When I first arrived at Wartburg College to study religion, I was met by a number of people who kept telling me to work at camp. I grew up involved in Boy Scouts, so I knew outdoor living and loved it, but Christian outdoor camping? I never knew it was a thing! As spring approached, one of those people slapped an application down on the table and told me “Dan, you’re working at camp!” I wasn’t given much of a choice, but I am glad they did. I arrived here at Ewalu without a clue what to expect. Looking back now three summers later with a fourth in full swing, I can confidently say outdoor ministry and Ewalu specifically has transformed me! What kept me coming back each summer and sometimes the fall was and still is, the community that is alive and active in these woods. The relationships that I have formed with other summer staff members will last a lifetime. The volunteers I have been given the privilege to work alongside in the fall and spring have shared so much knowledge and experience with me. And it is clear that God is at work in all of those people that have made this place a sacred playground for thousands of children, youth, and young adults for almost sixty years!
Ewalu has also been the place I have been able to discern my calling. When I arrived for my first summer on staff here back in 2016, I knew I wanted to do youth ministry. Since then, with a lot of thought, prayer, and conversations, I have accepted a call to ordained ministry and will begin seminary training this Fall at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. The transformation I have sensed here is also what compelled me to take a three-week Lutheran camp tour/study for my final credit course at Wartburg College. During those three weeks I, along with another student, traveled to nine different Lutheran camps and had the opportunity to tour them, interview their directors, and serve each of them through various projects that were ongoing during our stay. Investigating outdoor ministries practice and philosophy in various places, I discovered an even deeper love and drive for the ministry that happens at places like Ewalu and I want to search for ways to continue to serve the ministry during and after seminary.
One of my favorite times at camp is every Sunday afternoon as campers arrive. As staff meeting wraps up each week the excitement builds as coordinators organize their registration tables, counselors get to their meeting spots, and campers fly out of cars in excitement for the week ahead. It is amazing seeing the difference camp has on children who return from year to year. Their first summer, some arrive with caution and seek out familiarity. But then the second, third, and for some eighth or ninth summer they come back, the first thing they do is look for the friends they made the summer before. Ewalu serves the body of Christ in such an exciting way that leaves people transformed. I am so excited for this summer’s theme, Transformed Community, because I have witnessed and have been a part of the transformative community that God works through each summer and I cannot wait to see how God transforms this community this summer!