Abi Fuesler is currently attending Brevard College in Brevard, North Carolina, where she is pursuing a degree in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education with minors in Business and Environmental Studies. Abi is the youngest member on the UMCRM Association Board of Directors and is the biggest fan of Frosted Flakes in the entire Western Jurisdiction. Abi has been passionate about camping ministry since the first grade, when she knew that she was called to be a camp counselor. When she isn’t at camp or studying, Abi is FaceTiming her chihuahua, who is living at home with the rest of Abi’s family in San Diego, California.
In an effort to learn more about why camp is special, I interviewed my best friend, Maya McLeod, whom I met at Camp Cedar Glen in Julian, California 11 years ago. As long-distance friends for all but one of those years, camp was the one week out of my year that I was guaranteed to spend time with her. Now that we can’t have that time as campers, I cherished a little time with Maya to reflect on our experiences. After conversation regarding Maya’s recent wisdom teeth extraction, the following discussion ensued:
Abi: So Maya, what do you think it was about the camp atmosphere that allowed our friendship to form?
Maya: Well, for one you’re just dropped off with random strangers. We could put our best foot forward in our effort to make friends. Plus, you’re living in community with these people 24/7 for a week.
A: Without technology, too, you really have to connect with people.
M: Yeah. I feel like it’s that “we’re all in this together” mentality. Like the bugs might be crazy one year, and as unpleasant as that is, it’s a shared experience that a group of people who were initially strangers are having together. That’s one way that I will always be able to relate to those people.
A: How has camp impacted your spirituality?
M: I think being in nature is where I feel most spiritual because I’m away from distractions and I can really see the beauty of God’s work.
A: That’s a good one. I think one of the reasons my faith is strong is due to my counselors. I was surrounded by these cool 20-year-olds and I realized I wanted to be like them. When they displayed their spirituality during campfire or praying before a meal, young Abi saw people with strong Christian faiths. I’m sure part of me was aware that if I was going to be a positive influence in others’ lives, I should really look towards Christianity as a guideline for how to be that positive influence, if that makes sense.
A: Why do you think UM camping is something that needs to continue happening in the world?
M: It’s so much more rewarding than doing a “craft camp” at the church or a YMCA thing. It’s like you get that same experience of making friends and getting away from home, but gain so much more. I can’t explain exactly how it works, but growing as a person and in your faith identity has to be a part of it.
A: What hopes do you have for the future of camp ministry, Maya?
M: Oh, gosh. I hope it doesn’t change a lot, honestly. Growth is a good thing, but I hope people know camp doesn’t need the latest gadgets to be a place of significance. Like with all the technology, I feel like it’s just going to turn into glamping, you know?
A: Yeah, that’s totally valid. I would say, too, that I hope camps do more to be of service to the outside community. Church and camp and the way I was raised and all sorts of things have taught me that being of service is a big part of the Christian faith. It’s easy to feel really fulfilled and stoked on life when you’re at camp, and sometimes when I’m in that mindset I forget that there are others out there who aren’t feeling that fulfillment. I get excited when camps work to serve populations inside of camp that wouldn’t ordinarily have access to that fulfillment, or camps go into the world to reach people that way.
Thanks to Abi and Maya for giving us a window into their friendship and encouragement in our work to impact young campers’ lives.