SUTHERLIN, Virginia – What better way to spend the summer days than creating, learning and having fun outdoors with friends?
This weekend, Camp Selah Ministries hosted its second and final overnight camp of the summer, drawing children from Pittsylvania County, Newport News, Harrisonburg and other areas of the state. The property includes a camp pool, a recreation pavilion, arch-shaped dormitories, an outdoor chapel, a playground made of wood and recycled materials, a prayer maze, a stream and a few kilometers of trails, including the ‘one was traveled by George Washington.
Camp Selah’s mission is to “enable God’s creation and the unconditional and creative camp environment to help children have fun, make new friendships, and experience God’s love in new ways.” . Professional staff at Selah Camp prepare and lead camp activities designed to encourage children’s individual creativity and provide opportunities for collaboration and shared experiences.
Lauren Purgason has a background in education and is one of the overnight camp directors.
“The main thing is to get the kids out,” Purgason said. “This is what we hope for: that the children spend a lot of time outdoors this weekend in God’s creation. So many kids these days, no matter where they live, don’t do that, so this is, I would say, our goal for the next three days: to get them out and then remind them that it is. the space of God. “
In addition to hosting the overnight camp a few times a year, Camp Selah is also used for religious and family events, respites, and swimming lessons.
Sallye Hardy is chair of the board of directors of Camp Selah Ministries and is a long-time camp leader. Hardy is currently working on a doctoral program in Children and Spirituality at Union Seminary, “to study how nature can help reduce anxiety and how it all relates to a child, to their mind.”
“The reason forestry schools are so big is because they are multisensory and take kids out of what you call visual closure,” Hardy said. “When they’re in a classroom, they’re in a fixed space; when they’re outside, it lasts forever.
Camp Selah strikes a balance between raw, unbridled joy and thoughtful tranquility, as children spend their camp days playing, making art in various forms, singing songs, telling funny stories, petting donkeys, enjoying campfire snacks, swimming, hiking, thinking and praying. .
Another director of the night camp, Margaret Snyder, has a master’s degree in marriage and family from Virginia Tech.
“The reason it’s so good for kids is that it’s just healing for their minds, for their bodies,” Snyder said. “That’s what kids are designed to do: run, play, jump, scream, swim. They are not designed to be stationary; their body is not made for that … If [adults] to say, “solve this math problem” is not going to engage somebody’s brain and soul. And part of what engages children in the outdoors is this sacred urge to play; it engages the core of who I am. Adults have it too, we just hide it… that hell of a urge to play, explore, challenge yourself to do the thing that seems too hard… If I’m sitting in front of a screen or playing on a tablet , it’s just not the same. “
The theme for this year’s camp jersey was “Unplugged,” as campers and staff spent time off-screen to better experience the world around them.
“The idea is that they are playing fair,” Snyder said. “They just dance, and they play, and they create and they challenge each other, and it’s really fascinating to watch.”