Camp as Calling

By Chad Hershberger

When I was about eight years old, one Sunday during Sunday School, we heard a presentation about Camp Mount Luther. I knew that kids from my church in Lewistown had gone there before. I don’t remember much about the presentation, but my interest was piqued.

For weeks, one of our Sunday School teachers was relentless in asking me if I was going to go to camp. Back then, third grade was the first age you were able to attend Camp Mount Luther. She asked repeatedly, week after week, encouraging me to give it a try. I asked my parents, and they agreed I could register.

I signed up for the week that most of the kids from my church were planning to attend. Having never been to camp before, we planned when the big day came to travel with another church family whose kids were also going to camp.

They picked us up and we traveled the hour distance to the camp. I met my cabinmates, my family left, and my first week of camp began.

I absolutely loved my first week of camp. So much so that I knew at that early age that I wanted to be a counselor someday. I had a neat counselor and a cool group of cabin mates. It was fun, and I just couldn’t wait to go back the following summer. To me, God’s kingdom came to life at that place. I felt it in the people and saw it in their actions. I felt God in the beauty of creation and how faith came alive at camp.

The following year, my parents said I had to help pay for my camping experience.  The church paid part of it, they would help, but I had to help, too.

That winter, every time it snowed, this boy went across the street from my house and shoveled his neighbor’s sidewalk. The neighbor was impaired from a stroke suffered years ago. All the money I made from shoveling the neighbor’s walks was put towards my camp week. The neighbor was pleased to help in this endeavor. Knowing what I wanted, she probably gave a little extra payment, especially on days when the snow was deep. I even took time out from my week at camp to send my neighbor a postcard and thanked her for helping me go to a place that I truly enjoyed and loved.

I continued to go to camp every year after that, through my upper elementary years, middle school (even going to three years of ten-day camp because I loved it so much) and three years as a senior high camper. It was an experience I looked forward to every year. Then, the day after my high school graduation, I packed my car and headed to camp because I was hired as a counselor. I wanted to experience Camp Mount Luther for an entire summer.

For five summers, I worked on staff at camp. I was a counselor for two years and a program director for three. They were some of the best times of my life! I made lifelong friends, had experiences and adventures that I never would have had if not for camp. And most importantly, my faith in God grew as I worshipped, played, and prayed in God’s great outdoors. When my final summer of camp was over, I thought I was the end of my time at camp. But God had different plans.

My first job out of college was in Sunbury, just a half hour drive from Camp Mount Luther. I was elected to the camp board, serving five years as both secretary and president. I enjoyed being on the governance side of camp, making decisions, learning more about the behind-the-scenes operations, and continuing my involvement in an important ministry. I always dreamed of working full-time at camp but figured that it was just “pie in the sky.”  Well, God had other plans, and the rest, as they say…is history.

In late 2000, when the director who I worked for most of my summer staff years resigned, I was encouraged to apply and then was hired as Executive Director. I’ve now served 23 years in that role.

I truly believe that God led me to Mount Luther. As I look back on events, particularly in my being called as camp Executive Director, I see and feel a strong pushing of God that this is where I need to be in this time and this place.

And I want you to know that God is calling you. God gives love and goodness abundantly and we need to respond by showing that love and goodness in our lives.

When have you sensed or heard God’s call to go and do or say something? What might God be tugging on you right now to do God’s work in this world? When I was growing up, my pastor used to tell me, “Chad, when God taps you on the shoulder, don’t say ‘no’.”  Is there something that God might be telling you to do for this church, your family, or your community. How can you make the message of God’s love for us through Jesus Christ come alive in a new way today, particularly to those have been dealing with a worldwide pandemic for two years?

It may not be easy to do the thing that God calls us to do. But lately, the phrase, “With God, all things are possible,” has run through my head frequently.

Listen to God. Follow where God is leading, even if it made you go out of your comfort zone. Sometimes, those things that we do that are new (like going to camp) can lead to a lifetime of memories and service to God.

I know that happened to me. The encouragement of a Sunday School teacher led me to do something new and try Camp Mount Luther. That first experience led to years of making friends, being in God’s creation, and growing in faith. It also ultimately led to a long-term career to share my passion for outdoor ministries, but most importantly share the love and goodness of God to others.