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Posts Tagged ‘#summercamp’

Have you ever been to summer camp?

A friend of mine posted a pic of her son, the other day. He was standing in front of a big yellow bus, with a big smile, all ready to head off to a week of summer camp.

For some summer camp is a one time event, for others it is the annual place of residence. Of our three children one never had any interest, in any way. The second went a number of times, even taking a Leadership in Training course one summer. The third … well, he is now on year number twelve, in a row, and has been everything from a camper, to work crew to paid staff (on and off season).

For those who have loved summer camp, it can be such a formative place and experience in the life of a child and teen.

Once each summer I visit the Christian camp that our son is connected to and I volunteer in the kitchen. Helping the paid kitchen staff, I get to be in the belly of the camp, assisting in the making of and serving up nutrition, love and humor … all so helpful on those hot summer days of activities.

This past week I did something that I had not taken the time to do in years past. I went to a morning chapel, sang songs with actions and listened to the speaker of the week.

I laughed, was entertained and even had to dab the tears forming in the corners of my eyes. It was a group of over one hundred and fifty kids, volunteers and staff. Some had been hearing the Gospel message since they were still in the womb, others had never before heard of one who would die for them.

Earlier in the week I was speaking to one of the office staff. She was sharing stories of children who were able to go to camp because of a grandparent, a fundraiser, unknown individuals who sponsored children to have this summer camp experience. She told about calls from social workers and others who work with children, children for whom this one week in the summer is their exceptional week … where they are fed, are safe and able to play … like a child.

Take it from me, even if you have never been to summer camp, it is well worth it to donate toward a child going to camp. If you are a follower of Christ, I implore you to consider this as an annual investment … it could pay eternal dividends.

We are the voice in the desert …
And we are the laborers in your vineyard,
Declaring the word of the Lord

Robin Mark

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As I write this post it is Tuesday evening.

I am sitting at a long ‘staff’ meal table, looking down on the lake, watching someone doing periodic flips in the air from the back of a boat, the sun setting in the smokey  (forest fire) skies, and I am listening to nearly one hundred teens play a bonding game for the prize of a table of candy (see pic, below, of the eight foot long table).

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I am back at the camp that has been the soul home of our son for eleven summers. Today I got to meet another ‘camp’ mom, whose son is completing his tenth season (and they just ‘happen’ to be co-counselling a cabin of teen boys).

She and I shared similar memories, similar stories told to each of us by our sons, similar responses and feelings about the impact this place and it’s people have had on our sons.

But we shared more than just mutual blessings that our sons reaped.

We shared the pride of being asked by a fifteen year old guy if there was any way he could help out … while on his break from work crew.

We observed an insecure teen grow in stature as another teen reached out and befriended him.

We heard the most sincere prayer for a meal by a male teen, whose confidence comes, not from his outward appearance, but from a knowledge that he is unconditionally accepted by this community.

We heard a volunteer who drives the boat for tubing and other water sports, tell of his long-term involvement at this camp with no end in sight.

We spent a day with a well-retired, still hand-holding couple volunteering in the August-hot kitchen, because they just love teens and want to give.

We spent the day with each other … working, observing, listening, absorbing the blessing that is summer camp.

As I reflected on the joys of being a mom who got to be in this place, and saw teens being encouraged, supported, taught and loved in a way that moms dream their children might receive in this life …

As I looked at that table covered with sugary candy …

I was reminded of a story that Jesus told. He was around a Sabbath table with religious scholars and one of the top leaders of the Pharisees (whose eyes were closely on him, waiting for Jesus to slip up and break a law). These were the crème de la crème of Jewish society.

The story comes part way through Luke 14, and I love how it is told in the Message (the title starts it well):

Invite the Misfits

He went on to tell a story to the guests around the table … if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

Then he turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!”

This is what summer camp is, or can be … a dinner of misfits.

Sure there are those who come every year, know everything there is to know about the camp and it’s people. There are those who come with their people, their besties. There are those who come with confidence in any situation. But there are also the … misfits. The ones who come alone. The ones who didn’t want to come. The ones that come because an individual or fundraiser supported their attendance.

They arrive, maybe excited, maybe scared, maybe angry. They may arrive and look around at others with their familiarity with the camp, with their people, their confidence. They may look around and feel dressed wrong, feel financially inferior, feel like … a misfit.

What I have observed is that if someone works or volunteers at a summer camp, they are the ones who have learned that “if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself”. You’ll become a blessing to others … to the misfits.

And they do.

Not every child or teen comes from a home with the means to attend a summer camp.

As a matter of fact, I was one of those misfits. Thanks to a Grandmother who had the means, and the generosity to go with it, I got to go to summer camp and be blessed by the experience of being encouraged, supported, taught and loved.

Today I am reminded that if I have the means, I need to provide the means for others to attend summer camp. Maybe I even need to make this a monthly plan … maybe you do too?

“They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!”

 

 

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For years I have dreamed of knocking this one thing off my bucket list, and I finally did it!

Our son has attended a summer camp as a camper, on work crew, as a LIT (leader-in-training) and staff for every year since he was seven. This sIMG_2416ummer was year ten, and, quite possibly, his last.

For the past few years I have dreamed of volunteering there, as a means of meeting all the people he has talked about, getting photos and giving back to this place as a gift for all they have done for him.

My energy was higher than it had been in the past few years, so this was to be the year.

The area they needed assistance was in the kitchen, so that is where I got to spend my time.

The camp kitchen is managed by a knowledgable, experienced, hard-working cook who runs the food prep with military precision. She works long hours, many days and does so while adoring (and being adored by) the youth who are part of camp.

