We drove away from Summer Camp 2022 with a joyful sorrow! During our three-hour drive back home, my four kids, ages 7 through 12, wondered how they could make this camp experience last forever. This was our first time at Summer Camp 2022, after our move to the US in 2020. I listened to them as they brainstormed ideas. “We could keep singing the campfire songs we learnt”. “We could hang the key-chains we made on our school bags and ‘take camp’ to school with us everyday”. “We could light those beeswax candles we made and keep the Flame of our Faith going”. “We could sing the hymn Lord of the Powers every morning on our way to school and remember our time in chapel”. “Will we ever see the friends we made, again?” one of them asked. “Will they even remember us, next time we see them?”
There was silence in the car. I wanted to tell my kids that we always meet our friends in prayer wherever we are, whenever we pray or go to Church. But, I knew that they wanted more! How could I make their camp experience last forever? How could I nurture their Orthodox Christian Faith and help them cultivate long-lasting friendships that would prove to be great supports in their lives as adults?
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7)
This prayer was not to remain unanswered. Our loving God heard my silent prayer. Our all-compassionate Lord acknowledged my kids’ joyful sorrow and provided at the right time!
Through the Saint Mary’s Orthodox Camp Programs, I knew of St. Mary’s Fall Family Camp offered every second weekend in October. This year, on Friday, October 7th, 2022, God was about to give my children another one of His great Blessings.
My eagerness to kindle my children’s Faith and to encourage true Orthodox Christian friendships was recognized by God. He purposefully laid out for us the opportunity to participate again in the activities of our greater Orthodox Christian Family; to worship among friends; to break bread; to explore God’s blessed nature; to experience the true Christian Joy; to deepen our Faith; to grow stronger in our relationship with God; to warm our hearts with Christ’s Light so that we may sustain ourselves throughout the colds months of winter, until spring comes again.
On October 7th, we made the three-hour drive from our home to Camp Courage at Maple Lake for the St. Mary’s Family Camp. The ride was magnificent there and back. The fall colors were at their glory.
When we arrived at the camp site, I lost my children! I lost my children in the Arms of our Lord and it was the most joyous feeling I had ever experienced: to see my children reunite with true friends; to recognize familiar faces in the care of camp counselors; to trust in the direction of father confessors!
This year’s topic for the Family Camp was “Prayer”. The program included sessions on what the Holy Fathers and Mothers say about prayer and practical advice on how to establish and strengthen the rule of prayer within the Orthodox Christian Family.
- Take the time to pray.
- Keep to a rule.
- Prayer is a marathon; not a sprint
- Repetitions of prayers immunize against heresy.
- Prayers are active; God might choose to answer.
- Unanswered prayers are OK.
- Listen in the Whisper!
- Expect attacks when you are praying.
- Stay vigilant.
- Pray the Psalter!
Adult and kids sessions where all structured around the practice of Prayer in our Faith and everybody was given opportunities to practice prayer: in the chapel; out in nature; by themselves or in groups with others. What a blessed opportunity to strengthen our Communication with our Heavenly Father! What a wonderful occasion to make resolutions on how to reinforce our family practices in order to make our homes “Little Orthodox Churches” for our Lord to abide.
We were the last ones to leave the camp site at the end of the program; we were probably the ones who had to drive the farthest to get home. My kids had already said goodbye to their friends but they still wanted to stay longer, enjoy the fall colors on that Glorious Sunday of our Lord, and acknowledge the answers that God had provided to our prayers. St. Mary’s Family Camp 2022 was over, but not quite…
About two week later, we received letters in the mail at our Church’s address. My kids’ friends from Camp initiated snail mail communication. And my kids reciprocated!
Orthodox Christian Camp opportunities could be the start to wonderful, lasting connections and deep friendships for you, your children, your family! We hope to see you there next year, in the summer and the fall!
With love in Christ,
Presv. Evangelia March
Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church
Mason City, IA