Posted tagged ‘church camp’

Helping Each Other Up The Hill

July 21, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                July 20, 2017

                               

At Quaker Ridge Camp there is a peak high above the camp called Soldier’s Peak. Each year the kids at camp make the climb to the top where they encounter an incredible view of the wooded forest areas around it, and the other mountain peaks in the distance. Down below they can see the grounds of the camp and pick out the building they sleep in at night, the dining hall, the swimming pool, and other spots of activity.

But getting to the top is a struggle for many of them. They aren’t used to the hike, the elevation, and the physical exertion. Some begin the adventure with eager anticipation, but then realize it requires more than a video game controller and gradually lose their desire to reach the summit. Others begin to display the characteristic that usually rises to the surface when they meet a challenge that requires effort. They whine!

And then there are the Daniel Boone’s who blaze the trail, enjoying these moments in life to the fullest, ready to head across the valley to that next peak over that they can see after they reach the top.

And then there are the encouragers who want the whiners and the weak to accomplish what they know they will accomplish. They want all of their camp friends to make it up the hill, no matter how long it takes.

I was listening to our elementary camp pastor, Rev. John Mark Brown (Yes, he’s got half of the gospels in his name!) talk to his camp kids about the journey…kind of a debriefing session! He had been talking to them about what it means to serve in Jesus’ name…what might that look like? It was encouraging to me to hear a number of these young campers talk about helping each other up the mountain. That sometimes it’s not how fast YOU get up the hill that’s most important, but rather what each person does to make sure everyone gets to the top!

There’s a valuable lesson in there for all of us, not just eight, nine, and ten year olds. The church, when it is being the church, is a community of believers helping each other up the hill! And you know something! There are a lot of whiners who journey with us, and there are a few who are weak and aren’t sure they can go much further, and there are the trailblazers who look to run ahead and get to a location that will take the majority of the flock a long time to get to, and there are the encouragers who understand the celebration of having everyone standing on the peak…no matter how long it takes to get there!

It seems to me that the church needs to catch some of that understanding of the journey. It is a snapshot of what being in community with one another is all about!

Eight Guys Out

June 15, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           June 15, 2017

                               

At 5:00 A.M. on June 1 eight men climbed into two vehicles and headed north! We weren’t going to a Rockies’ baseball game or the rodeo in Cheyenne, but rather to a camp in British Columbia just shy of 2,000 miles away. Two and a half days after departing Colorado Springs, with stops in Missoula, Montana and Jasper, Alberta, we arrived at Rock Nest Ranch for four and a half days of hard work to complete two needed projects: a deck at the front of the camp’s lodge and working on the shower and restrooms in the basement of the lodge.

Why would eight men- most of us now considered “old”- take 11 days out of our schedules to be part of such an experience?

Well…to give a simple answer to begin with, we went because we’re friends! I’ve known all of the men for a number of years. One guy, Ron, has coached basketball with me for 15 years. Another guy, Dave, has been one of my best friends for years, even though he now lives in San Antonio. One of my son-in-laws was another team member, as well as being the needed team plumber. Our senior citizen, Tom (age 69), had wanted to go up to the camp to help out…and to fish. Doug and Carl were both a part of the last church I pastored, and Jeff had been a part of the mission work team I was a part of that had gone to the Dominican Republic a few years ago…as well as being an experienced deck builder. Me…I was the trip coordinator, nightly devotional presenter, communicator, and, according to Tom, the “Hod Carrier!”

Eight men on a mission!

As the miles clicked off the stories developed…most of them of the chuckling kind. In Missoula, a great couple named Rex and Etta Miller met us at the church we stayed at with two freshly baked pies and a Cracker Barrel gift card! Outside of Jasper, Alberta we pulled over for a few minutes to watch a grizzly bear roaming a few yards off the highway. I got ribbed about my Starbucks attachment! Fishing stories started being created before anyone actually fished.

Rock Nest Ranch is a camp that has become a safe haven for children and youth of the First Nations tribes in that area. The percentage of girls that are sexually abused by the time they are 16 is extremely high. The number of First Nations young people who commit suicide is elevated, and the amount of alcohol and drug abuse is jaw-dropping. The camp, in many ways, has become a safe haven as it lives out the gospel. It is a place of hope in an area where many young people feel hopeless.

Therefore, as the week at Rock Nest went on the reason eight men were part of the experience shifted from the friendships we had to the ministry and mission of the camp. We went from enjoying being together to being a part of a cause…while we enjoyed being together.

When we returned to Colorado Springs we were tired. Four of us were “the tired retired!” But it was also a kind of satisfied exhaustion…eleven days well spent…eleven days of memories in the midst of the nail pounding and sawing.

