By Jim Vitale

Most people put cars in their garage. I have two tons of dirt in mine.

That sounds like the beginning of some dark confession, but I assure you the reality is actually quite tame. While my family and I were living in our previous home in beautiful Beavertown, PA, we spent a lot of time (and money) making the best soil we could for our garden beds. The soil recipe was roughly: 50% topsoil, 50% a mix of compost, peat moss, vermiculite, coconut coir, and some other things. This loamy cocktail produced the ideal environment for growing big, luscious tomatoes; crispy green beans; crunchy lettuce, kale and chard; vivacious carrots; and aromatic cilantro, parsley, basil, rosemary and oregano.

This soil was full of good, natural ingredients and infused with our blood, sweat, and tears. It began when one day a dump truck came and dropped two scoops of topsoil (which doesn’t sound like much but is actually a massive quantity of dirt) into our driveway. We then spent weeks mixing it with the other ingredients in small batches and carting it to the backyard to go into the garden beds. We poured our heart and soul into that dirt.

And so when it came time for us to move, we decided to take our dirt with us. It was just too valuable to leave behind. It took a few days to do it. I spent hours shoveling, loading, and hauling the dirt from the garden back out to the driveway where it started. Then I rented a U-Haul, laid down a tarp in the back, and started piling in the dirt. The next day, a generous executive director of a local summer camp and I drove down to my new house in Harrisburg and unloaded all the dirt into the garage (I had no idea when my wife and I would get the garden beds built, and I didn’t want the rain carrying our precious soil away).

So here we are—one year later and that good soil still sits in my garage just waiting to be utilized. Every time I go in there to get my lawnmower or a toy for my kids, I feel as though it is chastising me, saying “Come on, man. When will I get to see the sunlight again?” Paul says, and Andrew Peterson sings, that “all creation waits with eager longing for the children of God to be revealed;” (Romans 8:19) sometimes I think I can hear my garage dirt groaning—not necessarily for the revealing of the children of God, but perhaps for the arrival of some vegetables to nurture. It’s taken us longer than we hoped to get a garden bed together; it’s our hope that come next spring, we’ll be ready to plant once again.

As I thought about this new blog we’re launching here at Camp Mount Luther, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dormant dirt in my garage, full of potential, waiting to be utilized.

We’re calling the blog Good SOIL and we have good reason for the new name. SOIL is an acronym for Camp Mount Luther’s four core values: spiritual formation, outdoor adventure, intentional community, and leadership development. These are the four values that drive our participation in God’s ministry here at camp. These are the four things that everyone who comes to camp, kids and adults alike, will experience. We believe these values lie dormant in every child of God, waiting to be awakened and nurtured and fed. And we hope, through this blog, that we can bring a little of camp to you so that you can get a taste for these four values wherever you are.

Our hope is that every blog post will touch on at least one of these core values in some way. Sometimes we’ll write a story about something that happened in the history of camp. Sometimes we’ll share some insights about children, youth, and family ministry. Sometimes we’ll talk about creation care. Sometimes we’ll offer a devotional reflection on a passage of scripture we find particularly important to our life at camp. Most of all, we hope that by reading these articles, you’ll feel (even if only for a moment) like you’re back at camp, in that beautiful place set apart by God to nurture God’s people in the life of faith.

So, come and get your hands dirty. We hope you enjoy digging around in this Good SOIL!