In the summer of 1966 the denominational conference to which the little church belonged had a camp meeting outside Frostburg, MD. The first week was a youth camp and the second week was an all-church camp - I think I have the sequence right. Anyway it was two weeks. An older couple from the church drove me to Frostburg. It was hot. Since the car didn't have air conditioning we rode with the windows down. The wife put her right arm through the sleeve of a shirt so that it wouldn't get sunburned while resting on the car door during the ride.
I don't recall discussing the camp with either of my parents, though I must of done so with my Mom. In essence I decided I was going and that was it. On the other hand, thinking back, the folks at the little church must have done some behind the scenes work for me - otherwise how could I have gone? I didn't have any money to speak of. I didn't pay anything to go. I did agree to work at the soda fountain in the conference center during the two weeks, but that would hardly pay for two week's of camp meeting.
(By this time I was either living at my Mom's or I decided to live with her upon my return from camp. My return ride was via a widowed Dad who had kids at the camp and who belonged to a church in Silver Spring. Since my Mom lived in Rockville he gave me a ride to her house on his way back to Silver Spring from Frostburg.)
Camp was great. Being around other teenagers was neat. The services were exciting. During the regular camp meeting week I sang in the choir and loved it. Pastor Valentine from Baltimore led the choir and generated excitement in everything he did. I still recall some of the songs we sang: It Took A Miracle, The Song of the Soul Set Free, A New Name In Glory, Wonderful Grace of Jesus - oh how we sang those songs! I was in heaven.
Sometimes the other kids talked to me about things I didn't understand. Once I was asked my opinion about whether women should "bob" their hair. I didn't have a clue. Then one morning, following a night at which I'd been at the altar for quite sometime with people praying around me, the other kids wanted to know if I'd been sanctified or baptized with the Holy Spirit. I didn't know what they were talking about. I did try to understand - but wasn't sure what was going on with me or what they were talking about. I suppose I was the first teenager from outside the denomination to have attended the camp in a while.
If you are reading this with a critical attitude give it a break. You see, the story here is that these kids accepted me, they invited me into their lives. These adults were kind to me - a kid who needed kindness. That camp meeting gave me something that I had never experienced - and it is only as I write this now, almost 44 years later, that I see it ever so clearly - that camp meeting introduced me to joy.
Singing in that choir, having wholesome fun with other teenagers, being around adults who were kind - I felt safe...and I experienced joy. This joy is more than emotion, it is the joy of which C.S. Lewis speaks, a joy found in beauty, a joy found in a window of time, a joy found in a vision, and a joy found in others. Joy penetrates our heavens in many ways - it first penetrated my heavens in a camp meeting in Frostburg, MD in 1966.