this is no longer my blog

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


i'm still alive... in case you were worried

Yes, I am still around. I am still breathing. Although life has been a bit hectic and full lately.

So... my trip to the Boundary Waters... AMAZING!!! I will surely go back someday. Hopefully soon. Unfortunately, my good friend Mr. Awesome was not able to come along. He was all set to go, but then had to do a funeral at the last minute and so could not go along. Although it was disappointing that he was unable to come, the trip was still amazing and I had an awesome time with the people that went along. Although we ended up having to leave the Boundary Waters a day earlier than planned because we were afraid that the 9 year old who was venturing along with us had a broken hand. So we came out a day early, the professor from the Mothership who came along took his son to the clinic in Grand Marais and had his hand checked out. It was nothing, just a strain, and of course the following morning almost all of the swelling had gone away. While the professor and his son were at the clinic we went to the municipal camp ground and got a camp site there. The professor and his son got a hotel room for the night so they could watch baseball. It turned out that there was an extra bed in the hotel room, so I ended up abandoning the other guys at the campsite and crashed in the hotel room. I felt it would have been a tragedy to let that double bed go unused. Plus the guy I had been sharing a tent with was 6'8". So it was nice to stretch out.

Then, since I've been back from that fun trip I've been working on my Approval Essay. To be ordained, or be any type of rostered leader, in the ELCA one needs to go through the candidacy process. It starts before you enter seminary with the Entrance interview, where they deem whether you are fit to begin the process. It includes a psychological evaluation and an autobiography, go through an interview by your synod's candidacy committee, and some other good stuff. Then, at the beginning of your second year of seminary you go through what's called the Endorsement process. It involves another interview with your committee, writing an essay, and that is where they determine whether to endorse you to continue on in the process. During your last year of seminary you go through what is called the Approval process. It involves writing a 25ish page essay, and going through two separate interviews - one through the candidacy committee and one with the faculty of the seminary. So I have been busy writing and rewriting and editing my approval essay which will be going in the mail to my committee by the end of this week. So I've really had a hard time justifying blogging when I haven't had that finished, especially since I had to postpone a trip back home so that I could finish the essay. But I'm all essayed out for the evening, and getting ready to go with a friend to the Midway airport in Chicago to pick up another friend who will be arriving. So it's easy to convince myself that it would be fruitless to try to write anything on the essay now.

But speaking of going to Chicago, I have to go get ready to leave now. My friend will be here soon. So I will talk to you all later.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005



So today I woke up and I was no longer Pastor Intern Mark. Weird... Today was the first day I was completely detached from my internship congregation. I didn't need to finish packing or cleaning, I didn't need to drive there or back from there. I woke up in my dorm room and looked at the boxes and rubber maid containers that need to be unpacked and thought, "There's nothing I need to do today. No hospital visits, no sermon preparation, no worship prep. I'm a free man." It still feels a bit weird.
But now I need to be about the business of integrating myself back here at the Mothership. Financial aid forms and I need to sign my lease and think about unpacking some more.
I'm also excited because next week I'm going on a canoe trip into the Boundary Waters.... and THIS JUST IN!! Mr. Awesome and his son J might be coming along with us. I don't want to make the link right now, but if you scan through my archives for the month of April, I believe, I talk about the Awesomes and how awesome they are. And now I might get to see two of them again! Woot!
Gotta run!

Monday, August 15, 2005


it is finished!

Technically my internship is now over. Officially it goes until Tuesday. But the next two days will be spent packing and cleaning and moving, and not doing any pastoral related tasks. My final services were this weekend, I preached my final sermon, and they had a service of Godspeed and a farewell reception for me. It was touching and amazing and great and exhausting all at the same time. People showed so much support and appreciation for the work that I have done during my internship, even people that I didn't think knew that I was there. I mean, I shook their hands as they left church every weekend, and I said "Hello," occasionally, but they never let on that they appreciated me as much as they said they did this weekend.

