By Mary Salim, Antiochian Village Camper
St. George Church, Little Falls, New Jersey
“Just thirteen insigniﬁcant days at camp, out of the seventy-ﬁve days of the carefree summer, will ﬂy by with hardly any memories,” was what I said to myself the entire time before I reached the Antiochian Village, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I dreaded the mere thought of having to go, and the activities that I eventually would do with absolute strangers. You need to know this if you’re going to see how beautifully I was surprised.
I was presented with many joys to the eyes: the countless trees wavering in the winds, ﬂowers blooming, shaking shrubs in which little animals lived, different-colored stones in the earth, the hills screening the horizon, and singular birds soaring through enormous blue skies. Being in the midst of God’s wonderful creations moved me; I felt blessed and in harmony on God’s good earth, as if I were in His beautiful Garden of Eden. This peaceful scene struck me as a preview of heaven, a foresight of our ultimate destination, to be one with God in Paradise.
I have to admit that it was a bit challenging to make friends on the ﬁrst day, but by the second day I had unconsciously become part of a strong family. Maybe this was due to my outgoing personality, or maybe it was the magic of these heavenly surroundings, but I developed unbreakable bonds with several true friends by the third day. Maybe it is due to the fact that I went through each day so joyously yet thoughtlessly, with continuous activity – playing sports, dancing at evening events, eating in the cafeteria, praying everywhere, and learning so much in Christian education. Whatever the reasons, I became a part of something new and amazing, something I never even knew existed, something with which God brightened my life and strengthened my faith. Being at camp helped me to see the goodness that lies within each human being, taught me the wonderful embrace of a non-materialistic lifestyle, and helped me experience the beauty of God’s world.
Not only was I learning about the Bible, but I was also living, breathing, and experiencing it. Jesus Christ ﬂashed a light into the windows of my soul, rekindling my faith into a burning ﬂame that will never be put out. Going to camp has permanently marked me, making me not want to ever leave, for being here is like being in a perfect world ﬁlled with love, friendship, humor, unity, and prayer. This magical land has become my new home and place of refuge when times get rough, for when I am here, I feel directly in the presence of God. I know that when I go back to my house in Jersey, I will carry this Spirit that I have received at camp. Truly, this Holy Spirit has now found a secure place in my heart. Although I knew this Spirit was inside me, I was unaware of His power to make such a drastic difference in my life. Going to camp, meeting lovely people, and especially receiving the Holy Spirit has made a deep impact on my life, and now it is my job to bring the Holy Spirit to the rest of the world – whether it be by telling people about Him, reading the Bible to others, or even through the words of this short article.
I hope that you walk away from this passage feeling a fraction of the way I felt and will continue feeling forever. The only thing I regret is wasting the years of my life away from camp – for only if I knew what going there would do, I would have gone without thinking twice. So here is my ﬁnal advice to you: please take advantage of going or sending your children to the Village, because the few days there can affect your life in the best possible way.