From Accommodator to Enthusiast

By Jim Vitale

Confession time: when I first moved to Upper Susquehanna Synod territory almost five years ago, I wasn’t super jazzed about camp. I mean, I wasn’t against it. I just didn’t give it much thought. Fresh out of seminary and stepping into my first call, I had enough on my plate to worry about. The Middle Creek Conference of ELCA Lutheran congregations of which I was a part held their meetings at camp sometimes, so I spent some time there. I appreciated its beauty and, in an abstract way, its impact on youth. Once a year I encouraged the kids in my congregation to attend…and that was about it.

I was what Jake Sorenson, camp scholar and author of the book Sacred Playgrounds, would call an accommodator. In Sorenson’s reckoning, there are three kinds of people: enthusiasts (people who love camp and would do anything for it), accommodators (people who think camp is just fine but don’t want to be too involved), and skeptics (people who aren’t sure about the whole “camp thing”). I was no skeptic, but I was no enthusiast, either.

That is, until I attended Family Camp. That everything changed. I had always been on camp’s periphery but once I finally saw the camp community in action, I was hooked. Worshipping around the campfire, watching my boys swim in the pool, singing grace before meals, taking long walks in the woods, getting to know the fantastic summer staff—it was enchanting; and it made me an enthusiast. As we left camp at the end of the week I turned to my wife and said, “I can’t remember the last time I felt so energized and excited about something.” I didn’t want to leave.

So I didn’t.
I was fortunate to be offered the position of Outreach Director, which later turned into Associate Director.

There is a major difference between talking about camp and actually experiencing camp. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the real thing is worth a thousand pictures. I think the difference between accommodators and enthusiasts is that for the accommodators, camp is a theory; for the enthusiasts, camp is an experience. That’s how it was for me. When camp moved from the realm of theory (a series of general beliefs: camp is good, kids should go to camp) to the realm of experience (here’s Jim hiking in the woods and jumping in a pool) it clicked just how impactful this ministry can be. I think most people we would identify as accommodators have simply not had a genuine experience of camp.

If that’s you, then I encourage you to come and have that experience. Camp isn’t just for kids. We are an intergenerational ministry and we would love to have you, whoever you are, whatever age you are, come and see all the wonderful things God is doing here at Camp Mount Luther. Don’t just talk about it. Experience it. Don’t just tell people about it. Bring them with you. Don’t just affirm the idea of camp. Come and be a part of it.

Here are some ways you can jump in:

We hope to see you soon!!!