When I try to recall my earliest memory of Camp Oak Hill, the first thing that comes to mind is the smell. Long before the Activity Center was to be built, check-in was held in the dining hall, and so it was there in 1993 that I stood in line (likely a bit nervous and unsure of myself), alongside my Mom and brother as we waited to be checked in – and I remember the smell. It wasn’t a bad odor – no – , but rather, it was the kind of smell that sticks with you, the kind of smell that in one brief whiff can bring you back to a specific place and time in your life – the kind of smell that you can’t describe to anyone, but makes you want to take a person back to that one moment so that they, too, can share in your memory. It’s a good smell.
Over 20 years have passed since that day in the dining hall, and many more memories were to come. I’d be a camper for 2 more summers, but my brothers would continue on as campers and eventually counselors, and so Camp Oak Hill never really left me. It was a staple in my family’s life – the kind of thing you build your year around. (Perhaps some of you readers can relate.) I remember my brothers telling me in college that I should apply to be a counselor, but I shrugged it off; camp just wasn’t for me, I said.

Then in January of 2007, thanks to the connections I’d maintained through my brothers, I booked Camp Oak Hill as the location for our campus ministry’s winter retreat. If you’ve never been to Camp in January – you should go sometime. It’s a special experience. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll enjoy being outside in 15 degree weather when you have a hot fire and friendly staff to help keep you warm. It was a great weekend. And it was there that Scooter Murphy inquired about my post-graduation plans for the summer, and indicated there may be a position I’d be interested in at camp. “Sure, why not?” I said – and the rest is history.

Fast-forward seven years. Seven summers working at Camp Oak Hill – six as Camp Director – with over 3200 campers and 200+ summer staff taking that drive up highway 96 north. It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has passed. I came to work at Camp Oak Hill at at a pivotal time in it’s history – a time of healing and of growth, a time of dreaming and of vision casting, and a time of soul searching and prayerfully seeking God’s plans for the future. It was never part of my plan – it caught me by surprise, actually – but I’m grateful for every moment and for every person that has helped make this one of the most meaningful times in my life.

Now its time for a new chapter to begin in the Camp Oak Hill story, and with it, a new Camp Director. After years of thoughtful consideration and prayer, it became clear to me in recent months that the time has come for me to move on to new adventures. I’m leaving camp with a full heart, and I’m excited for the path ahead – for Camp, and for me. I’m confident that the best things are yet to come.

I’ve entered the dining hall hundreds – if not thousands – of times now since that first day as a camper in 1993, and as it goes with smells, they tend to fade with time. You get used to them amidst the busyness and the hustle and bustle of life. But the smell is still there. Even after a fresh coat of paint on its walls, from time to time when I enter those side doors, I can sense it – and the memories come flooding back. And I think that’s how it is with life – its the small things that we remember most; the seemingly insignificant moments that come to shape our memories and our lives. The past 6 years have filled me with these small things, and whenever I catch a glimpse of them, I’ll remember my days at Camp Oak Hill with fondness and with love.

Finally, anyone who knows me well knows that I can’t leave you without a quote from my favorite book, Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry – so here you go:

“I can’t look back from where I am now and feel that I have been very much in charge of my life…I have made plans enough, but I see now that I have never lived by plan. Any more than if I had been a bystander watching me live my life, I don’t feel that I ever have been quite sure what was going on. Nearly everything that has happened to me has happened by surprise. All the important things have happened by surprise. And whatever has been happening usually has already happened before I had time to expect it…And so when I have thought I was in my story or in charge of it, I really have been only on the edge of it, carried along. Is this because we are in an eternal story that is happening partly in time?” (p. 322)
Blessings on the journey ahead!
– Brian
Check back soon for a message from our new Camp Director, Michael Orr!