This year marks 60 years since Fraser Lake Camp began in a farmer’s field northeast of Bancroft, Ont. Since then, the camp has evolved and now covers 105 hectares of forest, field and lakefront.
As a staff member at Fraser Lake, nature has always been my primary conduit to God, although for many campers this branch of spiritual literacy is unfamiliar to them upon their arrival at camp.
The immense wilderness that surrounds Fraser Lake often comes as shock to our campers, many of whom rarely leave the city. Some will literally scream as they exit the bus at the mere sight of a bug, but by the end of the week they won’t bat an eye.
Helping campers make this transition from technology to wilderness is one of the biggest joys of working at Fraser Lake, especially with such a gorgeous property. Creativity is my main tool, whether it be building secret clubhouses in the forest, stargazing and storytelling in the hayfields, or epic canoeing adventures across the lake. Anything to spark campers’ imaginations and get them to see beyond themselves.
More important than these active interventions is the passive engagement that campers get simply by living in an environment that is out of their element. By spending nearly all day, every day outdoors, campers unconsciously relinquish their fears and open themselves to the wonder of God.
This past summer I was responsible for training the next generation of Fraser Lake staff. In preparing this program I kept coming back to the self-expanding power of camp. Everything the camp staff do is set up to help push the horizons of a camper’s experience, whether it be through music, activity or nature. However, camp does not demand or force this personal growth onto our campers, but rather it gives them a safe space and the opportunity to develop. The will of the Spirit does the rest and it is through the Spirit that camp becomes a place of fun and wonder. When campers load the bus to go home, they have been visibly transformed by this Spirit and their newfound connection to nature, to each other and to themselves.
For other stories in our Focus on Camping series, see: