Saturday, June 07, 2008

Rebirth, part five: Made New

It was a grey, November day when I went back to camp for the first time since the farewell nearly two years previous. The previously well-kept camp was showing all the signs of being all but abandoned over two winters. Windows were broken and a few doors were smashed down where vandals had broken in and left their mark. Buildings were dusty and cold and leaking, and a fallen electrical pole had cut off power to many buildings. The grass on the field was knee high, and two autumns worth of dead fall covered the ground. The tiny stream had jumped its bank and cut a deep channel through the middle of the beach, washing half the sand away with it. The docks were partially buried and half sunken into the lake, and tiny trees had sprung up where we used to play beach volleyball. The big windstorms of two winters ago had knocked a few trees down farther up the property, and where there used to be a gravel and dirt clearing in the forest around the chalets, saplings and weeds now grew nearly four feet high. The campfire area - that sacred place where I and so many other campers had met God in such life-altering ways - was strewn with garbage and broken beer bottles from people looking for a far removed place to party.

It was hard to be there, to see how this beautiful place that had meant so much to me had begun to fall apart. I had thought about going up to see the camp in the past, but really didn't know if I wanted to. I wanted it to live in my memory as it had been - bright, well-kept, full of kids, noisy, alive. I didn't know what condition it would be in, and didn't know if I could bear seeing it closed and boarded up, overgrown and empty. And yet, there I was...


I have a friend named Cathy who lives in Sydney, Australia. She and I met at camp a number of years ago, and we quickly became friends. She's been back a few times since then, once for an extended stay, living with me while she did her practicum. This past August she was in town visiting again. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, and a bunch of our friends were walking up Main St. for a leisurely after-church lunch. Kawkawa came up in conversation, and it was then that Cathy told me, "Hey, did you hear that they're opening again?"

I nearly tripped on my own feet. "What?! But how? Huh? Are you sure? Really!?!?! ... And how do YOU, who live in Australia know about this before I do?"

"I don't know! I'm on some mailing list, apparently. I got a letter saying they were opening up, and to please pray for the whole process."

I can't even describe how thrilled I was. There may or may not have been some overjoyed squealing and spontaneous jig-dancing in the middle of the sidewalk right then and there. I very quickly began doing some research and making some phone calls and found out that, indeed, Kawkawa was going to be opening once more! I didn't know how, or why, or any details ("Wasn't the mountain unstable???") but yes, it was true!

Over the next few months, I learned more and more, and knew that I HAD to be involved again. And so, one cold November Saturday morning, three friends and I drove up to Hope for the first scheduled work day to begin getting camp ready for campers to arrive this summer. Yes, the camp was in bad shape, but there was not the weight of sadness there that was there the last time I was there. Instead, there was laughter. There were hugs. There was hope.

We had food cooking in the kitchen, and there was the sound of people all over the site - working, clearing away the death, bringing new life to Camp Kawkawa. Crews were raking leaves, demolishing trailers, cleaning floors, burning debris and leaves, surveying the camp and making lists of all the work that had to be done. There was a buzz of excitement in the air as we all worked towards a common purpose.

At the end of the day, I went down to the lake and walked out to the end of the dock. Smoke from our fires had escaped the cover of the trees and had seeped down to the water, cirlcing around, adding to the greyness of the day. I sat down on the edge and looked out across the lake. How many times had I sat there? How many times had I escaped the craziness of camp to go and sit, surrounded by the awe-inspiring mountains on either side and the calm water in front of me, just enjoying time with God.

The weather might have been grey, but my heart had exploded with hope, with colour, with beauty. Everywhere I looked, I saw rebirth, from the bulbs planted in the garden just waiting for spring, to the dead fall being cleared away and burned, to the excitement and anticipation of campers arriving that very first week of summer ready to experience a rebirth of their own.

So many of the questions we had when it closed now make sense, and it's beyond exciting to see how God has worked things all the way through this process. He is clearly not finished working at Kawkawa and I am SO excited to see what He's going to do in the years to come!


That November work day was the first day of something that has become such a large part of my life. From planning meetings with Rita, the executive director, to information meetings, to networking, to promotions, to speaking at different groups at my church about opportunities to help, to hours spent on powerpoint presentations, to monthly trips up to camp to rake, garden, demolish, build, clean... I am SO thrilled to be involved with camp again. Chances are if you know me in real life, you've thought at least once (probably more!), "OK! Hillary! Enough about camp already!" Recently a friend teased me that it seems not a week goes by without an email from me involving something to do with Kawkawa.

With all this involvement, um, it's been a little strange not being able to talk about it on my blog (though that's been purely my own restriction). After the "closed" post, I didn't really know how to begin the next post. I don't even know how many times I'd started it and not completed it. I knew it would take a long time to write - to get the feeling just right, to capture what was going on in my heart, in my head. And so it didn't happen and didn't happen and didn't happen. But all that time, I was doing more and more with camp, and didn't really know how to summarize it all. I kinda feel bad that I've not been talking about such an amazing, exciting part of my life. But then I just decided, this is silly. I so badly want to keep talking about camp. I need to just write this post, not worry about getting it 'just right' and get on with it. So here I am. Sorry it's taken me so long. There will be more installments to come!


Carrie said...

Very exciting! I remember how sad you were when it closed, so I can only imagine how happy you are now. Neat that you get to be such a big part of it!

Melissa said...

I knew this was where it was going! -At least I hoped it was :)

The lake photos are *breathtaking*. I would live there. Unstable mountain or not. I'd pitch a tent or build a fort and live there until the mountain swallowed me up whole.

So what's up with that? Isn't the mountain unstable? Are you going to write about that part?