By Lydia Herriage
Camp Gilmont has some pretty fantastic campers, and we are excited to highlight Lydia Herriage, a 2021 Gilmont Intern.
Lydia is a member of First Presbyterian Church, Dallas and during Youth Sunday shared her thoughts about her most recent experience at camp.
A note from Lydia.
Hi! I’m Lydia and I have been coming to Gilmont for over a decade now and this summer will mark my tenth summer camp. After my first KidQuake, Gilmont quickly became my home away from home. I love doing energizers, silly songs, and arts and crafts. Some of my favorite energizers are Firework and Can’t Hold Us. Gilmont lets me be my silly and unbridled self without fear of being judged. There is no better way to spend my summer than running around in the Piney Woods of East Texas while building new friendships and strengthening old ones. The loving community that Gilmont has created is so infectious that I find any way I can to come back. I have participated in summer camps, Kidquakes, GAP weekends, mission projects, and Circle of Friends sessions. All of these have deepened my connection to myself and my spirituality. I love Camp Gilmont!
By Kenny Rigoulot, Executive Director of Development and Spiritual Formation
Excerpts from a sermon Rev. Rigoulot preached on Transfiguration Sunday
Many people come to Camp Gilmont to spend time with our heavenly father and friends, to reflect on where they have been and prepare themselves for what is to come. Just like Jesus, we need sacred spaces like Gilmont to get away from what is familiar in order to connect with God, creation, others and ourselves. Sometimes the rhythm of our regular routines can prevent us from seeing God at work around us, in us, on us, and through us. Sometimes we need to get away to see something familiar in a new light.
When Jesus took his friends to the top of a mountain to pray, they saw him in a new light (Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2–3, Luke 9:28–36). They had already travelled many miles with him, shared many meals with him, listened to many of his parables, and witnessed him perform many miracles. They knew Jesus—one of them had even confessed that he was the messiah, the son of the living God—but as they prayed with him on that mountain, they saw him transfigured before them. It was as if the glory of God was shining through the pores of his skin. His face was so radiant and his clothes were so bright, that they were almost blinded. It was as if his holiness was shining through his humanity. In that moment, they could see that he was fully human and fully divine!
Then the disciples noticed two men standing beside Jesus, Moses—the great lawgiver, and Elijah—the great prophet. They also appeared in glory. Which makes me wonder – can God shine on us, in us, or through us, as well? What if we truly are filled with the Holy Spirit? What if God is truly at work in us and in the world around us? I believe there are moments when the veil that separates heaven and earth is pulled back and we are able to see the glory of God.
I became a summer camp counselor after I graduated high school. That summer I met the woman I would marry, I started discerning a call to become a pastor, and I got a glimpse of the glory of God. One of the most memorable cabins that summer had a bunch of boys that got along really well. One of the things that made this group so special was that one of the boys had down syndrome. I knew from reading his paperwork, that he didn’t always fit in at school, but his cabin mates at summer camp loved him. They ran together and played together all week long. One day, while I was lifeguarding, I watched as this boy and his cabin mates jumped in and out of the pool - their joy, laughter, and love became a holy moment that took my breath away. In that moment, it was clear to me that each of these campers was a beloved child of God and that the Holy Spirit was working on them, in them and through them. I’m not sure how long it lasted or what broke the spell, but for a moment, the veil that separates this world and the kingdom of heaven was pulled back and I was able to get glimpse of the glory of God as the sunlight glistened on the waters of Gilmont’s pool and the children of God swimming in it.
Have you ever had a glimpse of the glory of God? Perhaps you saw the sun rise or set over the ocean or looked at the vast night sky or felt the breeze blow through the trees and you knew that the creator was as close to you as your next breath. Perhaps you went in to check on a sleeping child and found the light shining on his or her face in such a way that it took your breath away as you gave thanks to God. Perhaps you shared your deepest darkest secret with a friend and realized that they still love you. Every once in a while, something so touching, so incandescent, so alive transfigures the human face that it can blind us, fill our eyes with tears, cause us to fall to the ground in gratitude. When these moments occur, we feel closer to God and others. These are holy moments when the veil that separates heaven and earth is pulled back and we experience the presence of God.
Jesus not only shows us who God is, Jesus also shows us who we are created to be. We are children of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, marked as Christ’s own forever. Thanks be to God!
Sometimes we need to get away so we can return with a greater appreciation for the people and places in our lives. Sometimes we need a break from our routine to get a new perspective on our roles and responsibilities. Sometimes we need to get away in order to get the strength and find a way to break some bad habits, disrupt a downward spiral of negative thinking, or to let go of toxic relationships. We need set apart places to experience the presence of God, to see God and ourselves in a new light, to see things for what they truly are, to recognize the truth that is hidden just beneath the surface, the truth that we are sometimes too close to see, that we are holy because the Holy Spirit dwells in us.
But we can’t all live at camp. Even those of us that do live at Gilmont, cannot stay on top of the mountain. We are all called to go out and share the light and love of Jesus Christ. If we open our eyes, we may get glimpses of the glory of God in scripture, creation, others, and ourselves. How is God working in your life? What is God calling you to let go of or embrace? Know that God loves you, the Holy Spirit dwells within you, and Jesus Christ is calling you to follow and let your light shine!
My family and I recently attended the Gilmont Circle of Friends camp for the first time. I can only describe this weekend and experience as life changing in the most positive and impactful way. I have two sons, one just turned 10 and has autism and the other is neurotypical and 7 years old. This is the first time that our entire family has ever gone on a trip or an outing where all of us were able to relax and have fun.
Usually one parent is “on alert” for needs or redirection. It is rare to be able to focus completely on a conversation. This camp is a beautiful safe space where I don’t have to worry that my son gets too close to peoples’ faces or gets excited and is loud and jumping around. He can be his vibrant unfiltered self and do all the things a neurotypical kid would do at camp like canoe, swim, and zip line- which he did and loved! I trusted the camp staff (buddies) with my kids more than I trust some of my family members, they were wonderful and even sent us pictures of our boys throughout the day.
Most of the time if we asked the boys if they wanted to do something with us the answer was no- they wanted to do it with their buddy. My husband and I in turn were able to have uninterrupted conversations with other adults- to us this is a rare pleasure. We were able to discuss challenges and victories and worship with people that get our day to day life like few families do.
It was amazing, so beyond what I could have ever hoped or expected and I cannot thank you enough. My boys cried when we had to leave and still miss their “best friend” they made at camp. It still makes me tear up to think of what a wonderful experience it was for them and my entire family and we are all so excited to come back again. This camp gave us an opportunity to put aside our struggles and embrace our differences, it was a reminder that we are wonderfully and fearfully made.