I was satisfied with my answer I debated how that would change me. This led to the best decision of my life that took place two nights ago right here at the pool; my baptism. Camp Swamp cultivated my faith in an environment of safety. I was neither forced to believe or not to believe, simply to explore my own boundaries and limitations while making my own decisions. No one at Camp Swamp force fed me religion, no one told me I needed to get baptized before age 18. They simply shared their hearts and experiences with me and encouraged me to discover myself and how that fits with God. But Camp Swamp isn't just a garden of spiritual treasures, I have many memories of pure joy stored in my heart that took place on these grounds. At age 10 rolling down the hill in a human hamster ball. Age 11 and getting to show my little brother summer camp for the first time. Dancing on a chair with my friends at 12. Being 13 and finally considered an "older" camper. 14 and making some of the best friends I've ever had.
I can't imagine my life without Camp Swamp. It's the highlight of my years and I can't wait to teach the future generation about the love buried in these walls. So yeah. Maybe we don't have frogs and intense humidity but we... wait. We do have those things. But we also have laughter, kindness, and safety, and I can't speak for everyone, but I'd happily deal with a few pesky mosquitoes to be able to find the place that true love grows and friendships flourish.