Camp as Inspiration

By Chad Hershberger

Create a dictionary. That’s what Diane Hallinan told her seventh grade students one day. It was their next project in reading class. The students did many interactive and creative activities to demonstrate their learning with Mrs. Hallinan. And she gave them freedom to pick their topic.

Mrs. Hallinan instructed her students to think of a broad topic and then come up with words that they could write definitions for. Those words would be about the main topic. Students could illustrate their dictionaries and make them as creative as they wanted to be.

It was September 1984. The school year was only a few weeks old. The student sitting on the second floor of Lewistown Middle School who heard these instructions was me.

When I pondered what topic I might cover in my dictionary, I struggled to decide. And then it dawned on me that the topic that I knew a lot about was Mount Luther. So, I created “Mount Luther Madness” a dictionary of words (from A to Z) with descriptions of places and activities that we did at camp. I had to write pronunciations for the words and I used colored pencils to illustrate some of the words, like A-Center, crafts, Pine Lodge, ropes course, and Zip-line.

The dictionary came complete with an index, table of contents, and a dedication to five staff members who made my 1984 camping experience an enjoyable one. In what would be nine summers as a camper, 1984 ranks up there as one of the best and I knew it was because of the great staff I got to work with that year.

Recently, I’ve been cleaning out old stuff, particularly papers I’ve collected over the years. I came across another writing of mine from when I was in high school. And this made me remember “Mount Luther Madness” and how for me, for a long time now, camp has provided inspiration for me to use my creative gifts, particularly with writing.

Even since I was a young kid, I’ve loved writing. One of my elementary school memories is being asked to draw a picture of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember drawing an A-Frame cabin (Mount Luther influenced me even then) and me, sitting upstairs, at a desk, writing.

As I’ve thought about my dictionary, my written reflections over the years, and how camp has influenced who I am, it dawned on me that camp is inspiration. What we do at camp, the people we meet, and God dwelling among us ignites inspiration in us. At the very least, we are inspired to go back out into the world and share God’s love. Some have been inspired and have found their calling through camp. And others have been inspired to create dictionaries, speak, or write words that were influenced by Camp Mount Luther.

I wonder what ways camp has inspired you? Feel free to share those with me at I will end with writing I did as part of my Writing Arts class during my senior year of high school. If I recall correctly, we were to describe in detail a setting. My inspiration was sleeping out in the field at camp. It’s something that was popular during my time as a camper and counselor in the 80s and 90s. And that experience inspired me to write this:

Waking up, I see a blue sky above me filled with floating, cumulus clouds. I sit up and in front of me, there is a grassy area. At the end of this field there is a row of trees, lining a macadam road. Rubbing my eyes, I look to my left and see more of the wide, open field. There is a maze of trees at the edge of the field, where small animals frolic. Behind me I view a large, rectangular building which is in front of an equipment shed. A smaller building is by a swimming pool, which is directly behind me. The field continues on my right, stopping at the road which is lined by a row of trees. A badminton net is near this road. I stand up and walk on the grass beneath me. My day has started in a wonderful place!

P.S. I got an A on this writing and on my dictionary!