To whom it may concern,
My name is Don Duca. For a good portion of my life, if you asked me where my favorite place in the world would be, I would’ve said Disney World. Personally, spending time there with my family, there was no other place in my life so happy and exciting that could compare. If you ask kids that have been there at least once, a lot would say that answer - those except the kids at my Awana. It astonished me as a 10 year old that my friends, who’ve been to Disney as well, said their favorite place on earth was a camp called RBGY camp. Now, it’s no big surprise.
After hearing my fellow clubbers talk about RBGY, it was years before I was able to attend, but in due time I finally got the chance to go to this camp. Driving there I was expecting just a few cabins lined up with trees surrounding everything, and a lake farther away on some trail. Every show I had watched or story I had read before that point showed summer camps to be like that. Now, I wish I could relive that first drive up and the wonder of seeing the camp for the first time. The way you cross that bridge, make your way through the trees, and then finally see the space open up with bright green grass and a full sky. No magic castle or mouse ears could compare, that’s for sure. Lakeside is special aesthetically, any person: RBGY or not, could tell you that. I don’t just want to speak in support of the campground because of these first impressions I had years ago. For me, Lakeside is where I truly connected with God.
I was a Christian who went to church, attended Awana, and knew his bible stories. I was raised in it, so it felt like “just another part of my life,” like sports, academics, or family was. Camp was this very special place where things discovered at home, like yard games, or entertaining people with my creations, were amplified tenfold. While I immediately was excited for the fun parts of the summer camp, I did not favor ⅔ of my day being spent in a chapel or classroom those first few years. Now I won’t go and tell you I did a 180° and hold that time on the highest priority (still trying to get that,) but it sparked one very important thing in me- I began to see God in the world around me. No longer just in the pages of my Bible, but in the blades of grass at my feet, no longer just in the words of a pastor, but in the sound of wind, no longer in just Awana nights, but in nights where the moon was bright and the stars were out. I still feel that, just a little switch in my mind that goes from whatever I’m in the middle of just to; “Wow, I hear you God” with a peace of mind to match.
Whenever life got busy, and my focus shifted more and more away from faith, Lakeside was my reset. To be able to see God’s impact on those I only see once or twice a year, it was refreshing. To escape from technology, media, and the overall overwhelming world in that place that had such an important place in my relationship with God, it was the highlight of every summer. I wasn’t only a Christian at Lakeside, but it was definitely an important part of my life. 2 1/2 years ago, I chose it to be the location of my baptism. I was baptized earlier in life in a Catholic Church, but I was young enough where that wasn’t really my decision. At the age and maturity I have now, I feel I know and trust God in a much stronger way. I renewed my vows in Christ, calling those at the camp to be my witness to the testimony and words I spoke then.
Writing this letter, I can only ask that those in the decision-making for Lakeside’s future go and visit the campground individually and take in what they can with their senses. Even if they haven’t met the Lord, recognize the peace of mind that comes with the location. I found it in drawing in silence by the lake, by walking along both the paved road to and from the chapel, laying on the grass, or just sitting in any location on the campground. Then you can see why it is so important to Christians now and those years and years before me.
Thank you and God bless,