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The Heart of Winnataska

This blog post was written by Michelle White, a third-year staff member who will be working with Horses this summer. Thank you Michelle, for sharing about your love for camp!

Every first day of school, as far back as I can remember, a teacher has asked me to write about the highlights of summer. As a child, I wrote about Winnataska every time. I only came to camp one week per summer, but that week was always the crowning glory of those three months of freedom. A friend of mine will experience camp for the first time this summer. When Staff training was over, and we were driving out of the gates, he looked at me and said, “I don’t want to leave; I love this place.” He’d only been there for approximately fifty hours. Something about Winnataska snags your heart and makes you wish you never had to leave. What is this something that makes camp so special?

Aside from riding horses, perfecting your archery skills, climbing in the falls, and eating the glorious cooking of our beloved chef Ms. Edna, you spend your days at Winnataska making friends. Some of my very best friends are from camp; you build relationships that cannot be easily severed.  At camp I learned how to be a good friend. I also learned to be a leader at camp - how to step up and take initiative. I learned in order to lead you must serve. I faced my biggest fears at camp. I am not a huge fan of heights, so climbing the rock wall and going on the zip line were immense challenge for me. (I didn’t listen when they said to not look down.)

I learned how to be myself at camp. Like anyone, I have weird little quirks, and as a kid, camp was one of the places I felt safe to be my true self. Everyone cuts loose at camp and lets the masks of perfection fall off. and everyone is silly. I could write for hours about all of the things I learned a camp, but the most important thing I have taken away from Winnataska is how to love and how to be loved.

The freedom to give love and feel love at camp is the center of the spirit of Winnataska, the heart of Winnataska is Christ and His unyielding love.  I learned how to love from the Leaders and Staff that came before me. They lavished so much love, not only on me, but on every child at Winnataska, no matter how much we annoyed them. Campers and my friends taught me how to be loved. I have had campers walk up to me, and know little more than my name, and tell me that they loved me. It blows my mind - they don’t know anything about me how could they love me? Just as mind-blowing is the love my friends on staff who know everything about me, and will look me in the eye and tell me they love me, despite knowing everything they do about me.

I am also guilty of both of these things. I have told campers I loved them, when I only knew their name, and I tell my best friends I love them, even when I know everything about them. Neither is a lie. Just as Christ can look at us and see everything, including what we want to hide because we have deemed it unlovable, He says that He loves us.

Camp is where so many people say they feel closest to God- I know I do. It’s because of that love. Camp is the place where you are accepted and loved, no matter what baggage you come with. It’s the place where you find people to help you unload that baggage and draw close to the Savior who takes it all from you.

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