It felt good to be able to do a task which allowed you to see it through to completion. But, I gotta tell you, it is hard, tiring work!

IMG_2412I got to go to watch the most beautiful mornings and evenings at the the edge of the lake, where the pesky geese would arrive, numerous times each day (to eat the treats dropped on the ground then pooh all over the grass). The lake was often still at these beginnings and endings, but ever so alive with activity during the daytime, as campers and neighbours were boating, swimming and various other water activities.

I got to attend a campfire time in the chapel in the woods, sparsely

IMG_2317decorated with benches, strings of Christmas lights, and staggered wood planks framing the ‘stage’. The guest speakers communicating the love and acceptance of Christ in their words and in how they interacted with everyone there, all the while also caring for and communicating love and acceptance to their two young children.

I got to meet and chat with Muffin, Itchy, Nacho, Ginger and so many others by the camp names I had heard year after year. I got to speak thanks to the camp director, program director and their wives, who have led, instructed and cared for our son. I also got to meet Fred and Elmer (and Skippy), who our son had spent two years doing work crew with, learning about work ethic, being real and doing it all for Christ.

I got to volunteer alongside of other volunteers, who just wanted to give back to the camp that they had attended, or just wanted to give their time to.

“Kawkawa’s mission is
to transform, build, and impact lives
in God’ creation
by living in community, offering programs and services
and teaching and modeling Christ
through our camp staff and facilities.”

And that IS what they do. Perfectly? No. With great love? Definitely!

BLKP4376

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On Wednesday morning we will (in all likelihood) take the last, first drive to camp with our son. It will be year ten of driving the one hundred and fifteen kilometre (seventy-one miles), which can take anywhere from one hour to four, depending on traffic, road work and accidents.

He has been there as a camper, work crew, leader-in-training, cabin assistant counseling, maintenance, music and whatever else might need to be done.

Our son is most often a stoic home-body who accepts his introverted tendencies with full self-acceptance. Yet, he will leave on Wednesday for about seven weeks of activity, noise, lack of privacy, constant busyness and people around every corner.

In his seventeen plus years, he has only ever desired to save two things; his Thomas trains, and his camp shirts.

Imagine a rubbermaid container almost filled with different sizes, colours and styles of camp t-shirts!

It seemed a shame to me that these special relics of his past were relegated to the dark of the plastic container … too small or too old to be worn, yet holding of too many memories to dispose of forever.

Then, one day while perusing Pinterest, I came across an image of a quilt, made out of t-shirts. I was hooked!

With the assistance and support of the Textiles teacher, another Educational Assistant and the entire Textiles 11/12 class of students, I started cutting up the t-shirts …

then I realized that I was destroying my son’s valued possessions … without him knowing it!

Once I explained my vision, he okayed my plan (minus one, yet untouched, shirts, which he wanted to keep … whole.

Finally, last week, the task was completed (as was his task of completing all of his high school exams), and I handed over my labor of love to him … just in time for year ten.

Have a great summer, Wheatley … finish well!

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For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Colossians 1:9-14

 

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As I walked down the grocery store aisle a young man caught my attention. He looked to be in his mid twenties, shopping with an attractive young woman. I knew, as soon as I saw him, who he was … for I could never forget him.

I met him almost ten years ago, at a place I’d never been, to leave my son, for a week, in the care of people who I had never met.

He was a friendly teen with a big smile and friendly eyes. He was so welcoming, so wordlessly comforting to this momma dealing with the pending separation anxiety.

Hubby and I bid farewell to our son, with big hugs and reminders that we would see him at the end of the week. Then we walked away from him, surrounded by his school friend, a handful of other boys, and his two, fearless leaders. We were both feeling hopeful and fearful all at once.

About six months earlier, the mom of our son’s friend called and asked if our son would like to go to summer camp. It was a church camp that their family had been attending for at least two generations. Though he would only be six years old, he was keen to spend five sleeps with his school buddy, so we decided to say “yes” and allow him his first week at summer camp.

The day we were to drop him off, I was so unsure.

Days later, we arrived to pick up son. He was filthy behind the ears, exhausted, and totally joy-filled. He gave his new friends high fives, hand-shakes and hugs good bye. But it was his farewell to this one cabin counsellor that tugged at my heart. There were few words said, yet communication that pierced the heart.

What this teen didn’t know (nor did I at that time) was that our son had been bullied at school for the two previous years. Having unconditional care and friendship from this cool teenager greatly encouraged our boy … rebuilding and repairing what had been torn away.

The following year, as we drove onto the camp grounds, this councillor greeted our son, by name. Our son had this young man as his camp counsellor again, and he was thrilled.

A few years later we saw him at a concert, and again, he greeted our boy by name.

There are few things I know, that I know, in this life, but this I know for sure, that young man introduced our son to Jesus, because he always made him feel welcomed here on Earth.

I stared, as inconspicuously as possible, to be completely certain it was him.

Soon I was close enough to be so bold as to greet him. Before I fully had the question “were you a counsellor at camp …” off my lips, he said, “you’re Ben’s mom” and I smiled, and nodded.

He told me that they follow each other on Instagram, that he planned to visit him this summer at camp … Ben’s tenth summer at camp … as a camper and as a counsellor.

This young man may never fully know, this side of heaven, that he had opened a door to eternity …

until, maybe, he has a child,

and he takes his child,

hopefully, fearfully,

to camp for the first time,

and some teenager welcomes his child

as though he were welcoming God himself.

 

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