The Magic of Mail

Written by Program Director, Molly DeWitt

There’s just something about receiving a handwritten note in the mail that cannot be described. Seeing someone else’s familiar handwriting provides a sense of glee, gratitude, and connection. It has the inherent ability to make you feel special.

In my experience, few people write handwritten notes anymore, aside from birthday cards. Mail nowadays seems boring, something that only brings bills, ads, and the occasional newsletter. Handwritten mail, however, is something to be cherished and often saved to look at over and over.

Camp mail is altogether extraordinary to receive. You know if you have camp mail that someone has taken time out of their day to write to you and see how you are doing. Very rarely do we write friends or family notes anymore. It takes a lot more effort than we are accustomed to in regard to communication, which is now essentially instant.

I remember being so annoyed at my mom for forcing me to write thank you notes by hand as a kid whenever I received a gift, yet at the same time being delighted when she would take the time to send me a card at camp.

I received cards every year I was at camp, nine years total, even when I was in high school. I have many of them still saved in a box. My mom continued to send me notes while in college, during my two years as a Young Adult Volunteer, and as recently as when I was Pyoca’s seminary intern. Even now as a soon-to-be seminary graduate and camp Program Director, my mom sends me handwritten notes in the mail.

In our technological age, handwritten mail is almost unheard of. Generally, if we want to know how someone is doing, we just text or email them. We have camper email at Pyoca, but somehow it’s not quite the same as receiving a real letter. Email often has a sense of urgency, whereas postal mail signifies intimacy and precious time spent to convey a message to a loved one.

We’ve started encouraging campers, particularly the younger ones, to write home about their day or if they’re feeling a little homesick. One short note and one email a week is typically what I would receive from my mom and it was just enough to encourage me to have a good time at camp, while not making me homesick. “Hope you’re having fun! We can’t wait to hear all about it!” was just enough to remind me that I was loved.

I have parents and grandparents tell me often that they have saved the notes written to them by their children from 30+ years ago at camp. What a family treasure it is to be able to look back on a week of one’s life and remember the transformative experience of camp, all encapsulated in one letter.

If you are interested in sending your child a letter at camp, be sure to send it with the addressed formatted as below:

Pyoca Camp & Retreat Center

℅ Camper Name (i.e. Susie Camper)

Camp (i.e. Discover)

886 E CR 100 S

Brownstown, IN 47220


*Note: We greatly encourage letters and cards, but discourage sending packages to campers.

The Magic of Mail

Grief, Camp, & Remembrance

Written by Acting Executive Director, Mike Davis.

Last weekend, in the midst of a very busy retreat weekend at camp, volunteers young and old from near and far descended on the Pyoca grounds. They carried with them garden implements of every type, plants purchased and plucked from their own yards, and heavy hearts.

Days of service and volunteer projects are a common occurrence at Pyoca, but Saturday was different. As always, we worked to give back to the place where our lives have been changed, but we also worked to honor the saints who have gone before us. They helped to create this place, encouraged us to go Pyoca as retreat guests and campers, and mentored us every step of the way.

From the latter months of 2017 into early 2018, Pyoca lost two active board members and another retired board member. I was in utter shock and dismay announcing the losses one after another to the board and Pyoca community, especially considering losing my grandmother suddenly in September. These were all people that shaped me, pushed me, and cared for me, as well as countless others.

During the day of service we told stories of these saints, both of their caring nature and of their wit, as well as a humorous blunder or two.

In between weeding and leaf raking tears and laughter were shared. Grief was embraced and gaping wounds were not healed, but given aid. The day was capped off with a worship service and memorial tree planting.

Grief, sadness, and heartache are not things you often associate with camp, but are nonetheless present in the lives of our campers, retreat guests, volunteers, and staff. We can’t expect our campers to explore, grow, rest, and play without first reflecting on the weight they may carry to camp.

As our Program Director and soon-to-be minister, Molly DeWitt, said in her homily on Saturday, grief is a healthy part of life and not something to be ignored.

It has always been said that Pyoca is not just a place, but an experience. We believe that the experience comes from the people who shape the place. As the hands and feet of Christ we are called to care for our neighbors. I have never seen this call so fully expressed as I have over these past few months, and particularly this weekend.

At Pyoca, we give thanks to God for a community that comes together and surrounds one another with love in good times and bad.

Grief, Camp, & Remembrance