There is a God-given desire in all human beings for community. Right from the beginning, God said to Adam that it was not good for him to be alone.
Starting with friendships to marriages to families to villages to towns to cities (you get the idea) there are people reaching out and depending on one another. What makes this desire for community so amazing is that it can happen even with a group of strangers. Once there is a common bond, a shared understanding, suddenly relationship and togetherness form a lasting connection.
Echo Ranch Bible Camp has been a catalyst for community since 1964. And now with resources like the Internet, Echo Ranch alumni can seek out their friends and catch up on old times.
Echo Ranch has been online since the 1990s, but in the last few years, we've gotten into things like MySpace and Facebook, the online social networking Web sites.
Recently, a former camper and counselor named Elaine Berry posted a message on the Echo Ranch Facebook page:
"My sister Robbie and I attended Echo Ranch as campers 1983-88, then as counselors 1989-90. We are from Las Vegas but came to Juneau every summer to be with our dad who lived there. Just wondering if there is anyone else out there from that era. Echo Ranch gave me some of the best experiences and memories of my life. I was good friends with a group of girls from Juneau. Some other names I remember are Sam Giovionucci, Linda Lettkeman, Fish, Merle, Adeline and Uncle Dean. Just looking for ties to old friends. So glad I found this group!"
I decided to contact Berry and ask her more about her experience at Echo Ranch:
Q: How did you hear about Echo Ranch?
A: One year my dad picked up an Echo Ranch brochure and had heard it was a great camp with a lot of fun activities. When I heard about the horseback riding, I was sold. My sister and I convinced several of our friends in Juneau to go as well.
Q: What games or activities were some of your favorites?
A: I loved canoeing, horseback riding, the sky trolley, camp fires, and playing group games like Capture the Flag.
Q: What do you remember about your counselors?
A: The counselors were the best part of camp. I remember having such respect and love for these people who gave so selflessly to the campers. They were fun, full of life, excited to be there, and came from all over North America. I was amazed at all the different personalities and the senses of humor. I remember laughing a lot. I remained pen pals with many of them for years. Now I'm trying to re-establish contact through Facebook.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories from camp?
A: I have so many great memories from camp it's hard to narrow it down to a couple favorites. I always loved the banquet at the end of the camp week and the fun show the counselors would put on for the campers. I'll always remember sitting around the camp fire at sunset on the beach, looking out at the ocean and snow-capped mountain. One year we even saw the Northern Lights from the beach.
Q: How did spending all those summers at Echo Ranch make a difference in your life?
A: I gained some amazing experiences that I never would have had without Echo Ranch. I loved being away from "civilization." In the early years at camp we did not have electricity or running water. A lot has changed to make things more comfortable for campers. But being away from the daily barrage of media and technology for a week is so invigorating and something most kids don't get to experience. This time away allowed me to focus on what is really important in life, and build strong friendships. No matter what happens in my life, I'll always have those amazing memories and experiences, and my relationship with Christ to fall back on.
Q: What would you say to someone wanting to send their child to Echo Ranch?
A: I would recommend that parents send their children to Echo Ranch for the full camp experience of creating close friendships, participating in outdoor activities, and establishing a spiritual journey and relationship with Christ, no matter what religious background they come from.
I've never met Berry, but I have certainly spent time at Echo Ranch. Reading over her responses brings back my own memories and makes me want to share them with someone else. I'm sure there are many other Echo Ranch alumni out there, and I encourage you to connect over Facebook or through the Alumni Page on echoranch.org.
And just think, this summer will begin another generation of campers and counselors that will only add to this Echo Ranch community.
Jon-Michael Gwinnell is a staff member at Echo Ranch Bible Camp. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.