Eleven days that we will always remember, and eleven days during which we made a difference!

Camp Tears

July 24, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             July 24, 2016

                                            

I finished a week of church camp yesterday and fell into bed last night. The last morning was filled with goodbye hugs and tearful farewells. Tears, in fact, were a frequent occurrence at camp this week.

It started on Sunday afternoon as parents dropped off their children and teenagers. One young mom didn’t show her tears until she was sure her eight year old son was running towards an activity on the basketball court. Since this mom is my daughter I was standing beside her and saw the tears running down her cheeks in front of a smiling face. I gave her a hug of reassurance. Her tears were tears of releasing, as she saw her little boy arrive at one of those life points where he will spend a week away from home. I remember that kind of tears. After we dropped off our youngest daughter, Lizi, at the University of Sioux Falls for her first semester, Carol and I don’t remember seeing Nebraska on the way home because of the rain storms in our eyes. And yet they were good tears…tears when you realize your child has grown to another defining point. We release them and we cry our eyes out.

There were also tears of laughter numerous times at camp. I laughed when I was inspecting the elementary camp cabin for boys. One room whose occupants were eight, nine, and ten year olds had four bottles of AXE body spray and body wash. You know…AXE, that product whose commercials show women attacking a man who sprays his body with it. We laughed as we thought of fourth grade girls attacking a good-smelling four-foot tall boy. In the elementary camp the only attacking that was being done happened if someone tried to butt into the Snack Snack line. As room inspector I HAD made the point about good-smelling rooms being one thing I looked for in determining which of the boys’ rooms was the best. The second morning I walked into one room to see one boy walking around waving a deodorant stick in the air with the idea it would be like a room air freshener.

In that same cabin there were also tears from hurtful words. One boy came to me with tears running down his face and said, “Bobby has been saying that our room smells bad because I’m farting!” In deep sorrow he bellowed, “I’m not the one who is farting!” I counseled him back to health, although in the midst of his anguish I think there was a moment of flatulence.

There were tears from the deep wells of our soul. One middle school boy, who has Down’s Syndrome and hearing problems, got up on the last night at the talent show and sang a song as he played the guitar. Although the lyrics didn’t rhyme his original song talked about how much he loved his counselor, the amazing grace of God, and how much he missed his dad. The campers gave him a standing ovation as a number of them wept. They had seen how this young man had made the week at camp special and had offered his own unique personality of gentleness and caring.

There were tears of pain, as a number of campers shared their hurts and worries. Several had pent up emotions about parental health concerns. The camp environment and the trusting in their counselors allowed some of them to release the emotion. The dam broke as they allowed the anxiety, the bottled-up stress, to flow out.

Pastor Bill and me…better known at camp as “Pastor Bill Squared”…sat and listened with a mom on the last morning whose husband had gotten a grim diagnosis on the cancer he has battled. It was a time for tears, and angry tears, and even thankful tears. Her husband was first diagnosed six years ago. She is thankful for the six years, but there is sorrow in the moment as they face the uncertainty of the future.

And then there were my tears, as I dealt with the pain of that moment…as I saw my grandson at different times during the week being so engaged in the activities, focused on what was being taught, feeling free to dance in the midst of the elementary camp worship (So vigorously that he lost a screw in his glasses!)…as I watched counselors relating to their campers, getting to know them in ways that, you might say, had them deeply rooted in their lives.

I shed tears of thankfulness for what was and the journey these kids and teens had taken during the week. It’s amazing how in just a few hours time tears can flow from the same eyes out of thankfulness, sorrow, joy, and laughter.

Camp tears drench our souls and soak into our memories.

Sand City

July 22, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          July 21, 2016

                                          

    A week of church camp is filled with incredible moments and discoveries. Quite often the adult counselors get surprised in delightful ways by the things their camper kids say and do. One of those happened with our elementary campers the past two days. In the midst of the sand volleyball court a few of the kids, and a couple of their counselors, started making sand creations. It started simple! A two story house about a foot wide and a foot long.

Then a second house…a few more houses to make it begin to resemble a village, and then a house that started to resemble an Aztec temple or a four-layered wedding cake…one of those!

A few more campers joined the fun, and suddenly instead of Bust, Colorado (Population 2!), the sand creation started looking like a city…and ancient city, since a couple of the artists started building a sand wall around it.

Then another sand city started to be built on the other end of the sand volleyball court! Not wanting to look exclusive and uninviting, a few of the first “sanders” built a sand road between the two sand cities.

