You may remember Tía Rocio who visited Camp Fowler from Uruguay last summer: she’s bright, lively, speaks some seriously good english. She’s currently a university student in Montevideo, and we’ve spent a lot of time with her down here in Uruguay. She has been helpful in giving us some insight into what makes Parque, Parque.
People often describe Camp Fowler as a special place, a magical place, a home away from home; and Parque feels like that too. Rocio describes Parque as the place where “la corazón late más fuerte,” or “the place where your heart beats most strongly.” And it does feel that way here. Amidst the rich air, heavy with humidity, surrounded by green, and never more than 200 yards from the beach, life feels fuller, richer, sweeter.
And it’s more than just our physical surroundings. It’s the overall ethos of the place. You can feel it in the affectionate “abrazos” from the leaders. You can hear it as groups of campers and young adults run screaming into the river. You can smell it by the mud pit, which smells slightly of sour milk and laughter. You can taste it in the “milenesas” that all the campers say is their favorite food. You can see it as campers and leaders make yet another circle; so they can all be seen, so they can all be heard.
It’s been such a gift to come down to Parque and be reminded of what it feels like to experience camp for the very first time, to be reminded of what makes camp special, of what makes camp good. And what we’re realizing is that so much of what makes Parque, Parque and what makes Fowler, Fowler, is the community that these places facilitate, each in their own way.
The Parque community is ever changing; expanding and contracting as people come in and out. Many of their leaders are young, sometimes 15 or 16 years old, but they are shepherded by older leaders who still give up a week of their summer to work at camp. The kids are mostly local and regional, sometimes coming from the church and sometimes not. The support staff work at Parque as a full time job and mostly live in the nearby community of Colonia Valdense. But working amidst all of this is a palpable sense of community. There is a deep, underlying sense that the people here really care about each other, that they believe the best in each other, that they want people to show up exactly as they are. And they’ve made us feel that way too. We haven’t had to earn our spot here; they’ve taken us in and rooted us immediately into their community. They make us feel like we belong. We can only hope that people at Fowler feel that way too.
Because at Fowler, we believe that we are first and foremost a community; before we are a camp, before we are a workplace, before we are a retreat center, before we are a church. Because we have a deep belief that community is a necessary part of the lives we are trying to live as Christians. We look at the life that Jesus lived and see community reflected in it, so we have made it an important part of our identity at Fowler. We want to, need to, strive to, be a community that cares for one another, that loves one another, and that points one another to Christ. No one gets to just pass through. No one gets to just leave. No one gets to show up and not participate. Because being a community takes investment, takes courage, and it takes believing that it’s necessary for life abundant.
Because community really is a funny thing. It’s an integral part of our lives, but it is often frightening because it requires vulnerability. It feels like it's formed organically, but it also takes hard work. Community can make you feel comforted and challenged at the same time. And, the funny thing is, you often don’t realize the impact of a community on your life until that community is behind you. There are few things as mysteriously essential to our lives, as human beings and as Christians.
So, why should you come to Camp Fowler this summer? Because we’re your community. Or we want to be. We want to be the place where you can show up, wholly and completely, without out wondering whether you will be welcome. We want to be the place where you can arrive and expect to jump right in, participating in our play, in our laughter, in our work, in our worship, all for the glory of God. We want to be the place where you can laugh, question, wonder, weep, run, think, create, rest. We want to be the place where you feel seen and you feel known. Because that’s what we’re striving for, that’s what a community is.