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Essay: Pilgrim Haven

Summer camp was not my idea; it was my mother’s.

“It’s only two weeks,” she said, “It might be fun.”

I didn’t see how a church camp could possibly be fun, especially with a
name like “Pilgrim Haven,” but I agreed to go.

The food was terrible but after every meal we sang songs—not only religious songs but
rowdy songs like “Roll Me Over in the Clover.” I was 11 years old and not sure what
happened in the clover but I wanted to know.

Church camp probably wasn’t the place to ask, I decided, but I did have a chance to ask a question that interested me almost as much.

“Does God punish you for sins you don’t know you did?” I asked the young minister who
led our Bible Study Group. When bad things happened to me for no apparent reason, I
told him, I sometimes asked God to forgive me for “whatever I had done wrong.”

“No,” the young man said gently. “I don’t believe a loving God would punish you for
something you didn’t know you’d done.”

Our little group nodded, sitting in a circle on the grass. And I thought maybe all the bad
food and loneliness had been worth this single answer.