So, if you’ve known me for a while, you know camp Living Waters is a big part of my life, and has been for a long long time. It was near & dear for my family and many friends growing up, it’s where I met the girl that eventually became my wife. It’s where I have made friendships that defy logic and are somewhat closer to a family than being mere friends. It’s actually close to the feeling you have being in a band… it’s a sense of belonging, not quite a gang mentality, but there is a strong bond that goes beyond mere friendship that’s hard to explain.
I have been lucky enough to not only be a camper, but a counselor for many many camp functions, eventually inheriting the director title for Jr./Sr. High Camp that we had this past week. Luckily for me, all of our counselors have their duties and functions where they take charge, and I think we pulled it off. I don’t think we’ve had many direct discussions on who needs to do what… it amazingly all just falls into place and we understand what needs done and who’s best suited to do it. We dive in & do it as a team.
Church camp may scare some people. Those that know me from outside of camp may be surprised or questioning of my affiliation with such a thing. I try to take all the things that I have been taught, and lead life by example. I’m generally not preachy about religious subjects (or at least I try not to be), but I will delve into the subject if someone asks me about it. I have a respect for all religious beliefs or non-belief, and ask that in a conversation I am shown that same respect. (I have some good friends that should also be able to tell you that it’s pretty hard to offend me on such subjects.)
I feel like I have been called to work with the camp that has given so much to me, to provide campers with their own version of the experiences I had over the years that have helped make me into the person that I am today. I hope to be a good example to the kids on how go out into the world and be good examples to others themselves. You don’t have to run around spitting scriptures, knock on people’s doors, or force others to believe what you believe or feel what you feel. You do need to treat people with respect and kindness. We discussed being a good seed this week, and how we’re planted in the world to serve others around us. Serving can be as simple as listening to a friend’s troubles, cutting grass or washing a car, or just telling someone that they are important to you. We don’t often pause for the simple small things, yet they can have such an impact. Sometimes I had to be goofy with the kids to get the gears turning, but turn they did. Once we were able to get into discussions & past answers that were perhaps subconsciously what they thought I wanted to hear… I got some fantastic examples and ideas on how you can do small things to help those around you.
Some of the activities at camp besides bible study in the AM were Archery, a night game pattered after an one one called Get Smart & a flashlight tag game that has morphed into one we call Star Wars, a terrarium craft, a creek walk, a trip to Shawnee, team-building games, orienteering, making mountain pies, lots of singing, vespers every night headed up by Laurel, science time making bandanas with Kirby & Kaylyn, and a campfire where we talked about everything from what we’re thankful for to what our hardships are… and how we can help each other through them.
I feel like Archery is such an incredible activity for teens… it seems like something that is hard to do, but if you listen to the instruction given by Kirby & Adam, you are consistently hitting the target within a day or 2, and you can become a great shot by the end of the week (when we start putting things like playing cards & water balloons on the targets for fun). It’s an incredible self-esteem builder, and teaches great discipline and focus. It’s easy to understand that you must do things correctly or someone can get hurt. The kids encourage each other and commend each other without any prompting from us old people. It builds a positive environment easily & organically. It’s amazing to see them light up when they hit a bullseye, hit a playing card, or pop a water balloon.
We of course sometimes had problems with losing attention quickly… and I blame social media. We’re luckily able to reel them back in. I think it helps that most of our staff are smart-asses. I try to show & tell the kids that you don’t have to conduct yourself differently at camp than you do at home, or vice versa. Also, I find it fascinating how many of the younger kids constantly asked me if they could go to the bathroom. It must be from school. I feel that they’re all old enough to conduct themselves responsibly & can take care of such things without disruption to whatever’s going on.
Some of my personal highlights for the week were when one kid had told us how he had never experienced any kind of group or camp setting before & couldn’t believe how all the other kids had been so accepting of him. In fact, I didn’t hear a negative word from any of the kids to another. They would instantly take to the kids that seemed to be outsiders and make sure to include them in the group. It was an awesome thing to see. It’s also great to see the kids that have grown up together in various camps form friendships that will last a life time.
The big highlight was our interaction with the other camp there this week… Recreation Camp is for special needs adults to come enjoy a camp setting. We did several activities with them besides our 3 meals & singing in the dining hall each day. We had science time where they learned about chemicals that make up ink and the separation, and we made easy tie-dye-like bandanas with Sharpies and rubbing alcohol. Our campers mixed with & assisted the rec camp, and it was fantastically fun. We also mixed again with our trip to Shawnee, singing on the bus and swimming and relaxing together as one big group. Campers from both camps expressed the need to do it more often. It was enough to move me to tears to see how the kids accepted the rec camp group who were so different, and made their day by just spending time with them, sharing a laugh, a splash, bouncing a beach ball, and lots of good-natured teasing. Then there was our campfire sing-along, our seeing one of their campers’ collection of over 150 flags I’ll have to talk about him in another post), and them visiting us on the archery range one day. It’s a feeling of great joy to see all of our campers make such connections. My wife & mom are directors at Rec camp, and I feel like that helps us bring the camps closer together.
That feeling is why I was moved to make this a while back…
- At times I can have a pretty foul mouth, but nothing is as offensive as… (aixelsyd13.wordpress.com)
- Camp Song Books (aixelsyd13.wordpress.com)
- ♡ Happy Birthday Bethany! ♡ (aixelsyd13.wordpress.com)
- Summer Camp Helps Heal Kids’ Emotional Wounds (wsaz.com)
- Teaching Kids Kindness (goldarrowcamp.wordpress.com)
- Opportunity Camp (mywesttexas.com)
- Flashback Friday: Camp! (remixedreality.wordpress.com)
- Messages for an Anxious Camper (goldarrowcamp.wordpress.com)
- Girls-Only Music Camp Promotes Rock and Empowerment (nytimes.com)
- While parents serve, kids learn that they serve, too (buffalonews.com)
- Terrible Summer Camp Counselors We’ve Known (And Been) (theawl.com)
- Kids’ compliments fuel director’s dedication (charlotteobserver.com)
- Church Camp 2012 (sergoh.wordpress.com)
- Camp Developing Minds (delawarefamilytofamily.wordpress.com)
- Church helps parents send kids to summer camp (tbo.com)