Camp Ghosts: Thoughts for Campers and Guests Missing Camp

On any normal year on the fourth Thursday of June, the day I’m writing this, Camp to Belong would be here on the grounds of Camp Magruder. Camp to Belong reunites siblings separated by foster care or state services for a week of camp. Their festivities are loud; in the evenings they have carnivals and dances. The whole time they’re here feels like a celebration. The whole time they’re here is a celebration, of being together, of being physically close, of spending time near people you love. In that way, their program isn’t unique to the countless groups and guests we host throughout the year. It’s about being close to people committed to showing you that you are loved and valued in the community.

Today, I am working from home, as I have for many days since the start of the pandemic. From my open window, I can hear birds chirping, wind in the trees, the ring of the buoy out at the end of the jetty. There are no voices mixed in.  It's quiet here now.

Camp store at 3:00pm on a normal year. I can hear the voices and
 laughter floating up to my house.
There hasn’t been a lot of time for me to process the emptiness of this summer yet. Yet every day I find myself thinking, oh, at 3 o’clock on this day any other year, kids would be lining up below my house at Walworth Lodge for Camp Store time, or I walk by the lake and notice the swim lines and the trampoline that didn’t go up this year. On each calendar day, I think of who would usually be here, and in essence, who’s not here now.

Troy and I have forever talked about how camp is a place that is home to many ghosts. Not the kind of ghosts that haunt your attic from past residents with unfinished business or something like that, but the kind of impressions left on a place that you only notice when a space that’s meant to be busy and poppin’ is empty and still. I think of it a lot when I walk by the playground area at camp. There’s long grass around the Donkey Totem Pole now.  On a normal year that wouldn’t be possible because of the endless footprints that would have trodden the ground there.

I find myself reliving my days as a camper at Lakeshore, the camp I grew up at. It’s not something I do regularly anymore because I’m often inundated with the current camp experience. But it’s random things now. The way my sleeping bag felt as I listened to my friends’ breaths easing into sleep around me, among all the outside sounds you could hear from the platform tents where we slept. I remember arriving and looking around at the new faces and wondering which ones, by the end of the week, would mean much more to me as I waved goodbye.  I remember coming home from camp thinking new, different music was cool that I’d not heard of before camp that summer, music I still think is cool, that I still play on the guitar. I remember laughing playing frisbee. I remember moping around the house after camp because I wasn’t there anymore.
Young, snaggle-toothed Hope, at her first week of camp at Lakeshore. 

As an adult now, I cope by knowing that if there was ever a “right time” not to have camp, a global pandemic makes the most sense. But those memories remind me of something else. They remind me that as a kid, you are always growing, forming who you are going to be. That’s always happening, sure, but developmentally, for kids and youth, the time is always right now. I’ve found myself asking, “If you didn’t have any one of those years of camp, what would be different about you now? What would you not know?”

That question haunts me.

So, to every camper out there, grieving the summer they don’t have at camp, I want you to know that this place is stained by your presence. You made this place a little bit more like you when you came, and we are better for it. I am so sad you aren’t here this year. I think of your names and faces every day.

When you come back, we’ll pick up where we left off. And until then, know that a little part of you is stuck at this place, the same way you carry a bit of Camp Magruder with you when you’re gone. Until you’re back, I hope you continue to know that the communities we share in are what’s sacred, not just the place. The world needs that knowledge right now, so carry it with you.

The site directors for the Oregon-Idaho Camps and Retreats, including myself, will begin furlough on July 1. Please, remember camps during this difficult times. If you’d like to connect we’re all on email, although know we’ll be slower to respond. Until next time... "May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of Her hand."


Program Director


  1. Hope, if you are monitoring this post from June, know that there is a hacker that put what looks like really inappropriate link material in the comments. I didn't follow them to double check, but I hope you can delete him. What he's putting out (I am guessing) is definitely not for campers...Pastor Scott

    1. Thanks Scott. With all of us on furlough, we don't get a chance to check the blog as much. I deleted it and will put a filter up for comments going forward.


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