The sounds of Christian camp are the soundtrack of my summers. Joyful shouts from the athletic fields echo across the valley in the afternoons, and voices lifted in praise roll from the chapel at dusk.

Each year, my family moves to the grounds of the 250-acre camp in rural northwestern Pennsylvania, where my husband serves as executive director. During the off-season, we long for camp and pray for the rowdy campers and staff members who will trek down the gravel lane the next summer.

Camp can be a peaceful place. But this year, many camps are eerily quiet. The ones that are open are emptier than usual. Staffers wave instead of smacking high-fives. The smells of disinfectant and hand sanitizer overpower the familiar cedar cabin scent. “Let’s go wash our hands!” is a common refrain. Like so many things in the age of coronavirus, camp is not the same.

When the pandemic shut down schools and businesses back in the spring, Seneca Hills Bible Camp and Retreat Center, where my husband works, became a food distribution site for kids to get free meals on the weekends. Other Christian sites, like Camp Cho-Yeh outside Houston, offered their cabins to health care workers who needed to isolate from their families while treating COVID-19 patients. Crescent Lake Bible Camp in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, was among the locations that replaced spring break camps with childcare programs for frontline workers.

Like most businesses and ministries across the country, Christian camps felt the economic halt right away. Church retreats and events were called off in March, April, and May due to bans on mass gatherings across the states. Before long, camps were forced to grapple with the unimaginable: no summer camp.

By May’s end, more ...

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