THE GENESIS OF WARRIOR CAMP

-A Letter to Author Stephen Lawhead-


 

This same letter was sent via snail-mail to Stephen Lawhead on June 17, 2008.  Lawhead replies to all such letters.


Handwritten: 6-16-08

Mailed: 6-17-08

June 16th, 2008

 

Dear Stephen R. Lawhead,

 

Hello.  My name is Derek Bartlow, and I have found your books to be fantastic, inspirational and the stuff God has used to hone my call to ministry. 

 

I did not start out as a lover of fantasy however, and even as a young boy, I had a subtle distaste for it as detached, irrelevant and uninteresting.  Conversely, the books I originally enjoyed regularly involved mountain adventures, a boy and his dog, and terrific grizzly bears serving as the formidable foes.  Jim Kjelgaard was my breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  However, while in Jr. High School, my best friend handed me a worn paperback copy of The Paradise War and challenged me to give it a shot.  So I did (mostly due to our friendship) and though it made a decent impression, my interest expired with the final page.  Eventually, I returned the book, having little more than a pleasant yet inconsequential memory of it.  As a result, The Paradise War comprised my sole, significant venture into the fantasy genre until nearly a decade later in graduate school.

 

And then, one fateful day following classes of theology and apologetics, I found myself in the university library seeking an enjoyable diversion from Kierkegaard and other similarly technical philosophers.  I hearkened back to a distant memory, and began to type “Lawhead” into the local catalogue search engine. 

 

Much to my amusement, I found in the main collection, The Paradise War as well as the complete Albion Trilogy.  The combined appeal of distant nostalgia and a pleasurable distraction were too much to ignore.  I checked the book out and began devouring it as ravenously as my academic duties would allow.

 

Before long, I was immersed again – and yet somehow for the first time - in Llew’s journey to Scatha’s Warrior School at Ynys Sci.  To state it mildly, the tales of adventure and heroism, of weapons training, fellowship with brothers in arms, and food and song provided by Scatha’s beautiful daughters, began to kindle the stuff of boyhood fantasy.  On Easter weekend in 2005, with stars in my eyes, I hopefully surfed the internet for some kind of camp or venue that might offer a relevant medieval experience in their programming and games.  If I could find such an event, it would certainly be a dream to attend.  To my dismay, in Europe and America, the returns were scant.  Before long, it dawned on me that if such a camp was to exist, I may have to be the creative initiator.  By the time the weekend was drawing to a close, I had two things in my possession: (1) A God-given conviction that the medieval theme would be strong to afford epic opportunities for presenting the gospel to youth in a camp setting, and (2) a basic schematic for a castle drawn out upon a napkin!

 

I am at the same time sincerely humbled and exceedingly joyful to God that Warrior Camp is now a new reality.  September 8, 2007 marked our somewhat unanticipated maiden voyage and was a summer highlight for seventeen youth as well as instrumental in encouraging young men to establish and fortify spiritual milestones in their lives.  To kick off Warrior Camp, all who attended were told of its original inspiration from the Warrior’s unforgettable experience on Ynys Sci.  Our game program drew upon distinct medieval themes, including a weapon workshop and a training clinic in which all Warriors made their own sword and were taught how to use it.  “Capture the Flag” and “Team-Slayer” were uniquely adapted to incorporate the element of swords, and consistently comprised the favored games.  Not long after Warrior Camp had concluded, we discovered that it had been instrumental in the salvation of an un-churched teen.  His friend had invited him, and Warrior Camp comprised his first exposure to the Christian youth group of which he is now a regular face and a new Christian! 

 

Though we’ve never met, it is a profound and moving thing to experience the truth that our God’s activity is intriguing and epic, and the way in which God has orchestrated the emergence of Warrior Camp is itself a tale of inspiration.  Your fantasy is moving, rich, beautiful, full of power, and laden with implicit truth.  It is truly a wonder to read and has yielded an inspirational and transformative impact upon the masculine soul in me and in other young men through Warrior Camp.  God willing, it will continue to do so.    

 

May God’s insight and blessing continue to stir your pen,

 

Derek Bartlow

 

 

 

PS: As it would be an honor to hear back from you, I have included some information below.

 

Snail Mail Address:

Derek Bartlow

406 South Middle Creek Drive

Nampa, Idaho 83686

 

Email address:

warriorcamp1@yahoo.com