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May 26, 2016 | Carol E. Barnwell

Love and Life Firmly Rooted at Camp

[Diolog Magazine Camp Allen June 2016] "I didn't truly grasp the fullness of God's grace until I came to Camp Allen" Lauren Day admits. She grew up at Good Shepherd, Kingwood, and attended summer camp from the age of eight, later served as a camp counselor, then as a member of senior staff in college.

 

Lauren said that "God specifically used Camp Allen over and over again to draw me to himself. As an eight year-old, I left camp forever changed after experiencing God's presence for the first time.” Happening —a renewal weekend for teens—was “the most transformative experience in my spiritual life,” Lauren said.

 

The son of a priest, or “PK” as priests’ kids are sometimes known, Drew Day spent formative years in Sewanee, Tennessee, where his father, the Rev. Tom Day, attended seminary.

 

“That is when I fell in love with nature, that part of creation,” Drew said. But he fell in love with Lauren at Camp Allen, when the two were in college and serving as senior staff at summer camp. They married in 2005 and now live at Camp Allen with their young family. Lauren, 32, serves as marketing and development coordinator and Drew, 35, is director of the summer camp. Today, they help bring the same transformation of spirit they experienced here to thousands of other youth.

 

The Days know firsthand that a child’s spirit can be inspired at summer camp. Drew attended summer camp with the help of scholarships when he was in primary school. He remembers being drawn to the
“community” exemplified by the counselors and others. “It was different than what I saw in other places,” Drew said. “The way they loved each other, the way they interacted with each other, the way that they would bless one another through the words that they said and the things that they didn’t say … now I know that as the presence of God intertwined into a community in a way that changes people. I didn’t know that then [but] I was just very drawn to that community.”

 

He remembered talking to a counselor about Jesus. “That was the first time that I really understood that it was more than the faith of my parents, but it was a personal thing,” Drew said, and it had a profound impact on him. “When I became a counselor, it [felt like] the first time I had something important to do, a real responsibility. Being a counselor helped me to have a servant’s heart.”  While in college, Drew served as a senior staffer for what he described as “the best summers of my life.”

 

“I saw God move every day—we would be doing fun things and moments later could be in deep prayer with the campers. My fellow staffers are still some of my best friends,” he said.

 

Over the years, both Lauren and Drew witnessed the spiritual growth of their campers, 30 percent of whom come to camp with no faith experience. Drew sees the staff’s responsibility to be “different” in the same way he first experienced camp. “Our job is to love and serve our campers,” he said. “Sometimes that means just being present, listening and praying for them.”

 

Some campers arrive with emotional baggage, Drew said. The counselors' Safe Church training helps them “listen and sometimes, just be present” for campers. During any summer, there are 26 sessions, June 5 through August 11, and the camp serves almost 2,000 youth in grades 3-12.

 

“I grew up going to Lacy’s camp,” Lauren said. The Rev. Lacy Largent served at Good Shepherd from 1991to 1994. “Our church kind of took ownership of a session,” Lauren said, explaining that her home parish sent many of its youth and provided leadership for a particular session. “The added benefit of a shared experience is stronger relationships within the congregation and it has an effect on parish life,” Largent—who directed 18 camp sessions—said.

 

Each week has a clergy or lay director, an assistant director, senior staff and a counselor for a cabin of 10 campers. Senior staff and counselors are trained in the spring, often building lifelong friendships through their shared time together. Lauren and Drew’s fellow senior staff alumni all consider themselves godparents to the Days' two small children, and although many now live far away, they check in regularly.

 

“Our ministry is evangelism and discipleship,” Drew said. “We take care of what we are given: Camp Allen, the Gospel and the kids, because we have the gift of knowing God.”

 

Drew and Lauren’s first dance was during a summer camp session. They moved to a cabin on the Camp Allen property four months after they married. “We brought both our babies home here,” Lauren said. “Every significant moment of my life has happened here and now I see it happening for others.”

 

Drew is grateful that Elijah, 4, and Grace, 2, are growing up at Camp Allen. “It’s full circle for me,” he said, knowing his son and daughter will have adventures similar to those he remembers from Sewanee.

 

Drew has a broad vision for Summer Camp, making sure that counselors and campers alike have transformative experiences in this sacred place that has shaped so much of his and Lauren’s life and faith.

 

“We are most thankful for the faithfulness of God,” he said. “We prayed that we would witness fruit from our Summer Camp and it happens every year, in many different ways.”

 

Drew travels to churches throughout the Diocese to recruit counselors, senior staffers and campers. To learn more, contact him at

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