It was a tough weekend. I had to preach the sermon three times. I focused on the how Jesus was changed through his relationship and interaction with the Canaanite woman. And then I connected that to how I was changed through my relationship with the congregation. Saturday evening as I was preaching it I needed about four kleenexes to make it through, and even then it was a struggle. At the service of Godspeed at the end of that service, Supervising even got choked up, and he's usually pretty calm and collected. So that made me even worse! The next two times weren't so bad, but the contemporary service on Sunday morning, which is the service a lot of people I have gotten pretty close to attend, was tough. I'd be doing fine, until I made eye contact with someone who was crying and then it would be tough to maintain composure. I received applause at two of the three services. One of the services seems to be populated by our "Old Guard," where change is bad, they sit in their same pews, and they don't clap at church. But they sure expressed their appreciation afterwards.

I know there were times when I said I was ready for my internship to end. And I know that the countdown I kept may have made it seem like I was looking forward to the end. Part of me definitely was. But now that the end is happening, I don't want it to. I want to stay and continue these relationships that I've started. I want to watch the kids grow up and see the high schoolers go off to college and pursue their callings. I want to celebrate the milestones with these families. I want to see the babies get baptized and I want to see the young kids take their first communions and then get confirmed. I want to be there for these people in their struggles and their joys. I love these people more than I thought possible. Even Tom, who I thought was the bane of my existence. Even he will be missed.

I didn't know it would be this hard. Even as the end grew closer, I was oblivious to just how attached I've become, really. I thought I'd pack up and move out and go back to my friends at school and that would be that. But it's not that easy. It feels like that when I leave, a substantial part of my self will still be here. While I'm excited for this next step in the journey, to integrate what I've learned here on internship and to begin the process of seeking a first call, it hurts to think about leaving this part of my life behind.

And part of me is reluctant to do that, which is why it has been such a process for me to pack and clean. I'm behind what I could have done and should have done already. Truthfully, I don't have that much stuff and there's no reason why I'm not packed up already. But I am a natural born procrastinator, and it's hard to get motivated when part of me believes that if I just don't pack, then I just won't have to move and that means that this experience really isn't coming to an end. Denial is a very effective defense mechanism. I utilize it quite often.

Anyway, I should get to bed, even though I know sleep will be slow in coming tonight. Too many emotions and thoughts and reminders rolling around in my head. Too many things need to be done. But it's better that I lay in bed and do that thinking, just in case I nod off to sleep, than sit at a computer and do that thinking while I stimulate my brain by doing a crossword or reading an article or playing some random game.

So, I hope you've enjoyed reading about my adventures on internship. They have been amazing and grueling and awesome and exhausting and invigorating and crazy and life-altering. Thanks for listening, for sharing encouragement and advice, and for walking with me on the journey. Now I'm approaching the door to another part of this crazy adventure. I've heard rumors what it's like on the other side, but I've never experienced it for myself. I'm getting ready to open the door and go on in. You're welcome to come along for the ride!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2005


real church sign... i promise...


Wednesday, August 10, 2005


one down, two to go

The council meeting is over. That is one more item checked off of my list of "Things That Remain To Be Done Before The End."
Supervising was giving his report, and he moved that I be presented with the same gift that they give each departing intern - an empty envelope. I was a little taken aback because that wasn't what I was expecting, and there were some chuckles at my reaction. Supervising continued by saying that this envelope serves as a promisory note, of sorts, that upon my ordination the church will buy and present me with the stole of my choice. The motion was passed.
Anyway, I am very tired from the extra physical exertion of today. I think the whole stress of my friend Glasses crashing and then our trip to the ER may have contributed to my fatigue, as well. But I am fading very quickly, so I think I'm going to go ahead and call it a night a bit early this evening.
Oh... and while we're on the subject of the bike ride... You'd think that they would assume that since bike seats are made for sitting that they should just go ahead and make them comfortable to sit on for long rides. But they don't. They expect you to compensate by putting padding on the seat or by wearing padded shorts. The seat of the bike I borrowed from Glasses was not padded. Nor was mine. Needless to say, my butt is very sore right now.


the agony of defeat

Today was our final area clergy cluster gathering. Well, my final one. I think it was really intended to be their big kick-off for their year of monthly meetings. And the new intern at the church in Neighboring Podunk was introduced. She goes to my seminary, and is a year behind me, so that made it kind of weird. But her internship hasn't officially started yet, so I don't feel quite that deficient anymore.

