Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. (Proverbs 22:6)
The writing life requires both solitude to be alone with one’s thoughts and conversations with all sorts of people to learn, promote, improve, and have something worth thinking about during the solitude. I met Mary Hamilton at a writer’s critique group. She grew up at one of the Lutheran camps in the same Outdoor Ministry network as Lutherhill where I served for eight years. If you have camper age young people in your life I think you’ll really enjoy Mary Hamilton’s trilogy. And, because Mary really does love camps and the people who work at them, she and her publisher are offering a huge discount to camps that might want to stock her books as a fund-raiser. Check it out.
Camp so real you can smell the campfire. No bug spray needed!
By Mary Hamilton
Growing up at a Bible camp provided experiences and memories I treasure. My dad served as a camp director at Lutherdale from 1956-1975. I’m deeply grateful for the friendships made during those years, a few of which continue today. Even more importantly, I saw firsthand how camp changes lives. Over and over, I’ve heard former campers say they found peace and comfort during their time at camp. Their life at home may have been stormy and uncertain, but camp provided an oasis, a place where they could escape and forget about their problems, as well as a place where they learned spiritual lessons that helped them through each struggle. Lives were turned around and changed for the better because of the influence of a counselor, a pastor, a friendship made at camp.
Several years ago when I decided to pursue my dream of writing a novel, I knew I wanted to set it at a camp similar to the one where I grew up. Many of the staff, counselors and pastors I remembered seemed like characters in their own right. A few of them did serve as models for my story characters, but I needed more than grown-up characters. A story set at a youth camp needs youth.
While I pondered what sort of story I might concoct, two of my children’s close friends from different families experienced their parents’ divorce. In the emotional upheaval that followed, both mothers told the kids, “I don’t want you with me anymore.” These were not problem kids; I’d have taken them into my home without a second thought and I couldn’t imagine what could prompt a mother to utter such cutting words to her child. My heart ached for these kids. That’s when the Spirit nudged me.
There’s your story.
The more I thought about it, the more obvious it seemed. What better place than a Christian camp for kids who are broken by their home life to begin the healing process? I envisioned a series where kids arrive at camp with all their baggage, weighed down by the cares and worries that plague them at home. During their week at camp, they begin to see things from a new perspective. While they still encounter challenges at camp, they also find acceptance, friendship, mentoring, and a personal relationship with the God who will never leave them or forsake them, who sent his own son to pay the penalty for their sins. The God who loves them unconditionally no matter what they’ve done.
The result was a series of stories about a 13-year-old boy whose mother drops him off at camp with the news he’ll be living with his workaholic dad from now on because she doesn’t want him with her anymore (Hear No Evil), a 15-year-old bully who experiences little attention from his dad and is often blamed for his younger sister’s misadventures (Speak No Evil), and a 17-year-old blind camper fighting the lure of a form of pornography and the part he believes it played in his response to his dad’s death (See No Evil).
Perhaps the biggest challenge was to convey the truth of God’s love in a way that didn’t come across as preachy. It needed to be as organic as possible, avoiding anything that might sound like a sermon so as not to turn off the reader. To accomplish this, I created a character based on a pastor from my childhood who illustrated his evening vespers with chalk drawings. He’d start off with a story about an historic or current figure, often an athlete or other well-known person. While telling us the story, he’d draw a likeness of the person using colored artist’s chalk and end by relating it to a scripture passage or Bible story. Like the real life model, this character is a favorite among readers surprised by the interesting and natural way scriptural truth is conveyed in these novels.
Like my dad, I have a deep love for Christian camps and their ministry. It is my hope that these books will not only inspire readers young and old, but that they will encourage participation in Christian camps. If there is any way I can help you promote camping, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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