This morning there were close to thirty campers and counselors digging in the sand…creating, working together, laughing, and talking. It was not a planned activity, but, instead, became a movement. What an experience to see knees in the sand sharing ideas on what the next building phase might be. I’m pretty sure they put a Sonic and a Starbucks in there on one busy sand street! Interestingly enough, no sand schools were built by kids who are seeing their summers come quickly to an end.

One of the high school counselors got wind of a plot that a few of her students her devising  about going through and destroying Sand City and “Sand City West” and writing “Godzilla was here!” in the sand. She talked to them about being encouragers instead of destroyers. She conveyed to them the fact that the kids involved in the sand creations and construction would be crushed by a few seconds of mischievous fun. They understood…and the Sand Cities got larger. A few of the high school students even “got sandy!”

It made me think of the violent acts that have left their imprint across the country. How easy it is for people to respond with destruction in mind…instead of coming alongside and working together. How easy it is to tear down instead of build up? Sad City is becoming too prevalent!

How easy it is for churches to tear down and destroy instead of building places of grace and compassionate love! There are too many Sad Churches! I am perplexed as to why!

The reality of the weather at our 8,700 elevation camp is a late afternoon rain storm. What took hours to build, we knew, would be flattened by showers. The wise leaders explained the situation to the young sanders. They suggested that since the kids were the builders that they should be the ones to have the opportunity to “disassemble.” The campers stood along the sideline of the volleyball court and on the signal moved forward like a swarm of locusts, breaking down the fragile creations.

Rain came a couple of hours later.

Today, I fully expect, reconstruction will take place. Like rebuilding after a major storm…one sand house at a time!

Kids At Church Camp

July 19, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              July 18, 2016

                                      

A number of years ago Art Linkletter hosted a TV show entitled Kids Say The Darnedest Things. The host would ask an assortment of questions to four or five children sitting on the stage. Their answers were often unexpected and hilarious. That’s what made the daytime show such a hit for a number of years.

This week I’m one of the supervisors at a church camp. In that capacity I have the opportunity to observe what kids are doing and saying. It has been awesome!

Whereas middle and high school campers are concerned about things like fashion, who is in their room or cabin, make-up, hair styles, and not looking stupid…elementary age kids are in a totally different frame of mind.

On the first night the camp director had to make it a point to tell the kids to not lick the camp bell. Evidently a few had already ventured into that taste sensation! It makes you wonder how they ever even thought of doing it? What kind of conversation brought a few boys to the point of seeing what the bell tasted like?

Today there was a debate going on between three campers. My friend Rich told me about it. It went something like this:

“Yes you can drink Cheetos!”

“No, you can’t!”

“Yes, you can!”

“How?”

“You put some Cheetos into a blender, add water, mix it all up, and then drink it!”

Drinking Cheetos…not one of those cocktail party topics that comes up, but with young kids you never know!

And think of it! Was one of them at home one day this summer, both parents away at work, and the child got bored so he decided to mix up some Cheetos with water? What was the seed for such an idea?

I walked around during the elementary “Canteen” time. Canteen takes place at the camp’s snack shack, and is a chance for the campers to buy a can of pop or ice cream or candy. I watched one young girl with a smile as wide as Kansas as she held a can of Pepsi in one hand and an ice cream bar in the other. Sometimes kids get to make decisions at camp that would probably fall outside of the permissible at home.

But tonight these same kids who talk about Avenger super heroes, Kona Ice, and the fast-paced game called Oct-a-ball, were invited to wash one another’s feet, and most of them willingly did it. There was a powerful spiritual lesson in the act…kind of a church camp version of learning by doing…and they grasped the meaning in the doing.

Many of them are missing their moms and dads, but are also experiencing that they can still be safe and okay in a strange new place surrounded by people who will walk alongside them…as they hike to the top of Soldier’s Peak; sit beside them… at a nighttime campfire; and laugh with them…as the next darnedest thing is said!

Camp Day, Day 5

July 10, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              July 10, 2015

                                            

Dear Parental Units,

Just kidding, Mom and Step-dad! I want you to know that I love you…I really do! My week at camp is almost over, and I’ve made some great new friends. My counselor has been incredible as she has allowed me to ask her hard questions, but she’s also been there to listen to my confusion.

I’ve learned a lot about faith and trusting this week. This morning we  got up WAY TOO EARLY and climbed to the top of the peak behind our camp. I didn’t like the getting up early part, and there were a few times during our climb that I wasn’t sure I’d be able “to get up!”…but I made it And a big reason I was able to make it was because of the support and encouragement of everyone else who was climbing with me. When my thigh muscles were about to explode I got a pat on the back from my counselor and a hand from another counselor helping me make the next really big step.

