Magruder's Hospitality Discovers Richness in Diversity

March 28, 2018

 Reflections on the Seven Foundations for Camp & Retreat Ministries

Foundation 2: "Extend Genuine Christian Hospitality and Community"

A Perspective from Camp Magruder

by Hope Montgomery, Program Director for Camp Magruder

I look down the table the first official day of the start to my summer.  It’s staff orientation week.  Chef Nick has made us a special meal.  I eat a cookie in celebration, which I promise myself I won’t do again until the summer is over.  I knock elbows playfully with a returning staff member hoping to make them drip their water as they take a sip from their glass.  I listen to a new staff member tell us about her high school graduation and her family’s new dog.  I’m filled with a growing anticipation for what these people will mean to this place three months from now, at the end of the summer.
 
Camp Magruder Staff 2017

The first day of summer staff orientation, one of the first questions I have the staff answer is, “What do you think it means to offer our Christian hospitality?”  Beyond meals and a place to lay their head and a camp map, how can we offer our guests something more?  On the first day of summer, that question is often met with blank stares.  They know the answers, even if they haven’t had to put it into words yet, and if they don’t-- my hope is that they will by the time they leave.  I know that when the very next week I see one of them wading hand-in-hand into the chilly Smith Lake with a camper who is determined to try something new this year. 
 
What are we offering to guests that is more meaningful than just a hotel?  I ask myself that, too.  Those questions can spiral for me.  They begin to point to something else.  Why do we feel compelled to sing around the fire?  Will these meals nourish more than just our bodies?   Despite the beauty of Smith Lake, there are probably more fantastic places to kayak.  Why, despite the cold and wet, do I push off into the water anyway?
 
I know the answer, too.
 
My own memories beside the summer staff singing “The Fruits of the Spirit” tells me there’s more to campfire than the flicker of the flame.  The difference between the awkward, forced conversations during the first meal of camp and the middle of the week meal when campers begin to mix with friends they didn’t arrive to camp knowing is palpable.  Something tells me it’s not only Chef Nick’s cooking making that difference.  The opportunity to share a vessel on the water with a friend wakes something primal in me and helps me understand them a little better.
 

Camp Hope at Magruder
Camp Hope @ Magruder

There’s a quote by Martin Luther King that helps guide my steps as I try to discern that question for myself: “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”  Community requires that we extend ourselves, across barriers and beyond fear to really see and welcome each other.  I believe it takes creativity to do that.  Creativity to imagine how to overcome those barriers.  Creativity to see a path to reconciliation.  Creativity that can see the light that brings us together, rather than the darkness that pulls us apart.  I believe that the work I do at camp necessitates creativity like the kind that MLK is talking about. 
 
Camp Magruder welcomes groups from a diverse range of backgrounds and missions, and each staff member will naturally become more connected with particular groups whose missions touch closer to home or whose staff they really connect with. The summer staff work particularly close to our groups as they share meals, play games, lead activities, and sing songs beside guests that come through in the summer.
 
Usually by the time the summer staff has left at the end of the summer, many of them have sought me out to share their “aha!” moment in pursuing an understanding of Christian hospitality.  I remember Rikki Earle, summer staff ‘15-’17, telling me of the love and acceptance she felt when she first met the guests from Camp KC, a camp for youth infected or affected by HIV.  As they got in their cars to leave after their week of camp, the staff of Camp KC, in turn, told me how welcomed they felt by Rikki, and how at home they felt here at Magruder.  Anna Allen, summer staff ‘15-’17, saw the lives of Camp to Belong campers change because of the safe space she was able to help provide.  Camp to Belong reunites siblings separated by foster care systems.  As a twin herself, I could see the union of siblings strike home for Anna. 
 
Maddy Hickerson, summer staff ‘16-’17, sums it simply, “Christian hospitality taught me to treat people the way God sees us.”  Community and Christian hospitality allow us to really see the people we’re serving: their pain, their joys, and their stories, and to welcome them into our home. To extend Christian hospitality to our guests is to have the creativity and the courage to invite them into our community and to help them grow in theirs. 
 
So even though it is more than just the meals that Chef Nick has prepared for us, that’s actually not so far off.  It’s offering a seat at our table to eat and share in a meal recognizing that sitting together and eating together-- sharing our lives with one another-- is how we grow close and how we overcome those barriers that seem insurmountable.

Peace,

Hope

© 2014 Camp and Retreat Ministries:

A partnership between The Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church
and The Episcopal Diocese of Oregon