"After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!"" (Revelation 7:9-10, NRSV)
The congregation I currently serve has a long history with Camp Vermilion. We've sent campers there for years upon years. We take care of the Priest House and spring and fall work days. Daughters and sons of our congregation have been on staff over the years. But we also send kids to Camp Hiawatha when it fits better for the families. Each summer VLM Staff run our Daycamp in Proctor, serving over 50 kids a day! Two daughters of our congregation each had their weddings at Camp Hiawatha recently. Voyageurs Lutheran Ministry is an important part of our ministry at United Lutheran Church of Proctor.
Personally, I have been to a lot of Bible Camps and Retreat Centers over the years. When I was growing up, my home congregation sent us to Luther Dell Bible Camp outside of Remer, MN. When I was in college, I spent four summers working on summer staff at Luther Dell. One of those summers, our camp was folded into the Lake Wapogasset Lutheran Bible Camp family, so I got to spend a few weeks as a counselor at Wapo. In college, I also visited a few other Bible camps in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Right after college I moved to Texas. Our church was a member of Cross Trails Ministry. I vividly remember a vulture circling above me at Camp Chrysalis one day when I had a nosebleed. For a while I lived in Idaho, working in the church. We sent our youth to Luther Heights Bible Camp, high up in the Sawtooth Mountains. Later in life, I lived in South Carolina. While there, I went to retreats and confirmation camps at Lutheridge, a camp just outside of Ashville NC. I also visited Camp Kinard in the Midlands of South Carolina for a seminary retreat. If I thought about it longer, I'm sure I could come up with a few more camps I've visited over the years. Every camp has its own strengths and traditions.
Revelation 7 reminds me that God's people come from all over the place - Northern Minnesota and the Hill Country of Texas and the Rocky Mountains and the ocean coastlands. Truly, God's people are so varied and numerous that no one could count them all. Revelation 7 also reminds me that God's people are not all the same - they speak different languages and have different traditions and some of them even don't do the hand motions to camp songs the same way I do! This variation is something to thank God for, even when we prefer our camp over another one.
The one thing that is the same at every camp is this: we worship God Almighty and Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Often times when I'm singing at a campfire or lakeside worship, I imagine what worship is like at other camps. I think about how youth and leaders around the country (and around the world) are praising God with loud voices. They might not be dressed in white robes like it says in Revelation, and they don't wave palm branches. But they are waving their hands, and they are dressed in camp clothes that are adorned with crosses and Bible verses. Our camps help us practice for that great, unending worship around God's throne. One day, you and I and all our campers and all of God's people will join together to sing our praises. That's a campfire not to be missed!
Peter R. Kowitz
Pastor of United Lutheran Church of Proctor