The Impact of Camp CILCA
An awkward, chubby, and curious child. These words would have very easily described that fourth grader who was being dropped off for five days of who knew what at Camp Cilca. Being raised in LCMS congregations in Quincy Illinois and Hannibal Missouri I had heard of Camp Cilca but I really had no idea what to expect when my parents signed my brother and me up for our first week of camp.
I remember meeting our councilor at our cabin, choosing a bunk, saying goodbye to my parents, and then settling in as other campers started arriving. Little did I know that Cilca would become one of the greatest influences of my life for years to come. In the years following I would attend several camps throughout the summer, both being served and serving others. I could go on and on about getting a net and seining for fish, I could tell great stories about the excitement of underground church, I could tell you about the games and square dancing, I could tell you the friends who influenced me and remained a part of my life even to this day. But really, what I would like to talk with you about is the real orientation I got at Camp Cilca.
I assume there was some sort of official orientation that took place every week of every year that I attended Camp Cilca from the time I was in fourth grade until I was finished with high school, but I do not remember any specific details. I assume that we were told when we would eat in the dining hall, when we would be able to go to the lake to swim, when we would be able to take hikes through the woods. I assume we were told when chapel would be and when we would spend time in scriptures and when we would gather at the end of the day around a fire to again hear God’s word and to celebrate the love of God in Christ in song.
This orientation I am sure was helpful but it was nothing like the great orientation I received in the whole of my time at Camp Cilca. Like many children, my life at home was not always neat and peaceful and as I grew it would be polite to say that I was difficult child and young man. But every time I got to go to that little corner of creation called Camp Cilca, there I was received with not only with acts of love and kindness, but I continued to hear, again and again, about the mercy and love of our Creator for me; that our Father in heaven dearly loves me despite any shortcomings or sins, that He sent His Son into our world to bring us the good news of His mercy by the blood Jesus spilt for me on the cross, that Christ rose up from the grave to give me the promise life unending. These very simple yet unsearchably profound truths were the real orientation that I received time and time again at Cilca. And it was this orientation that has stuck with me to this very day.
As much fun as I had at Cilca, as many memories that still cherish in my heart from Cilca, as much as the friends I made and continue to hold dear, there is nothing as wonderful as the hope that I have in Christ our Lord that was nourished and supported at Cilca. I have not a single doubt that the Holy Spirit used the days and weeks I spent at Cilca to orient me towards the God’s love of me and every person in Christ our Lord.
An awkward, chubby, and curious pastor. These words describe who I am today as I write from my office at Grace Lutheran Church in the heart of Atlanta Georgia. I can assure you that I was more surprised than most that God would call me to be a pastor in His church. But what I am not surprised by it is that the message is still the same. Here in Atlanta Georgia or on the outskirts of Springfield Illinois, the Word of God remains the same. That God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that God sent his Son to save the world through our savior. I hope that more and more people can be oriented towards the mercy of God in Christ our Lord through the mission of Camp Cilca, and I am eternally grateful for the orientation I received as a child that will last for endless ages because of the love of God in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pastor Adam Ellsworth