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Goeun Park: Castaway Club week has spiritual impact

“Are you there God? It’s me, Goeun. I think I’m going to die. I know I say that about three times a day, but I’m pretty convinced this time.

“I just sneezed half my weight in snot and my throat tastes like the bubonic plague. I’m sorry if I infected any innocent children with my germy hands — I didn’t mean to. Thank you for understanding.”

Judy Blume didn’t exactly prepare me for a conversation with or about God. She did a lot better job at it than society, which isn’t saying much considering the Crusades and 9/11. Frankly, I’m much too ignorant to discuss religion delicately so I won’t.

But I’d like to talk about my week at camp.

Let me start from the beginning. This summer, I’ve been interning at Castaway Club, a Young Life camp. For those unfamiliar with Young Life, it’s a youth ministry that builds a lot of fantastic relationships among teens across the country.  Working at Castaway is the bee’s knees and I’m excited about its people and purpose.

Part of my internship was an opportunity to go to a Young Life camp. Of course, I said yes. Of course, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Camp was zip lines and giant swings and paddle boarding and tubing and singing and three course meals. It was also nothing about that because it was about prayer and gratitude and redemption.

The whole time, I vaguely remembered that I was at a Christian camp and that I wasn’t supposed to swear. Other than that, I had no idea what was going on.

Growing up, my parents were terrifically laissez-faire when it came to how I spent my Sunday mornings. If I asked, they would have happily driven to a nearby church or bought me a Quran from the bookstore. I didn’t ask for either.

But religion is a hard thing to avoid, maybe an inevitable thing. For as long as I can remember, people have been trying to sell me God. Trying to instill fear of eternal hellfire and suffering because I did this or didn’t say that.

Young Life camp didn’t do that.

Camp was not condemning but accepting. I was encouraged, asking thoughtful and challenging questions, not simply agreeing with authority figures who offered unsatisfying answers.

When we had a few moments to ourselves towards the end of the week to reflect, I kept looking for a sign. I didn’t expect the Joan of Arc treatment with the angels, harps and the whole shebang but I wanted something. Something that would tell me which holidays I should celebrate and what I should do to not die miserable and alone.

I waited and waited and waited but a sign never came. If it did, I was too engrossed by my thoughts to notice. In the end, I asked for the universe to wait for me because maybe, just maybe, the universe is waiting for a sign from me too.

So I came home with more questions than answers. But I felt better. Not physically — my immune system is under siege as I type this — but spiritually, I felt better. I felt blessed.

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and will attend college in California this fall.