July 2021, I picked up my 15 yr old nephew, Roberto, at the airport on a Friday afternoon. He was going to be a teen staff at the Family Camp where my husband Ed, our two sons and I attended every summer for a week for 17 years.

Roberto and his mom, Ed’s sister Sandra, attended for 9 years and Roberto staffed last year and staffed again this year. Family Camp was a place for our family to review our year, reconnect with our little family, make new family
friends and rejuvenate our individual and family faith. It was our calm in the storm of life. It was our holy ground. Now that Ed is gone it is where we visit to relive the wonderful family memories we had for 17 precious summers.
Saturday, my son Jordan and I drove Roberto to Family Camp for staff training one day before the families arrived on Sunday. We were proud to deliver the next generation of Riveras to continue the tradition.

Before we left Jordan and I took Roberto up to the chapel to see the memorial tree planted for our beloved Ed. Ed was the greatest husband, dad, brother, son and friend. Ed passed away suddenly from a genetic heart defect on August 1, 2020 while doing one of his favorite things, riding his bike, with one of his favorite sons. He left for heaven just 3/4 of a mile from our house. He almost made it back to our house but instead God took him home. We blew bubbles and said prayers around Ed’s tree. Roberto helped us hang a memorial cross in a nearby tree. The cross, made of two sticks, twine and decorated with painted letters, hung in our family room since 2010 when our KK Family gave it to us. That was also the 1st year Roberto and his mom Sandra came to Family Camp so the cross had even more meaning.

We left the cross, said good bye to Ed’s tree, looked out from the view from the chapel on the hill remembering how we use to run down the hill so many times at the end of each summer. We tried to imagine what Ed’s view of Family Camp must be from heaven. Family Camp was a little taste of heaven for our family. The brick we bought our last year at camp says what Family Camp did for us.

Thank you to the Brasley Family for inviting us. Thank you God for 17 summers of family love that will fuel us until we are all reunited in heaven.

Updated: Nov 29

The funny thing about lifelong friends is that no matter how long you go without seeing each other, it is always easy to pick up right where you left off. This is something that I’ve noticed over and over again as the world has been opening back up from the pandemic and it has become easier to travel and see those who live far enough away that travel restrictions prevented any real contact. Regardless of the time that has passed or the world-changing events that have taken place, true relationships will hold strong.

It’s been great to be able to catch up with people who I care about, but this has led me to an interesting personal observation. I am consistently much more inclined to share about the positive aspects of my life than the negative. This may seem obvious, but I couldn’t help but wonder what was causing this, and more importantly, why it was bothering me so much. Naturally, when I’m reconnecting with others, I want to hear that they are growing, succeeding, and thriving. Why then, would I not tell them about the ways that I am growing, succeeding, and thriving? Also, I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I am reaching out to reconnect just to burden them with my own issues. And yet, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of falsehood in this. If these are truly my dear friends, shouldn’t I be willing to share my struggles with them, as well as my triumphs?

Ultimately, this has had me thinking about my time at Camp Koinonia, where at the end of each day, I would share about my experiences with my family or (once I became a teenager) with the staff. It was always foundational to these sharings that we not only spoke about our high points, but our low points as well. I have found that I got enough practice with this while growing up, that even into adulthood, sharing only the high points of life just seems unnatural. As a result, I have found that camp has led me to be more open and honest, and in return, has allowed others to be more comfortable being open and honest with me. I am grateful for that. It is certainly not the only blessing that I can count from my time spent in that strange and wonderful place, but it is the one that I find myself appreciating most often.

Updated: Nov 5

Summer snuck out the back door. The solstice flew by. Camp feels a million miles away - even if it is really only 882 miles.

Four weeks of homeschool was in the books and the Quigley family was ready for a long weekend. Saturday morning we headed out the door bound for a new playground with the promise of a new adventure. The park was wrapped in caution tape. New plan, we headed to our favorite rock outcropping only to find it overwhelmed with families fishing. Frustration was at every turn. We walked back to our starting point discussing our frustrations and making plans to return on a day when not so many folks would be in the park.

Along the way these seedlings caught my eye. Small pine trees growing up from the rich soil of a rotting log. A log, long past its years of growing, so distant from its former glory - It continues to feed and support its community.

So we headed to the shore of the lake to find turtles and play on some large rocks. We inquired when the cool park will be opening. We found our way to grow in the fertile soil of the park, replacing frustration with repeated experiences. All the while Emma was singing, “I send you out on a mission of love….and know that I’ll be with you always, until the end of the world.”

Wherever you find yourself, near or far from Family Camp, may you be fed by the rich soil you are planted in. May you know the love of your community that is restarting their adventures daily, just like you. You can grow here. We are called to grow here. God will feed your roots and help you grow.