Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp and Retreat Center has been a life-changing place for me. I was a camper. Years later I was a camp counselor. Years later I served on the camp's Board of Directors. I point to my time at Caroline Furnace as the defining moment when my Christian faith became my own. My family and my home church provided the pillars of my Christian faith but it was at Caroline Furnace where the true foundation was laid for my choice to live a Christian life. At Caroline Furnace, I have spent time with other giving and loving Christians when I was a child, as a college student and then as an adult; these experiences have provided me with lifelong friendships, endless adventure and delight, sooo much laughter and joy, skills as a leader, and a strong unplugged connection with the majesty of our Lord's creation. Caroline Furnace is a wonderful, empowering place for children of all ages whether it's the summer camp program or year-round retreats for children and adults. It will always be 5 stars for me!
This place is my refuge from my busy, divisive and snarling life working in our nations' capital. Trail runs/hikes in the morning when you can spot squirrels & deer roaming through the woods and chill out to the sounds of nature. Comfortable cabins with brand new heaters in them. A wonderful staff that are friendly, accommodating (I have a daughter with a disability who uses a wheelchair) and help you connect with Jesus on your own terms. And a feel to the entire place that just makes me happy inside. We have been enjoying Caroline Furnace for 8 years now and we won't be stopping any time soon!
I was a camper at Caroline Furnace for 7 glorious summers. I met my best friend there, I met Jesus there. You could say I grew up there. Now I am a mom to three campers who attend every summer and are spending the best weeks of their childhood at this magical place. Caroline Furnace is a part of our hearts forever.
I was a camper, then a counselor, and this summer I will be a parent to a first time camper. I’ve also run weekend retreats for adults at the camp. I’ve worked and gone to a few different camps— church-affiliated and not— in my lifetime but something always brings me back to Caroline Furnace. It goes beyond the amazing location to the fact that the camp, though leadership has changed in its over 60 years, has maintained a space that is focused on kids and creating the best possible experience in nature for them, all while showing them and telling them about Grace and love. I wish that everyone could have the opportunity to experience CFLC.
This is a life-changing organization. The work they do increases confidence and self-esteem. They provide space and time for rest and self reflection. Most of all, the experiences at Caroline Furnace make God real and personal to those who participate.
They have a long track record of ministry, offering the summer camp program and year round retreats for six decades. This is a place where faith is nurtured, and where many children and youth discover a personal relationship with Jesus, realizing that faith can be their own... not just what their parents have given them. Among the college aged young people who serve on the staff, a discovery of a lifetime call to service and/or ministry is common.
I know these things because I have lived them. I first was involved with Caroline Furnace in 1984 as a first-time camper. I returned annually as a camper for seven years and then as a summer staff member for three years. I’ve remained involved as a volunteer and donor ever since. I served on the board of directors for six years and now my children attend each summer. My faith, my closest friends, and my entire life are changed for the better because of Caroline Furnace.
There's just something really special about Caroline
For most people, referencing home or where they 'grew-up' means a house or maybe even a town or neighborhood where they lived as a child. For me, going home to where I 'grew-up' means going to an unassuming, beautiful place hidden in the Blue Ridge Mountains called Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp. I was a camper there for 7 summers when I was a child. I met my dearest friend there; I met the Holy Spirit there. I learned how to paddle a canoe, build a fire, and take a shower in under 2 minutes. And there is no place in the world that feels more like home to me. Now my children are campers at Caroline Furnace and a new generation is getting to experience a week of living in the woods, creating masterpieces out of yarn and Popsicle sticks, singing songs about yodeling ostriches and that one tin soldier riding away, and collecting slag.
The truth is I could probably write a hundred essays about Caroline Furnace, my summers there, and what it means to me. But for the purpose of this contest, I'll limit it to what happened on a Saturday in April, not too long ago.
This weekend I'm referring to was the annual spring work weekend at camp where volunteers are recruited to do much needed work around the camp grounds and facilities before the busy summer season. I waffled for a few weeks on whether or not we could attend because my midterm for my graduate thesis was due in a few days and I wasn't sure I could really spare any time over the weekend. On Wednesday I said to my husband, 'do you mind if we go to Caroline Furnace on Saturday for work weekend?' Don't you like how I said 'we'? Of course being the amazing man that he is, he didn't hesitate at all. Even though he was never a camper there, he gets it about Caroline.
So we decided to go down for just the day. Like good little campers we filled our water bottles, put on our I-don't-care-if-this-gets-dirty clothes and got on the road only slightly later than I intended. I knew from emails and Facebook that several old camp friends of mine would be there, including a friend whom I hadn't actually seen since the last time we were at camp together -- over 20 years ago! As I drove the familiar curves of the back-mountain road a little faster than I should have, I felt my heart quicken with excitement and couldn't help but smile as memories came flooding back. It happens every time.
When we arrived, many people were already off doing their assigned morning tasks, since a large number of the volunteers had come up the night before. We were greeted by one of my former counselors, who is now on the camp's Board of Directors and the driving force behind work weekend. After sharing a few hugs we were quickly sent to our assigned areas. The kids got to be on the 'kid brigade', I was put to work helping clean in the kitchen, and my husband was ushered off to help with work being done at the camp director's house. I felt a small twinge of guilt and worry because I knew my husband wouldn't really know anyone and it might be awkward for him. But I silently prayed he would not feel too out-of-place.
As I walked in the kitchen I found my friend Shannon, the one I hadn't seen since we were kids. We immediately embraced like long-lost sisters and I felt none of the awkwardness you sometimes feel when you run into old high-school friends you haven't seen or talked to in years. We caught up quickly, as I was aware I was there to do a job. There were a few other people I knew or recognized, and many I didn't, but within moments we were all working side-by-side like we'd been scrubbing kitchens together our whole lives and it was the most natural thing for us to be doing at that moment. As I chatted to some of the other folks I found out some of them had been former campers, some former staff, others were parents or spouses of former campers or staffers. But everyone was there, gladly giving up their Saturday, because Caroline Furnace had touched their lives in some way.
I later found out there were over 70 people that came throughout the weekend to get dirty, sweat, and share their camp memories. Some of us knew each other before the weekend, others didn't. But you wouldn't know it looking from the outside in, because we all seemed like old friends in moments. We were only there for 7 hours that day, but by the end my kids were begging me for playdates and sleepovers with the new friends they'd made and worked alongside, my husband was laughing and shaking hands with several guys he had just met that morning, and I was hugging tightly onto many friends, knowing it would not be soon enough until I saw them again.
As we pulled away I told my husband how much I appreciated him coming with me and spending his Saturday working on a place that was not his childhood home (or even childhood camp). And he said 'are you kidding, I loved it! I may not have gone to camp here as a kid, but our kids do, and I get why this place is so important to you. There's just something really special about Caroline Furnace.'
Yes. Yes, there is.
Review from #MyGivingStory
My sons have been attending Caroline Furnace for the past 7 years. This is a very special camp, they have made friends, created memories and connected to the living Christ in ways that will stay with them throughout their lives. Each year as we arrive to drop them off they say "We're home!!"
I could not think of a better place to send your children or to share your resources to help fund this ministry.
God Bless you Caroline Furnace!!
Review from Guidestar