Camp Sumatanga. Just hearing the name brings a feeling of peace and comfort. It’s a special place where countless people have experienced God’s presence, some for the first time, others who may have spent years or even decades away from the church. It’s a place where I have seen God heal emotional wounds, mend broken relationships, and strengthen the faithful for their journey.
My time at Camp Sumatanga includes numerous Walks to Emmaus, first as a pilgrim and later serving on some wonderful teams, Chrysalis journeys, church picnics, baptisms in the lake, United Methodist Women spiritual renewals, several beautiful wedding celebrations, and one very strenuous hike to the chapel at the top of the mountain. To pick one experience to highlight is a challenge since all of them have strengthened my walk with Christ and grown my faith. All of them have brought me closer to God.
One of my favorite memories at camp involves my sister Sylvia who struggles with Alzheimer’s disease. She was in the early stages and still undiagnosed when she was an Emmaus pilgrim, her first ever trip to Camp Sumatanga. She needed assistance with most of the activities, including finding her room or working the shower, but she truly experienced the love of God while at camp that weekend. I can still clearly see her in the chapel Sunday afternoon with her hands in the air as a sign of victory saying “I did it!” As her disease progressed, we would return to camp together to walk around the lake, pausing to rest and pray on the benches and praising God for the beauty of His creation. Sylvia would eventually lose her ability to communicate and to walk, but I know her spirit was strengthened by her camp experiences. I know that God is holding her tightly in His arms through her struggles. I think she knows it too.