It made me realize how important it is to have “solid friends.” I say solid because some of my friends back home stand on shaky ground, and they are more like the wind that blows in and out of my life.

When I come back home on Saturday could I ask something of you? I’ve decided to become a follower of Jesus this week. That’s probably something you were hoping for, but I hope you understand that it doesn’t mean I’m going to be all perfect and always doing the right thing. I’m going to mess up royally, and I’m not going to suddenly understand high school calculus just because I’m following Jesus!

But this thing I need to ask you…would you help me in this faith walk? Maybe that sounds weird, but it’s kind of like that climb this morning. I need your support and encouragement to keep going…a helping hand when I’m having those moments when I’m about to tip backwards. I know you go to church and help out in different ways, and I appreciate that more now than I did before this week at camp.

But…I’m sorry to start so many sentences with but…but I need to know that your faith in Jesus is real! I’m not saying it isn’t…but I need you to tell me every once in a while that it is…that it isn’t just something we do because we’ve done it that way for so long.

Even though I like my space from time to time from you, I need you to lead me, to help me deal with my questions about why God does certain things…what happens when I pray and when I don’t pray…help me figure out what God wants me to do in life, what my purpose is?

I hope I’m making sense. My counselor isn’t even making me write this. I’m doing this on my own! If Jesus was thinking of me when he went to the cross I want to try to think a good bit more about them in these coming days.

Thanks for being my mom and step-dad! I know you don’t have perfect lives, but I know you love me deeply…and you paid for me to come to camp!

 

Can’t wait to see you!

Your daughter!

Camp Letter

July 9, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                        July 9, 2015

                                                    

Dear Mom and Dad,

 

Camp is a lot of fun! I wish it wouldn’t be ending on Saturday, but I know you miss me and want me to come home…and I’m okay with that! I’ll probably sleep about twenty-four hours straight because I’m really tired. Our counselor, Mr. Bob, snores at night so it’s hard to get much sleep. He’s nice, though! Yesterday I forgot to bring my money to Canteen…that’s the camp name for “7-11!” It’s got all those things that you don’t want me to eat or drink right before dinner…except Slurpies! Anyway, he bought me a Creamsicle and we talked about my favorite subject in school…gym class…and what the best part of camp has been. Last night when Mr. Bob snored like there’s no tomorrow I was more okay with it.

The food here isn’t as good as the food you fix at home, Mom! But the good thing is that I think your food will taste even better after I get home…even your meatloaf!

I’ve made a new best friend. His name is Jimmy. He is from the big city and had darker skin then me. I was talking to him about our farm, and can you believe this…he’s never even been on a farm, and has only seen pictures of pigs! He didn’t even know that bacon comes from pigs in a round-about way. He lives in a really tall apartment building that has twenty floors, and he’s on the seventeenth floor! I can’t imagine that! I asked him what happens if someone falls out of the window, and he said that they have windows that don’t open! That is some kind of craziness right there! He’s a really nice boy the same age as me. Sometime I hope he can come visit us on the farm and see a real pig.

You would like this! Everyday after lunch we have to take a nap. They call it “FOYB!” that means “flat on your back!” I’m okay with it since Mr. Bob’s snoring cuts out some of our sleep time during the night. For some reason he never seems to snore during FOYB!

A couple of days ago I got to go down a zip line! That was so much fun! They make you wear this helmet and this thing that kind of looks like a women’s girdle I think, but then you go down this cable really fast! I think we should put one up in the barn after I get home. Dad, you wouldn’t have to go down the ladder from the hay loft anymore. You could get down a lot faster and that way get your work done faster! I’ll help!

The pastor here this week is really cool. He’s not even old, like all the pastors I’ve ever met in my life. He was talking to us about trusting in Jesus. I had never heard it put exactly the way he said it. Let me try to explain it to you: Jesus loves me even though I don’t always do the right thing or make the right choice. That was pretty cool! So Mom, even though I don’t always clean my room, or remember to clean it, Jesus still loves me! Can you believe that?

Last night we were sitting around the campfire singing songs that I’m still learning the words for, and the camp pastor said that if anyone would live Jesus to live within their heart all that needed to happen was reciting this prayer that he prayed. I don’t exactly remember how the prayer went, but I said it. I don’t exactly understand how Jesus came into my heart, but I started crying into my sweater sleeve. I told Mr. Bob about it right before lights out and he said that I needed to talk to you and our pastor after I get back home.

I’d better stop writing so I can get this letter in the mail. There was one girl who was interested in me, but I told her I was too young to date. She was disappointed, so I tried to be nice. So I said, “Maybe next year at camp!” I will need you to help me figure out what to say to her at camp next year.

 

Your Son,

Joey Smith