In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fun to feature a real life camp romance. Cleo Lampos is with me today to share her story. Welcome, Cleo! Tell us your story.
It wasn’t supposed to turn out like it did.
My one week stay at Camp Joy at Whitewater Lake in Wisconsin as a junior high counselor promised to add to my resume’ for teaching school on Chicago’s South Side. I loved Camp Joy, having attended every summer since its inception eight years earlier. For this child of an alcoholic, one week away from the chaos and fear inherent in a dysfunctional family kept me hopeful that life held more than despair. The Bible lessons, the tranquility of the lake, meeting teens from other parts of the Midwest, prayer and praise. All these camp experiences bathed my soul with healing balm and energized me to seek the Lord. Of course, I met young men and we talked about the issues of life on the shore of the lake, but one or two fleeting letters after camp and these male campers disappeared into the busyness of their distant lives.
That summer of 1968, I arrived at camp in my tan Volkswagen Bug with a suitcase and a verse from the Bible that had kept me focused during my four years at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5-7. The promise in that scripture for guidance led to a contract for a teaching job in a district on the South Side of Chicago near a large urban church that I planned to attend. The youth pastor of the church, Jim Shaw, recruited me to counsel the teens from their church at Camp Joy. I agreed, and drove from my mother’s home in Fort Atkinson, ready to share my faith which had deepened during four years of college.
Attaining a teaching degree enveloped most of my time and energy. I needed to maintain my grade point average to keep my scholarship. Working twenty hours a week in the library for spending money precluded any serious dating, so, unlike many colleagues, I left college with no marital prospects. Attending meetings with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship provided a basis for me to deal with my stepfather’s drinking, and to learn to trust my Heavenly Father for guidance. A final season at camp meant closure on so much of my life before starting adulthood and a teaching career. I looked forward to being young and carefree just one more summer.
It wasn’t supposed to turn out like it did.
I immediately bonded with the energetic teens in my cabin. All twelve of them burst with questions and stories about their lives. In no time, the counselor in me kicked in and confidence in my own abilities to relate to urban girls increased. At this camp, the campers earned badges for activities such as swimming, archery, talent, and crafts that were stenciled on a sash. Keeping up with the sashes meant spending time in the lunch hall during afternoon devotions. It was there that I noticed Vern. Not that he hadn’t been noticed up to this point, because I had zoned in on him the first night. Medium build, tan, black hair, recently discharged from the Navy. His activity assignment was teaching the safe use of rifles. Quiet. When he contributed to the counselor meetings, Vern spoke with spiritual insight. Believe me, during my four years of higher education, few men impressed me the way that he did.
Vern appeared at a loss with the stenciling of the badges on sashes. After finishing mine, I wandered to his side of the room and helped him. As we brushed paint on the badges, we talked about our dreams and hopes. Vern spoke of his recent faith in Christ and the commitment to discipleship he already had taken. The time flew quickly that week. Each day I walked to the rifle range to spend time with him. By Saturday, my heart belonged to the easy going boys’ counselor who lived somewhere in the city of Chicago. Vern and I said good-bye with two cabins of teens giggling around us. Driving my Volkswagen Bug back to my mother’s house and later to Chicago, I reminded myself of my life verse. “Trust in the Lord.” Proverbs 3:5-7.
Forty-two years, three children and ten grandchildren later, I know that my times at camp were divine appointments prepared by my Heavenly Father. Humanly, it shouldn’t have turned out the way that it did. But, my God had been working through His plans for me each year at summer camp.
Cleo Lampos graduated from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with an Elementary Education major and from St. Xavier University in Chicago with a Master’s in Special Education. For 26 years, she taught behavior disabled/emotionally disturbed or fourth grade in an “urban school in a suburban setting.” She has been published in numerous magazines and is author of Teaching Diamonds in the Tough:Mining the Potential in Every Student. Lampos collaborates with the worship team at Calvin Christian Reform Church in Oak Lawn, Il. She and her husband are urban farmers who contribute to Share the Harvest which supplies fresh produce to eight food pantries in the Chicago area. She is happy with the way her life has turned out by trusting the Lord.