Conforming to This World
By Kent Busman
What's remarkable about this camp is that while other camps were building zip-bang-boom and buying jet-skis and ramping up technology, Fowler was scaling back. Fowler was committed to leaving a smaller footprint and stripping away all that clutters. It challenged the assumptions about camp programming for kids and stiff-armed a high-energy, high-tech, high-demand, high-passion, high-pressure youth ministry assault—in the name of Jesus.
—Roger Nelson, Fowler volunteer
Camp Fowler's ministry is conforming to this world. Not, of course, in the Pauline sense. But in the incarnational sense that this world matters to God, and that how we interact with it—care for it, enjoy it, suffer alongside of it, mourn it—is important as we raise young people in the faith to follow the One whom we claim "became flesh and dwelt among us."
Over the last 25 years, and the last 10 in particular, Fowler has made intentional decisions that have taken into account how the world's natural systems operate. During that time we have:
- Transformed our kitchen into a whole foods kitchen where almost everything is made from scratch on site. This includes using some produce from our own gardens (enriched by compost of previous summers' food waste) and eggs from a donated flock of chickens.
- Installed photovoltaic systems that now power almost 50 percent of our electric on site (no easy feat in an Adirondack climate).
- Installed composting toilets that save 250,000 to 300,000 gallons of water a year and help preserve a fragile lake ecosystem.
- Taken out roads through camp and reduced excess lighting, allowing us to reclaim both the ground and the sky for our campers.
- Sold organic and fair trade articles in the camp store so that others who will never hear about Camp Fowler will benefit as well.
- Run a day camp program with Albany Synod churches to provide quality activities and ministry to many children, particularly in urban areas of upstate New York.
The amazing thing is what happens when we trust children enough to give them what they need rather than what culture says they want. As one former staff member put it: "There is hope in a place where children give up their iPods to watch in amazement how compost turns into vegetables."
Fowler is an amazing place.
It's a place that conforms to time so that children can be fully present—head, heart, body, soul—all in one place.
And Fowler conforms to space that honors time so that conversations and relationships can be nurtured and bear fruit.
By conforming to the rhythms of God's world, Fowler can begin to put the lives of some of our campers back together.
We do fewer things with our campers now than we did 20 years ago, but in slowing down we are deepening the experience each camper has. A good example of this is making Adirondack chairs. This is an all-day project that involves problem solving, group cooperation, and lots of communication. In the end they have a beautiful result that will be enjoyed by many through the years. Similar things could be said about hiking a mountain, paddling a river, sailing a lake, or orienteering through a bog.
We know that as life is slower, simpler, and quieter kids will hear the chorus of creation singing in a language that doesn't need translation.
And when children have the time and space to encounter a God still active in this world, their eyes are opened to the hope and possibilities that lie before them. After all, being Christian is more than professing Christ. It is learning how to conform to the ways of Christ in this world of wonders.
To find out more about Fowler, you can check out our website at www.campfowler.org, but better yet, come see us in person. We'll set another plate on the table.
Kent Busman is Camp Fowler's executive director.