So after breakfast and after our meeting, which mainly consists of going around and each gathered person shares a bit about how things are going at their church and andy personal news they feel like sharing, we broke up into our different activity groups for the day. Most of them went golfing. A few may have gone shopping. Four of us went bike riding. It was Glasses, Liberal Woman, myself and another pastor who I am acquainted with but don't really know enough to come up with a nickname for him, and he doesn't really factor into this story much so I don't need to give him one. [editor's note: i feel the need for a disclaimer. Glasses Pastor and Liberal Woman Pastor were named a few weeks into my knowing of them. They were thus named because those were the distinguishing characteristics that jumped out at me at that point. I have since gotten to know them much better and like them a whole heckuva lot, and so I feel like the nicknames are kind of lame. Glasses Pastor is a very nice, compassionate, witty, humorous and great man. Who just happens to have relatively thick lenses in his glasses. Liberal Woman Pastor is an amazing, compassionate, principled and outspoken pastor who happens to be liberal and female. Both of them are far more than what their nicknames suggest. Just keep that in mind, okay?]

After breakfast we changed into our biking clothes, got our bikes ready and then took off. We took backroads and were enjoying a leisurely time. I was the least experienced cyclist out of the group. Glasses is a very avid biker, owns several different bikes and lots of biking paraphanelia. In fact, most of the stuff I was using today was borrowed from him. Liberal Woman has started riding bikes more often with Glasses and is really starting to get into it. The other guy used to run but had issues with his knees and so he is transitioning into biking. Anyway, three miles into our ride we're going down this hill and I'm starting to pick up a lot of speed. I start braking slightly, hoping to slow down at least a little bit. The other guy and I were a fair distance behind Glasses and Liberal Woman when, apparently, Glasses' foot came off his pedal, he lost his balance and crashed.

If we had had a video camera with us, this crash looked like something that we could have submitted to ESPN for their Agony of Defeat video clips. Glasses lost his balance, fell down on his right side, tucked and rolled, the bike flipped over him and he skidded for at least ten feet on the pavement. He immediately sat up and was able to get up and walk around. He had abrasions on his left leg, both arms, the knuckles on his left hand and his back and a puncture wound on his right thigh. He seemed to think that he was goo enough to continue riding, though, so after giving him time to recover we all mounted our bikes and continued riding for ten more miles.

Coincidentally, his wife happens to work right next door to where we had breakfast. So when we returned to the parking lot, he ran into a coworker of his wife who was heading for lunch. She told him that his wife was alone in the office, so he could stop in and tell her what had happened. When we got in there, Glasses says to his wife, "Well, I'll ask you, since you have some medical background. What should I do if my collar bone really, really hurts?" She recommended going to the ER. He said that he probably would, but once we got outside he wanted to go to lunch. We put the bikes back into the vans, then we went in to change clothes. He realized that it was worse than he thought when he couldn't lift his arms up to take his shirt off.

Anyway, to make a long story short, we took him to the ER. His wife, who he had told didn't need to worry and could stay at work, ended up coming to the ER, as well. They took him up to get x-rayed and found a nondisplaced hairline fracture, or two. So now his arm is in a sling.

So Liberal Woman and I left before they started to clean out his abrasions. We decided we didn't need to be there for that. And we went out for lunch. Glasses was disappointed, he had just gotten done telling me on the way to the ER how this group of pastors in this area really kind of claim the intern as theirs, even though the intern is just at one congregation. And that they were really going to miss me. I think he had wanted to take me out for lunch, but due to circumstances, was unable to do so.

Anyway, I have to go and get ready for my final church council meeting tonight. Oh, and just because I know you're interested, here's the list of things I have left to do:
- 1 church council meeting
- 1 more Sunday
- 1 more sermon
That's all, folks! I still cannot believe it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


