by Mardi Tindal – former CIT, Staff, Director, United Church of Canada Moderator
Before I get to the popcorn, let me tell you about how long Camp Big Canoe has been important to me.
I was a young C.I.T. during the camp’s first year of operation which tells you that I’m old. My favourite story from that year is about how Chief Lorenzo Big Canoe lit the opening ceremonial fire. He had the greatest Canadian name!
Following many summers of counselling, I served as Director in 1974. Two decades later, with sons Chris and Alex who were by then old enough to accompany me, I returned to direct from 1991 to 1994. It was a pleasure to have Paul Logan co-direct during much of that time.
The camp’s reputation as a place of spiritual nurture, is deep and wide.
The depth of spiritual awakening was for me captured in a moment after evening vespers on the last evening of third session in 1991. A nine year old camper asked to speak with me privately. Such a request is enough to make any camp director’s heart race over what might have gone wrong for a young one at camp, but such worry couldn’t have been farther from the truth. She said shyly: “I didn’t want to say it out loud in the group tonight but I want you to know that I’m taking something really important away from camp. I’ve heard people in my church at home talk about how something has to happen inside you before you know the real joy of being a Christian – like a kernel of corn popping inside. I’ve wanted that to happen to me, and I want you to know that my popcorn popped at camp.”
That young camper articulated what many of us have a hard time describing. It has to do with the deep joy of knowing you’re part of a loving community, whether you find yourself inside a faith community otherwise or not. Such joy gives us the confidence to show up as our true selves – and support others in doing the same. Camp has given countless of us opportunities to lead when we were young and has formed extraordinary leaders for every kind of community that you can imagine. It was another deep joy for me to see Chris and Alex become fine leaders at camp. It was time then for me to move on and make more room for them.
A typical comment from a mother’s letter on the return of her son says it well: “I knew right away that he was changed – he looked better, his eyes sparkled. He was calmer and more loving of a person… The United Church of Canada should be very proud that they have an outfit like Camp Big Canoe with them.”
The church is proud of Camp Big Canoe (and it’s even elected a couple of former staff members as Moderator).