Day 35: Isaiah 42:1-9
Anyone who has experienced Camp Don Lee has also experienced the work of the Lord’s servants through our camp. As it is said in the first verse of chapter 42 in Isaiah, God has chosen and upheld us who serve Him. As those within the camp ministry, the Lord puts His Spirt in us. We have been called upon so we may bring justice to our world.
But what is our vision of bringing justice to the world?
In this passage, Isiah tells us that the servants of the Lord do not raise their voice or use violence to deliver justice. Instead, with faithfulness as their guide, the Lord’s servants bring justice through demonstrating God’s righteousness. True justice is not this big, grandiose, act that must be done on a global scale. That is because justice is not an act at all, it is an idea and value that everyone is inherently deserving of what is right.
Justice is cultivated and created through communities that value it. Camp Don Lee is one of those communities. With deep rooted values of inclusion, radical acceptance, and empowering others to be the light of God, Camp Don Lee quickly became the place that I love best.
When I first arrived to Camp Don Lee for the first time in 2018, I had no idea the community I was about to experience. I had put my trust into God (and into a friend who convinced me to work at a camp I’d never heard of), and dove right in. While working five seasons at Camp Don Lee, I saw first hand that justice is built within in a community. It is built when we make sure everyone is squeezed onto the same bench at morning watch. It is also experienced when we give everyone a space to speak at vespers. You can watch it happen when someone makes sure everyone gets a dinner roll. By instilling a value of justice into our community, it brings justice into the world.
Bringing our values outside of our community is how we bring justice to the world, because only showing that light within our own communities isn’t what God called His servants to do. He called us to go out and bring justice to the world. As we hear the cry for justice and righteousness in our world, we need to keep in mind that we are capable of creating change by reflecting our community’s value of justice onto the world.
Prayer: Lord of justice and righteousness, breathe your Spirit into us. Compel us to show others justice in our everyday lives. Let the light of our values shine into the world. Amen.
Submitted by: Hannah Kate Mulanax Grobin - former summer staff member
Day 36: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
My Leader in Training (LITs) group (1993) was nearing the end of our four week beautifully grueling journey. Our coordinators, Clif Ferrell and Cathy Cameron, invited us to think about what gift we wanted to give to camp as a thank you. We met with Rev. John Farmer (Camp Director at the time) to glean possible ideas. Among the many things he shared that morning, the one that stuck out the most for our group was the fact that there was no outward or visible sign to anyone going past camp on the river that Camp Don Lee was a Christian camp.
A full on discussion ensued that ended with our group settling on the idea of placing a cross at the end of the pier. Yes, such a symbol might be foolishness to many, but for us, and we prayed for many others, it would be a clear sign of the power of God at work in this place that God has so clearly blessed. With that settled, we set about the work of building and installing the cross.
For over 25 years (1993-2018) this same cross stood at the end of the Don Lee pier. It somehow (though I think we all know how) withstood every hurricane and Nor’easter that hit the Neuse River. For thousands it became a powerful centering point. For me as a staff member (8 summers: 1994-2001) and for my son, Stuart, a camper (8 summers 2014-present), it was the first place we went upon arrival at camp and the last placed we stopped before departing. Too numerous to count are those who experienced the saving power of God sitting at the foot of this cross.
Then came the fall of 2018. A horrific hurricane tore through camp leaving virtually no building or space, including the cross, unscathed. For a moment it looked like all might be truly lost. But with God, everything that looks like it might be an ending, simply becomes a new beginning. The NC Camping Ministries Board, Director Kate Metts, Camp Don Lee staff, and many of you did what you do best. You went to work. Camp was literally rebuilt in a matter of months. What looked foolish and or impossible, became reality! To cap it off, the 1993 LITs reassembled for a reunion in January of 2019 and restored the cross to the end of the pier!
Today there remains at Camp Don Lee at the end of the John Farmer Pier, for all who pass by on land or sea to see, an outward and visible symbol of God’s redeeming love made known through Christ’s saving work on the cross! Yes, it may seem foolish to some, but for us, for those whose lives have been transformed by the incredible ministry of Camp Don Lee, it remains an unending source of strength and hope. Thanks be to God!
Prayer: Loving and Redeeming God, we give you thanks for your steadfast love that never ends. May the message of the cross continue to rescue the perishing, provide hope for the lost, and serve as a reminder that your love for us never ends. Amen.
Submitted by: Ben Williams- Former camper & summer staff member, current camper parent & pastor in residence. Pastor at Christ UMC in Chapel Hill, NC
Day 37: Hebrews 12:1-3
I see echoes of this scripture in the Don Lee experience. If you have ever been to Camp Don Lee for a day, you know the word race would be appropriate to describe what goes on during the summer. From morning watch to lights out, the staff works hard to facilitate activities that range from fun to silly to spiritual. They pack a lot into each day at Camp!
From the staff in the kitchen, to the program staff, to the counselors, to the director, Camp Don Lee creates an environment of a great cloud of witnesses that often follow campers long after the wash off the Neuse Juice and head back home.
Back at home, campers hear all sorts of messages about what they should look like, act like, and focus on. Camp Don Lee provides campers and staff that place to throw off extra baggage, get rid of sin, and fix eyes upon Jesus.
