Every year I take a trip the week before I move out to camp for the summer. The past three years I have gone to Colorado and secluded myself in a mountain cabin to sleep, relax, enjoy nature and quiet, and to pray. This year, I am going to Israel.
Those two are not even close to being the same. This opportunity came out of nowhere—my brother called me one day during lunch asking if I would go with him, and the next day we booked our plane tickets.
As we make plans for our trip, I doubt I will get nearly as much sleep, relaxation, or quiet in Israel.
There is so much preparation required to take a trip of any kind. Travel arrangements must be planned and budgeted. Housing accommodations must be researched for proximity, quality, cost, and amenities. Maps must be studied for directions, trip order, nearby cities, and prioritization of travel. Itineraries must be discussed with detail—coordinating schedules, necessary documents, departure and arrival times and locations, etc.
However, with this trip, I feel like even more preparation is required. I need to prepare my heart and my spirit to stand in the places where Jesus stood and encounter God in a new way. I need to prepare my emotions to not be let down if major sites prove to be less than I expected. I suppose I even need to prepare myself for “Jerusalem Syndrome,” which according to Wikipedia is “a group of mental phenomena involving the presence of either religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis-like experiences that are triggered by a visit to the city of Jerusalem.” Oh my! Surely, I could still have an amazing and adventurous trip to Israel without any spiritual or emotional preparation, but my experience might not be quite as full. My mind and my heart might not be quite as open.
Coincidentally, we have been saying these exact same things to each staff member hired for LLYC this summer. Yes, their jobs technically start the day they show up for work in the Canyon, but we hope and ask that it starts far before then. We ask them to spend more time dedicated toward their relationship with God and reading Scripture. We ask them to be in prayer, for themselves, for summer plans and logistics, and most importantly, for campers.
Yes, they can show up with no preparation and still do an excellent job. They can love people and share about Christ without praying beforehand. But maybe they would be just a little bit more patient and compassionate if they had been praying for this moment for months. Maybe they would endure just a little bit longer when they are having a bad day if they have a verse to remember and recite. Maybe their experience on staff would be a little bit more full.
We invite you to begin preparing for this summer with us! If you are the parent of a camper, you may have already started preparing for your drive out to camp, booking your hotel in Leakey, or scheduling summer plans around your session dates. You may have already started shopping for new tank tops or swimsuits. You may already be cleaning out the ‘ol trunk to start loading. And we invite you to also start preparing your camper spiritually and emotionally for camp.
Sometimes, the best way to prepare is just to talk it out with someone. So start the conversation! What are campers most excited for? Is there anything they are nervous about? How do they feel like their relationship with God is these days? Are there any particular ways they want to grow closer to God this summer? Are there any people they can’t wait to catch up with? Is there anyone they are nervous to see again? Have they started praying about their time at camp this summer? Do they have any unrealistic expectations to talk through, allowing them to enter this summer with an open mind and open heart?
The main reason I take a vacation before each summer is to prepare. All year, we work to prepare for the logistics of camp, staffing of camp, and all curriculum we use at camp. But, in Israel this year, and Colorado in years past, it’s time away to prepare myself.
On opening day, ask me about my trip! We can’t wait to see you (only 40 more days!!!).