In 2011, we walked up the stairs to Hart Dining Hall with 5-year old Galileu II to go to our first Swamp Family Camp. The next 20 minutes of huge bear hugs were like a flashback to our '90s campus days as we excitedly reunited with friends we hadn't seen in 15+ years and got to meet their children. We heard the counselors whisper, "That's us in 20 years!"
Today, we're enjoying precious time together at Family Camp eight years later! Besides the irreplaceable fun times and memories we're creating together, both Galileu (my husband) and our son have built crucial relationships with families across many different congregations and states. In the times between Family Camp, Swamp Camp, Father-Son and Mother-Son retreats, we've gone to visit families in other states, and some have stayed with us. G2 plans weeks he wants to go to camp to spend time with these friends across the region. We hope these relationships will take us into our children's adulthood and help us all spiritually until we get to heaven!
From fellowship and classes with peer parents, counselors, and seasoned parents of adult kids, we constantly put into practice what we've learned throughout the year. We see camp as an opportunity that is so much more than "one-off events" sprinkled throughout the year. I am so grateful for the moms here that taught me years ago what to expect as my role changes from a mom nurturing a little boy to a companion-guide-counselor for a teen son navigating tough terrain of real life. More importantly, I learned here that I have a higher calling to model the spiritual character of the kind of wife and mother God envisions for me to be (so he can see what that should look like, too).
We are so grateful to one of the teen counselors from ACOC Gwinnett that told us about Family Camp when we didn't even know it existed! It has been a treasured "family vacation" experience that has been fun, unifying, and spiritual quality time. It not only helped our young son to get prepared to go to camp in future years, but it also naturally became something he is naturally excited to invite his friends to from school and sports every year. At first it's fun and friendships for the little ones, but Swamp Camp gradually becomes the ministry that helps him and us decide who we are and what we want to become for God.
Camp Swamp and Family Camp are so far beyond a once-a-year activity. It's a ministry that offers our families multiple opportunities to join our children in their special space. This is more than a place or event. It's a ministry and a realm (a part of their "multi-verse" for sci-fi/comics fans) that he and we deeply value. It's a key part of our kids' journey where they feel they can discover who God has created them to be to best reflect his image...and us as parents learn these lessons alongside them, too!