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On the Bus

St. David Lutheran Church in West Columbia, South Carolina, is one of several churches in the southeast that takes a bus to camp. In recent years, St. David has partnered with Cristo Rey Lutheran Church, a Spanish-speaking congregation that has shared worship space with St. David for many years. Together, they fill the bus and head up the mountain to Lutheridge.

Celeste Schnabel, a member of St. David and former Lutheridge counselor, coordinates the week at camp with children from these two congregations. While the week at Lutheridge is a big undertaking today, it began small. “When my children were old enough to be campers, they wanted to invite friends to come too,” says Celeste. “It grew from there to where we needed more room and eventually offered transportation using the church bus.”

Celeste has helped recruit more children from St. David and Cristo Rey each year. Last year, 24 campers plus adult leaders were on the bus. “We didn’t have room for all of the kids and their luggage,” remembers Celeste, “so a church member hauled a trailer with all the suitcases and sleeping bags for us.”

Cristo Rey and St. David can send so many campers for a week together because of the generosity of members of the congregations. Throughout the year, the congregations work together to raise funds to pay the way for any child who needs help getting to camp. “It brings people joy to help kids have these awesome experiences that they may not otherwise afford,” Celeste says. “And for those who went to Lutheridge or other similar camps when they were younger, they want to share this opportunity because they know the impact it had on their faith lives.”

The impact of a week at camp for the children of Cristo Rey and St. David is significant. The children of St. David love the experience. “It gets them excited about their faith, and they come back and tell everyone at church that they should come too!” The week at Lutheridge has a similar effect on the children from Cristo Rey, but there is an additional reality for many of them. “For some of them, it is their first time away from home without their families and their first time to see the mountains,” says Celeste. “But they feel loved and a part of something special.”

Organizing the trip to camp involves lots of logistical challenges for Celeste and the adult leaders of St. David and Cristo Rey, but the joys make it worth it. “There are so many joys,” Celeste shares. “I love the excitement on the bus on the way there. I love seeing so many smiling faces around camp all week and kids telling me it was the best thing they did all summer.  When they ask me in the fall when we will be going back to camp next year, I know we are impacting their lives.”