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Whenever someone joins the Camp community, we sing. Whether to first-time campers on Opening Day or a visitor who drops in to share a meal in the Dining Hall, girls always sing a rousing rendition of the Camp DeSoto welcome song (to listen, press play on the link above.)

I mean, that’s got to feel pretty great, right? To be celebrated just for showing up? To be sung into the community and offered not just a word of welcome, but a whole song? Come on!

And the truth is, we are mighty glad you’re here! The air really does reverberate with welcome!

You are here, you’re one of “the gang,” and you belong.

That’s something I’ve been thinking about lately - how Camp is a place of belonging.
And I think the belonging we feel at Camp can teach us a lot about God’s love.

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Think about when you were first sorted into a tribe. What an exciting moment! Sitting on the floor, listening to the cheers all around you, wondering, hoping, expecting, waiting. Whether you drew out of the hat or were placed in the same tribe as your mom or sister, once your tribe was announced, there’s no doubting that’s where you belonged.

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Running over to join the Cherokees, Creeks, or Chickasaws, you were enveloped in a sea of red, blue, or green. A senior camper probably pulled you into a huge hug. Within seconds you were wearing beads, feathers, and stickers in your tribe’s color. Even without a tribe shirt, you were already one of them. And didn’t that feel good, to be embraced by a tribe of cheering Camp DeSoto girls? To belong to them? It’s one of the happiest times at Camp.

Belonging is a pretty great gift to give one another. It’s a space of safety and love. A space of knowing that whatever comes our way during the month at Camp, we will share it. We won’t be alone.

And it’s not just about you being welcomed, its about welcoming others, too! You might be sung the welcome song on the first day of your first summer, but after that you get to sing other people in. And once you become a member of a Camp DeSoto tribe, you become the one welcoming other girls and covering them with stickers!

It’s the same with God’s love.

Once we recognize that we’re enveloped in God’s love - that we belong to God’s family - then we get to love others and include them in the belonging, too!

Take a look back at your cabin pictures from the summer - doesn’t the one from Opening Day feel different from the silly one taken on picture day? Of course it does! In the second one, you belong to one another. You’ve shared your daily routines (waking up, cabin clean-up, devotions) and thrilling surprises (Fireworks! Christmas morning!). You’ve saved spots for each other at the Sunday night picnic and squeezed your whole cabin onto one bench at Worship Sing on. You’ve danced your hearts out together at assembly and sleepily filed into Morning Watch, one behind the other.

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You’ve lived side by side for a month, and your belonging to one another has deepened. At first, you belonged to each other because you were placed in the same cabin. Now you know each other and you have shared life - fun times and disagreements and everything in between. This is an even deeper, sweeter kind of belonging. Now, you feel safe with one another. Now, you are even more free to share your whole self.

I think that belonging to God is a lot like that, too.

We are God’s, because God made us. We belong! It’s a million times better than joining a tribe at Camp DeSoto. And just like living with our cabin mates for a month bonds us together, as we live our lives with God and the people he created, we get to know him even better.

Our belonging deepens, and in the security of God’s love, we are more free to share our truest, silliest, most beautiful self.

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Sarah Hurt

About Sarah Hurt

Sarah Hurt is the Director of Camp DeSoto. She grew up playing in the woods of Lookout Mountain, swimming in Little River, and spending her summers as a DeSoto camper. She loves good stories, twinkle lights, her dog Riley, and Camp DeSoto girls most of all.

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