Woodston Camp (was going to link to the official AGKansas page, but it doesn’t even get one) is a tiny Assemblies of God campground in the middle of nowhere in Kansas. It’s so middle of nowhere that if you want to ship something there (and I’ve actually done this), you have to specify the mile marker of state highway 24 on the address. Woodston Camp starts on the Tuesday after Memorial Day and ends the following Sunday night. Families show up, help with setup/cleaning/tear-down of the camp, and then go home. The rest of the year, it sits in waiting for the next May to arrive. Nearly all of the people who go live within 120 miles of the campground.
I go there every year. Since middle school, I’ve only missed one year… the first year after I moved to Nevada, and that was only because my sister in her infinite (lack of) wisdom decided that it would be a good idea to get married that weekend. Unsurprisingly, she hasn’t been there since. What makes this story unusual is that from middle school on, I haven’t even lived IN Kansas, and the closest I’ve ever lived to the campground is 220 miles, and I’ve driven as far as 1600 miles to get there. I currently live 1000 miles away.
In fact, even though I’m 31 and have missed several years, it’s likely that I’ve driven more miles to get to Woodston than anyone ever. The number is in the neighborhood of 14,000 miles one-way. I’ve even thought about the idea of getting a pilot’s license to rent a plane to fly within about 15 miles to make the long commute easier.
So the big question is… why do I do this? What’s so special about this place that I make such an effort to go?
Well, I’ll first tell you about the experience. Being in the middle of nowhere and used only one week per year, Woodston is not a place built for comfort. Old people tend to use RVs because that’s the only way they can get any luxury there. Young people camp in tents unless they are lucky enough to get a cabin, which won’t be air conditioned unless you’re resourceful enough to bring a window unit from home. Since the camp is in May and only a week long, most people just suffer through the few days that might get hot and fans run regularly. The tabernacle is basically a barn with a platform/pulpit up front, benches, and 3 giant fans to try to make a hot evening more bearable. If it’s hot enough to turn on the fans, the flaps on the tabernacle can be opened up for excellent ventilation.
There’s no pool, no basketball court, no softball field, no lake, no paintball, no Blob, no hiking, no forest, no hills/mountains, and no anything else you might think a camp should have. I mean, recently the camp celebrated NEW BATHROOMS. 🙂 And you’ll get marginal cell reception, but only if you use the one blessed carrier, Verizon.
The #1 reason I go to Woodston is because it’s a time to cut out the distractions of my life and face God directly. Sometimes, I’m looking for direction, I’m re-evaluating choices I’ve made, I’m convicted of how I’m living for myself, and I’m reminded of my purpose. I use it as a means of comparing where I am now to where I was last year and how I’m trending. Sometimes I come in hot and on fire for God, and other times, I couldn’t really care less and I’m struggling just to keep my head above water. I often think and see very clearly there.
[quote]The second reason I go to Woodston is the people. The only drawing card left is God, so the people who come do it because of God. More than half of the people who stay on the grounds are pastors, youth pastors, or other leaders in the church and all their families. For many of them, this is a large amount of vacation time, and they are making sacrifices to be there. I love being around people like that. I know that a time of prayer isn’t going to just end because we’ve got to go have some fun… so we all seek God together and energize each other. In normal Christainity, I miss having that connection and single purpose of going after God and his ways. Woodston is an ember from the fires of ancient Christianity.
And speaking of that, I often find myself thinking of how the camp started just after the Pentecostal Movement began and how so many people sacrificed so much for that land and all the prayer that has gone up there, and I feel challenged by that and connected to it.
I’ve actually been considering not going to Woodston this year. I’ve got a lot going on in my life right now, and 16 hours one way is a long way to drive. But as I’ve been thinking about it, I find it to be irresistible… I just can’t stay away. I know it’s where I need to be.
So for anyone else who wants to take a few days away from your life and have fun (yeah, I left off all the fun stuff we do find to do) and go after God and you need a ride, you know where to find me. After all, if I’m already driving 1000 miles, what’s a few hundred more? 🙂
AND GOD BLESS THE MIDNIGHT WALKS!