This week’s blog post comes from Major Rob Birks, who is a Salvation Army officer here in the Golden State Division. Rob is the author of two books reflecting on prose, song, and prayer. “Someone Cared-Prose and prayers inspired by the poetry of John Gowans” (Frontier Press, 2014), and “ORSBORNAGAIN-A New Look at Old Songs of New Life” (Frontier Press, 2013).
In 1983, when I was just a lad of 16, I had a summer job at The Salvation Army’s Camp Redwood Glen in Scotts Valley, California. I had a great summer washing dishes, making lifelong friends, “acting out” at nightly campfires and trying out my burgeoning Bill Murray impression. Pranks were a part of camp culture in those days, but for the most part I had abstained all summer (mainly out of fear). At the conclusion of the summer, however, I conspired with another staff member on a prank that would only see the light of day once I was safely on a plane to Anchorage, Alaska, my where my family had moved. I placed an ad in the local paper, offering Camp Redwood Glen up for sale. In the ad I included the phone number and name of the man who was responsible for the camp at the time. My co-conspirator and I purchased the paper on the way to the airport. I thought I had committed the perfect “crime.” Not everyone agreed, especially not the man who received all the phone calls from people wanting to get a good deal on a great property. Incidentally, that man’s son is now the Camp Director at Redwood Glen. Fortunately for me, he is far too kind to hold a grudge on behalf of his father.
I know it was only a childish (but brilliant) prank – just make believe, but here’s the thing; sometimes I actually catch myself being thankful that the camp did not sell in 1983. In fact, I am so thankful it hasn’t sold in the 32 years since that summer. Here are a few reasons why:
· Back to the scene of the “crime” - To let things cool down a bit I didn’t work at camp in 1984. But I returned in 1985, 1987 and 1988. Each of those summers helped develop me in ways too numerous to mention in this blog post. Suffice it to say I owe much of who I am (the good stuff at least) to the staff, campers and God of Camp Redwood Glen.
· Summer Lovin’ - In the summer of 1987, I got to know a beautiful young woman. We became best friends and we both returned to work together the next summer. That friendship continued to grow strong and, as these things sometimes go (thankfully), we started dating. We knew early on in the relationship that God had plans for us to be together. Who were we to stand in his way, right? In June of 1989, we returned to camp – not to work, but to get married in the camp chapel. We’re still going strong 26 years later and we’re still thankful for the healthy environment where it all began.
· Sacred Space – Someone once said that more spiritual growth can be experienced in one week of summer camp than in an entire year of Sunday School! I don’t know if that is true, (if it is true, the Sunday School curriculum in question is questionable) but I certainly agree with the sentiment. I happen to be in a ministry position now with The Salvation Army which allows me to see the positive effect of Redwood Glen’s purposeful programming on hundreds of young people (campers and staff alike) each summer. What happens there is hugely important to people, therefore to society.
I could go on and on about what The Salvation Army’s Camp Redwood Glen means to me, and what I believe it has meant to countless others in its sixty-nine years of ministry. Let me just end with this thought. Jesus said “Let the little children come to me…” (Matthew 19:14 NIV). You are accomplishing this mission, Camp Redwood Glen! Keep up the good work and don’t let anyone try to sell you anything different. (In fact, don’t let anyone try to sell you at all).