How are we taking time for sabbath so that we can hear the voices of the great cloud of witnesses who speak the truth of the Gospel to us? Do we put down our phones and fix our eyes upon Jesus instead? What are we doing every day to get rid of the sin that trips us up? We may not be able to spend time at Camp Don Lee this summer, but let’s make some space for Don Lee moments in our lives where we stop, enjoy the breeze, listen to the crowd of witnesses in our lives, and spend quality time with our God who loves us so much!
Prayer: Living God, grant us Don Lee moments of sabbath in our busy lives. May God bless all who spend time on the pier this summer! Amen.
Submitted by: Mary Frances McClure- pastor in residence and mom of a summer staff member. Pastor at Bethel UMC
Day 38: John 13: 1-17, 31-35
One of Jesus’ last acts of service before his crucifixion was washing his disciples’ feet, even those of Judas who would soon betray him. Afterwards, Jesus charges his Disciples by saying “you also should wash one another’s feet”. He explains that no one is better than anyone else and calls them to serve in this same way.
Camp had a way of reminding me of this. At Don Lee no matter where your group of campers or the staff on your team came from, we were all equal. We all had to cook and eat that meal in the woods together, help each other over the wall on the challenge course, do our part during Capers, go without showers on overnight camping trips, and have our boat capsized during a tacking drill. No matter what school you went to, where you were born, or what you wanted to do in your life, Camp had a way of bringing everyone together and humbling us.
After washing their feet, Jesus says to his disciples that they cannot follow him where he is going and tells them in verse 34 and 35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Don Lee was an environment where I had to work with others, I was different from in so many ways, yet we were and are called to love and to serve each other. It is because of the acts of service shown to me by my fellow staff members and campers that the light of Christ was so apparent to me at Camp Don Lee. In the same way that we were called to enter a community and love those different from us at camp, so we are called to do this in the world. Because that is how we shine the light of Christ, and that is how the world can tell we are set apart, through our love and through our service.
Prayer: Dear Lord of service, help us to put aside ourselves so that we might serve others selflessly and love sacrificially in the way that you have called us. Amen.
Submitted by: Anna Britt Harty- former camper and summer staff member
Day 39 (Good Friday): When hope seems lost
From time to time, it feels like you just can't win and the worse will happen no matter what you may do about it. Over the last few years, we have been "visited" by several hurricane and big "northeasters" here at Don Lee. The Don Lee pier has been washed away several times in recent years. In the fall of 2005 the pier was lost. After many prayers, fantastic financial support from generous givers, and outstanding volunteer labor we had the pier back in place for summer 2006. This drew hard on our resources of willing volunteers and long time supporters. When the hurricane season ended in late fall of 2006 and the pier was still there, there was a sighing of overwhelming joy and thankfulness. But it was only a few weeks later that those feelings seemed to be premature. I had felt we had made it without a loss to the pier. We had a bright road for the coming months. Then a huge storm with northeast winds blew into the river. The water began to rise all day long, the forecast was for it to continue to rise and it seemed immanent that the water would come over the pier.
As dark began to fall, I could see the water had overtaken the lower dock and was within only a few inches of the top deck boards. During that long night the wind continued to blow and I went to the pier three or four times to check, not that I could do anything. I just needed to know. When first light began to appear I went again to the pier. The storm has passed and the pier was still there. Yes, the lower docks were gone, but the main pier was firmly in place. There was a special indescribable joy that came over me and a feeling of special blessing. I drove out of camp and down the road to see how the general area had fared. As I turned around on the main road and stopped to look down the road back at camp, one of God's great promises was given to me again. There was a full rainbow in the morning light arching from beyond the airstrip back into camp and the end of the rainbow was positioned about where the end of the pier stands. What a feeling of resurrection and new life. What a feeling of new birth and absolute hope came over me as I was reminded once again, Don Lee is a place that God has blessed!
Submitted by: Rev. John Farmer- Camp Director for 38 years, retired in 2015
Day 40: 1 Peter 4:1-8
Camp Don Lee was the place I first learned to “love deeply” as the NIV version of the letter suggests. It’s also the place I honed my ability to “think like” Jesus as the MSG version encourages us. There was safety from the camp community to emerge as a Christian leader. There was safety to make mistakes and be forgiven; or make mistakes and have a sailing staff patch back your rudder; or make mistakes and have a chance to try a new experience the next day. Jesus showed up with teachings throughout the adventures of a day at camp and sometimes more profoundly in the seemingly mundane walks to meal times than the best of John Farmer’s morning watch sermons. Camp Don Lee taught me that to think like Jesus means to appreciate the beauty of His nature and His people. When we see beauty around us, loving people and Creation deeply becomes that much easier.
In the years since my last summer at CDL, the lessons of leadership have grown with me into the secular workforce. We can accomplish so much together when we love the people on our team. I know it’s been a good day in the office when I feel connected to my community. I’m an encourager and an ally. I’m a coach and a student. I’m a forgiver and a whistle blower. Don Lee formed these identities in me and showed me how Christian servant leadership empowers the lives of others. My time at camp also taught me that being the best servant requires me to value my own mental health. Thank you to my fellow campers and staff those many summers, my counselors along the way, and the leaders who were and are there year in and year out ensuring God continues to bless that strip of land along the Neuse.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the everyday glimpses of what it’s like to think and love like You. Form in us a posture of encouragement and gratitude for the community we currently reside. May your lessons and beauty continue to bless Camp Don Lee. Amen.
Submitted by: Andrew Tait- former camper and summer staff member