Have you ever had one of those dreams where you were running? I have. The scenario always changes except for the fact that I need to get away and fast.
In one dream, I was in a school and an administrator was right behind me. There was some sort of conspiracy and I had the answer but "the man" was trying to get me down. Freedom was down a long hall way and in dreams I can run super fast. It's a good thing, because once I was out of the school I kept on running. Maybe you have never had a dream like this but I bet you've had the feeling of wanting to get away.
No one likes being trapped. Visible and invisible boundaries are always keeping us down. How can we escape? As children we are blessed with the gift of imagination. With imagination a child has the ability to go beyond what's in front of them to worlds and adventures as far out as their mind will take them. A sandbox is really an ocean where pirates do battle. A forest can be a magic land where a secret treasure is hidden. The problem is that one day reality sets in and the gift of imagination is put to the side. Responsibility and the pressures of this life require that we stop playing games.
The adverse effects of life take an enormous toll on us. Struggling to break free uses a lot of energy. If there is no relief in site then we tend to panic and at some point give up all together. I can't imagine what would've happened in my dream if I had stopped running. I couldn't just let "the man" get me down. Although the hallway in my dream was a good distance, there was hope that I could reach the end. I was motivated by the idea that however dismal my situation there was going to be a positive outcome. We all could use this reminder from time to time.
At Echo Ranch Bible Camp, youth can be woken up to the idea that hope and imagination are still good things and can be used in positive ways. With the advent of video games and movies these are skills which are rapidly fading. I enjoy watching movies but there is part of me that shuts down and I let the director do all the work.
At camp, we set up the scene in the form of a game but it is up to the camper to fill in the empty spaces. The 7- to 9-year-olds have no problem with this. They are still young enough to grasp this concept. It is the older campers that need the help.
Our overall slogan in 2009 is "Let the Adventure Begin." Each summer, camp week has its own theme. Wild Wild West, Medieval Mayhem and Search for Treasure Kingdom.
For the little kids, we also have one Wizard of Oz themed week. Now, a 13-year-old may look at our brochure and think, "I am too old for this." But it may just be the very thing they need. Six days away from home and the opportunity to fire up their imagination before the flame goes out. He or she will have a camp counselor who will encourage them to keep going even when the activity seems pointless or dumb. They might actually crack a smile and laugh a little.
Echo Ranch helps to challenge youth to look beyond what's in front of them, to look beyond what is keeping them down. We all struggle in this life but that does not mean we give up. There are days when our existence seems pointless and without meaning, but nothing could be farther from the truth.
Camp is a living metaphor of life without boundaries that is demonstrated on a weekly basis. God has given us the gift of imagination. He has allowed our minds to reach for greater concepts for a reason. The fact that our lives feel lacking at times should direct us to God.
In the Bible, Jesus says, " ... and the truth will set you free."
Jon-Michael Gwinnell is a staff member at Echo Ranch Bible Camp. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.