BLOGGER’S NOTE: Each Friday, I blog about what YOU, the people, want me to blog about. You can submit topics or questions that you’d like me to address HERE. I’ll choose one (or more) and depending on the subject matter and my mental faculties, the corresponding thoughts may be chatty or concise. Regardless, I promise that I will thoughtfully consider what is sent and will blog to the best of my abilities.
Insect repellant? Check. Sleeping bag? Check. Money for the canteen? Triple check! Sounds like it’s time to go camping!
These are good times for sure. And I am so excited that “summer camp experiences” was submitted as a topic for discussion this week (thanks, Helen!), because I love, love, LOVE summer camp.
From camper to counselor, Bible prison (I’ll explain) to rough-it camp, I have had all kinds of camping experiences in my lifetime and have loved (almost) every minute of it. Read on with me, as I go reminiscing. …
TOPIC: Summer camp experiences
DISCUSSION: My experiences at summer camp make up some of the fondest memories of my life.
You take one city-fied chica and set her down in the wilderness, and you’d think it could be a little frightening. But not me! I relished a completely different way of living at camp, and found it so refreshing to get unplugged from the world and enjoy more of God’s creation.
First Time for Everything
My first summer camp experience came when I had just finished kindergarten. It was church camp in the East Texas woods—Frontier Camp, to be exact. My mother had decided to go along as a camp counselor (sixth grade girls … yikes! … seriously, folks, she had to break up a fist fight between two of her campers), so that she could keep an eye out for a younger, precocious version of me.
She needn’t have worried, though, because I stayed in a cabin with all of my church friends. Plus, there was another girl who was a grade ahead of us and also bunking with us. We never did understand why she was in our cabin, but she surely made her presence known and the fact that she was now wearing deodorant. At the tender age of seven. Who wears deodorant at seven? Well, Angela did. And she would make a huge ordeal out of applying her “Tickle” deodorant (10 bucks if you remember that personal care product from the ‘70s) in front of us all. Thankfully, I wasn’t scarred for life by this experience. At least I don’t think I was.
I also stepped on a rusty nail at that camp. It was during the one night that we got to sleep out under the stars by the lake and “in the wild” (instead of in our cabins). I was running around with my cabin mates while the tents were being set up by the adults. And I really did have my sneakers on, but somehow I stepped on a rusty nail that went through my shoe and into the bottom of my foot. Nice. Thankfully I was current with my tetanus shots, so that was good and no gangrene ensued. But I do remember hobbling around for a bit for the days that followed. And I also remember when packing up to leave that camp, that I purposely left behind my beach towel that had been drying outside. Why, you may ask? Well, I can answer that and describe the towel’s altered state in just one word: Daddy-long-legs. Ewww. Sorry, Mom.
The Not-So-Great Indoors
In following summers, besides going to other some other church camps (Jan Kay Ranch in Detroit, Tex.) I also went to a Bible Memory Association camp in Ringgold, La. (Bible Memory Association is now called Scripture Memory Fellowship). This was the camp I dubbed “Bible prison.” Now let’s remember that I was a child, so give me a break. I just didn’t understand why I should have to sit inside a classroom for three to four hours every morning in Bible class. I WAS AT CAMP, for Pete’s sake. What were we doing inside for half of the camping day? I was supposed to be outside communing with nature, right?
Well, let’s say I didn’t fare too well with this experience. I remember getting in trouble during one day’s F.O.B. time (flat on back/flat on belly … or rather, nap time), because I was talking or giggling. Fancy that. And the consequence was having to pay a fine in the dining hall at dinner time in front of all the campers, all of the staff and the week’s special guest speaker. Who … happened … to … be … my … GULP … grandfather!!! Sorry, Grampy.
I would attend this camp until I was about 13 or 14, when I finally was allowed to stop going. Praise God for small miracles.
Back to Nature
At this point in time, my church camp experiences got REALLY interesting. Campers from junior high to high school switched to a rough-it type of camp during these years.
We would load up the church bus and a few vans and caravan up to an island in Tennessee that was situated on Dale Hollow Lake. (It’s on the Tenn./Ky. border. Why trek to Tenn.? Well, our church pastor had started camping there years and years prior, and so he brought this type of camping experience to our congregation.)
