Posted tagged ‘church camp’

Church Camp Journal

July 15, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           July 15, 2018

                              

SATURDAY

Dear Journal,

I arrived at church camp safely this afternoon. Things looked normal. 

SUNDAY

Dear Journal,

Normalcy disappeared about 2:00. Kids of different sizes and ages arrived, most with their parents. Some parents were tearing up at the idea of missing Little Missy and Mini-Mike for a week. Others teared up at the temporary freedom they would be experiencing. One set of parents were taking a week’s vacation since the kids were gone. They would go back to work once the kids returned to the roost!

Young campers stared into the uncertainty of a whole week of following the instructions and schedule of adults who were strangers to them. What bizarre things would they be forced to do…eat roasted bugs, eat all of their vegetables, take a shower and brush their teeth every day?

Anxiety seemed to spread over the registration area like peanut butter on sliced bread! 

MONDAY

Dear Journal

It’s amazing how easily it is to figure out which of the middle school boy campers has reached puberty and which haven’t! A couple of the boys have been following a group of girls around like flies on honey. Other boys are more interested in figuring out mathematical equations and different Rubik’s Cubes.

One boy, who has spent the first day salivating over the girls, wears tee shirts around that announce the fact that he’s a wrestler…a Samson in the midst of the group of Delilah’s, muscle mass more important than mental capacity.

I grabbed the attention of the middle school campers in my first talk to them by microwaving an egg that was still in the shell. A couple of other things done for shock value communicated to them that this was going to be a different week. I even got Salivating Samson to sit there with his mouth wide open out of disbelief.

TUESDAY

Dear Journal,

  A couple of the boys are starting to smell like…middle school boys! They have not familiarized themselves with the showers in their dorm. The buzzing of flies around them is a clue that they aren’t picking up on. Thankfully we have a swimming time this afternoon. We just need to make sure they get in the pool and go all the way under the water…for a while!

I used shock value again this morning by throwing a full glass of milk on one of the counselors as I began a talk on serving others. She knew it was coming, but didn’t realize how cold it was! Oh well!

WEDNESDAY

Dear Journal,

Today we go rock climbing. For several of the campers who have never rock climbed before they’re wondering if it is going to be like climbing the monkey bars at their old grade school playground. 

And then they saw the red rock formations at Garden of the Gods that they would be climbing up and there was a lot of gulping and eyes wide opened! Samson saw it as an opportunity to impress the Delilah’s who pretended to be interested. 

A good number of campers who didn’t think they could do it were completely pumped when they DID do it. 

THURSDAY

Dear Journal,

Today we climbed Soldier’s Peak…all of us! No one was left behind! One boy’s nickname is now “Crockpot” because that’s about how fast he gets things done. He would be the kid at the mall whose parent has one of those “kid leashes” attached to him so he doesn’t get lost. 

But even he made it and delighted in the view from the top. I talked to all of them about mountain and valleys, and the fact that if there weren’t valleys we wouldn’t appreciate the mountain top experiences, and that God is closely beside us as we travel through the valley experiences of our lives.

Crockpot made it back down in time for lunch!

FRIDAY

Dear Journal,

The week is coming towards the finish line. A moose wandered through camp this afternoon and cooled off for a few minutes in the pond smack dab in the middle of camp. 

At certain times during this week it seems like we’ve also wandered into a strange place, but then the cool waters of God’s grace have saturated our uncertainties. 

In our last evening together the tears begin again. This time, however, they are tears because of departure, tears of sweet sorrow. They’ve become a “group of kids on a journey together.” Now they’re being asked to say goodbye. 

Samson gets hugs from the Delilah’s he’s been hoping for all week. Crockpot gets bombarded with hugs so fast he can’t keep up. The Rubik’s Cube boys seek me out. They’ve always been seen as being weird and nerdy, but this week they were loved and valued. The middle school boys who had not frequented the showers smelled of Old Spice and Axe as they gave me high fives. 

SATURDAY

Dear Journal,

And then it was over! The dust trails of the vans and wagons marked the departure of the campers. It was a week of memories, of laughter and tears, of hopes and the squelching of fears. The hopes were that everyone would be back together a year from now. Amen!

A 64 Year Old Church Camper

July 7, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          July 7, 2018

                                  

This afternoon I leave for church camp, a 64 year old hanging out for a week with a bunch of kids bordering either side of the age of thirteen or smack dab on it. During this week, which will occur at an altitude of 8,500, I’ll probably be a target for shaving cream, dumped buckets of ice water, and the “ice cream” in the human sundae, complete with all the applicable toppings.

My role is to pastor this mass of hyperactivity, talk to them about Jesus, and listen for the hidden pain just as much as the easily heard laughter. 

The first day will be about breaking the ice…without getting hurt in the process! Having coached middle school sports since I was in my forties (WHAT!!) I know there will be the energetic campers, the quiet campers, campers who were there last year and looking forward to seeing kids they haven’t seen since last July, and campers who have never been to a camp and are terrified of their own shadows. 

And the old guy will attempt to lead them alongside Jesus! Camp can be an emotional experience, but emotions can sometimes can be their own god. They can be like the air that is blubbering out of a balloon that takes you in one direction and suddenly the other way.

I love middle school kids. You can laugh with them, discover their individual talents and how each kid is unique. You can use their gullibility and their boldness to forge lasting friendships. The painful memories and the hilarious happenings can both strengthen the sense of care and concern.

This week a life could be changed, redirected, or even saved. This week a kid who doesn’t believe in himself can have someone tell him he’s awesome, he’s loved, and his life will make a difference. 

And if that means I get smeared with shaving cream everyday, so be it! 

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!