Pilgrim Pines has always been a special place to me both geographically and spiritually. The brief rundown of my experience at camp begins with my infant baptism in the Strand Chapel, and from 1987 until 2014, there had not been one summer when I couldn't bear the title of camper, summer staffer, camp director, or volunteer. As a child, staying two weeks at family camp and a week at Squanto defined my summer. When school would let out I could not wait until we went to Pilgrim Pines, and when we got home the countdown to next summer would begin.
Seven months ago I became a father, and ever since, my perspective on just about everything has changed. The concept of time and experiences now span beyond my own perspective but now from a generational one. I've begun to see my relationship with Pilgrim Pines is not just my own but is a piece of my past, present, and future family's history with camp.
My Mother grew up in Chicago and had not heard of Pilgrim Pines at all until she went away to Camp Squanto at a young age. Her stepmother grew up in Orange, Massachusetts and had a connection to Pilgrim Pines. And so, a Midwestern girl without any prior knowledge of the East Coast or New England came to have some formational time at Camp Squanto. She has recalled to me fondly of her watching the lunar Landing in 1969 when they wheeled in a television set into the old dining hall.
As life would have it my mom would end up in New York and start a family with my dad. When they were deciding where to take family vacations my mother remembered the place where she spent her Summers as a kid. To think that those experience she had when she was much younger would have such an amazing impact on my life is incredible to think about. When she was sent to Camp as a young girl she had no idea that she would be discovering a special place that would nourish the spiritual well-being of her and her lineage.
Having gone to Pilgrim Pines for just about every summer of my life, I have had numerous spiritual experiences on its sacred grounds. When I was in times of doubt and trouble, the Pines would become my spiritual well from which I may take a drink and encounter Jesus when it seemed like it had been awhile. When I have been at my closest with Jesus, I've returned to camp and have been able to be the servant rather than the one being served.
Pilgrim Pines is a living place for a variety of reasons. Through nature I can experience the revelation of God, the Holy Spirit speaks to me through the smells of pine and the gentle breeze and even the smell of frying oil from The Snack Shack. Jesus sits down with me at a bench as we look out at the water together and he shows me how much he loves me. Camp gives to others through its holy ground, and it is such a blessing for me to be able to say that I have been able to serve as part of Summer Staff and full-time staff. At Pilgrim Pines I've met my closest friends, fell in love with my wife, laughed the hardest, cried the hardest, and most importantly, most tangibly felt the love of Christ.
My daughter, Eliana, will someday be a camper at Camp Squanto. My wife, Kiera, and I cannot wait until we spend our first week at Family Camp and get to see Eliana encounter Jesus in the ways that we both did when we were young. Pilgrim Pines will always be in my heart because of my past experiences there, but there is a new way in which I love camp. I not only love camp for what it's been in the past or what it is presently for me, but I also love the future of Camp and the ways it will bless my children and my children's children.
The best part about all of this is is that my story is not unique. Pilgrim Pines has been such a sanctuary for so many generations of families that continue to retreat in Swanzey, New Hampshire. Maybe someday my daughter Eliana will get to watch the Mars Landing in the new dining hall. And so the cycle continues.