So let me tell you what it was like: An island. A shale-bottomed lake. No buildings. No running water. No electricity. No nothing. We’re talking RUS-tic. But you know what? We LOVED it. We cooked our meals over open fires that we built ourselves. We dug slit trenches, so we’d have somewhere to go when nature called. We water-skied, canoed and learned how to sail. We worked on our tans (olive oil or iodine in baby oil will crisp you up quite nicely) and pushed each other off of rafts. We studied the Scriptures in small groups. We wrote our own skits based on our Bible lessons and performed them every night around the camp fire. We cleaned our tents each morning in hopes of winning the “Palace of the Day” award and getting an extra ski turn as the prize. We swam around the island, played lots of volleyball and hiked to the dock.
During my last year of rough-it camp—as a freshly graduated high school senior—I was allowed some special privileges on the island. One being, I got to walk around the perimeter with my youth pastor each morning and help “wake up” the other campers with the bull horn. To say that I was THRILLED about doing that is an understatement. My youth pastor and I turned this special “wake-up time” into a pretend country radio talk show of which we were the co-hosts. I still remember my favorite “commercial break” that we came up with: “Today’s morning report is brought to you by Ernie’s Egg Farm. Our special today is cracked eggs, half price! We’ve got A-1 Large, B-2 Large … you know you just can’t be too large! Hardee-har-har.” Okay, well I guess you had to be there. …
Finally a Counselor
That same summer, I began working at a day camp in my hometown. Camp El Har was the name. It was my summer job that year and the following summer, too. The counselors were all either new high school graduates or college students, and each week a different church would send their children to the day camp. Every morning our buses would arrive at that week’s host church, as would the counselors. We met our little campers and would get them loaded onto the bus. Then we would travel to the outskirts of town where the day camp was situated.
Now these might have been the two hottest summers of my life, but I thoroughly enjoyed this different kind of camping experience. No longer a camper and now a counselor, I had to quickly buck up and learn how to deal with whatever curveballs came my way. Like the young female drama queen, I mean camper, who informed me that she had “heat frustration” one day and could not participate in whatever activity we were doing. Ooookay. That’s a new one. Then, there was the week that there was a shortage of male counselors and an abundance of boy campers. Guess who got to be in charge of 10, six-year-old boy campers in her group that week? That would be me.
And I will never forget the one little boy who walked out NAKED from the boys’ bathroom at swim time. When I instructed the boys to go inside and change into their swim trunks and then to come back outside to walk over to the pool with me, he got a little confused. And left his trunks inside the restroom instead of on his body. Naturally I gasped, somehow created a diversion and quickly got him suited up.
Wait. It wasn’t over yet. Later that same day, on the bus ride back to the church, the same little boy told me he “didn’t feel well.” I now know this is code for “I’m about to share my stinky 'cookies' with you, and my seat mate and the other two people across the aisle.” I quickly found an old plastic cup on the floor of the bus (again, praise God for small miracles) and held it under his mouth until he was done “sharing.” Somehow, I held it all the way back to the church in a rickety bus driving in rush-hour traffic at 60 m.p.h. Without spilling. Who says I won’t be a good mom someday, huh?
But my most favorite memory from this day camp involved Bible story time. Each day, a different counselor would dress up as a Bible character and tell his or her story to the campers. Of course, I chose a big character with a BIG story: Jonah. So to get the kids’ attention, I dressed up as a more modern-day version, complete with snorkel, mask and flippers. I always got a laugh—and rapt attention—when I appeared in the little amphitheatre, trying to flip-flop around and make my way to the center of the stage. I just hope that some of what I said about Jonah and how God worked in and through his life made a difference in one of the little lives that was listening.
Campin’ It Forward
And that’s really what summer camp is all about, right? When I was a camper, it was not only the activities that were special to me, but my counselors and Bible teachers and what they shared that made a huge impact in my life. And in turn, when I became a counselor, I aimed to “camp it forward” and make a difference for someone else’s little camper.
If you’ve got children and have never before thought about sending them to summer camp, I encourage you to consider it. Just try it once and see what happens.
It could be a life-changing experience and make for some wonderful memories. Which could one day be turned into a sometimes kooky blog. Written by an editor. Who works for a major Christian Web site. Or something like that. …
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