unfortunate, but not unexpected

Today was our church trip to Chicago to watch the Cubbies play. And they lost. It was close until the 9th inning, when the Cincinatti Reds scored about six runs. But it was fun and I got a Cubs shirt with their vintage logo on it. And also four hotdogs, two waters a Pepsi and a large pretzel. It was an expensive day.
But it was a fun day. The bus ride up was good. We joked around and I sat by a seventh grader and we played War with a deck of cards (I totally kicked his butt), and watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on the TVs in the bus.
Watching the game was fun, until about the third or fourth inning when the young kids who had the seats behind my row finally came stumbling in (fyi: they were NOT from our church). One of the guys had made a large sign that said, "It's my 21st birthday. Buy me a beer!" and he was enthusiastically waving it around. I thought about buying him a beer, but decided not to because they were $5.50 a piece, plus it was obvious that he and his friends had already had plenty to drink. There were four guys and two gals in this group, and it was obvious one of the girls had already drank too much. She was very loud and VERY vulgar, shouting things about the different Cubs players if they'd make an error. At one point, several of them got up to go either to the restroom or the concession stand, and this girl was so inebriated that she almost fell down the stairs several times. One of the times she was caught by a member of my congregation. It was very obvious that most of the people from my church that were in my row were very uncomfortable with this group of people behind us, and I was THIS close to turning around and saying something, but I didn't want to provoke them anymore and eventually they started to tone it down and several of the guys tried to reign this young woman in. They left midway through the 9th inning and I think we all took a collective sigh of relief.
The bus ride home was fun, as well. We did Mad Libs and took pictures and watched Shrek and took naps. Then PD (Pastor's Daughter), Clark and I, along with a couple high schoolers, went out for supper afterwards.
So it was a fun day, and as a result of this trip I already have three meals for this week booked with different families from church. If I play my cards right, I will not have to fix a single meal. That would be nice!

Monday, August 08, 2005


good idea?

So I took a carload of stuff to the Mothership today.

I'm still unsure if it was a good idea or not.

It was good because it gets a load of stuff there that will need to be there eventually. Thus reducing the amount of stuff still here that needs to be removed from here.

It was good because I got to hang out with a good friend and his cute toddler. We went out for lunch to a new burrito place in town and then we went back to his house and I played with his son's toys. And chased the dog around the house.

It was good because I got to walk around campus and see strange and unfamiliar faces and think, "Someday soon you might be my friend."

It was good because I was able to spend time with another dear friend as she arranged things in her apartment, then we went out for supper and then to Target (I miss Target) where I bought a shower curtain and a bath mat for my dorm room bathroom.

It may not have been good because part of me just wanted to stay there. Part of me didn't want to have to come back here to deal with the finality of internship; to say good bye and finish packing and cleaning. While I was there part of me just wanted to stay there and resume that part of my life, without putting the finishing touches on this part.

Now, part of me is chomping at the bit to get back there; to be able to spend every day playing with my toddler friend and eating with my good friends and meeting strange and unfamiliar friends.

So, I'm really stuck in the middle of both worlds right now. Part of me (and part of my stuff) is back at seminary, ready to be whole heartedly there. Part of me (and part of my stuff) is still here on internship, desperately clinging to the people and the memories, not quite ready to let go. It's a very weird and awkward place to be.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


you might be thinking...

that I've been posting an awful lot about camp. Different memories and stories and the like. Well, there's a reason for that.

Okay, a couple of reasons. First, it's one of the few summers in quite a while that I have not spent at least a little time out at a camp. The summer I did CPE two years ago was another summer like this one, but these two might be the only ones for as far back as almost a decade.

And second, because I wanted to post about anything else except the upcoming end to my internship. And since that has been pretty prominent in my life as of late, it made sense to probe the depths for blogging material. But I can't NOT post about the end of my internship right now. And that's because I have a week left.

That's right. The countdown has arrived at the final week. And this week will fly by fairly rapidly. You see, tomorrow is my day off. I will be taking a car load of stuff to be moved into my room at the Mothership. I don't have enough to rent a uhaul or some other sort of truck or trailer, but I have just enough that it doesn't fit into one carload. So my day off before I move out for good is dedicated to taking a load of stuff.

Tuesday, I will be out of the office all day on a church trip to go watch the Chicago Cubs. It's an annual event at this church. They charter a bus and take a big group over to the city for a game. So that will eat up most of my day on Tuesday.

Wednesday is our final area clergy meeting. We've met once a month since August, and this is the day that kind of marks the ending/beginning of the year for them. So we're meeting for breakfast at a restaurant, then we'll meet and go over all sorts of things like what is going on in the lives of the clergy and their churches, and then we're breaking off into smaller groups to go do recreational things. Some are going to play golf. I'm breaking off with two good friends (if you want to go as far back as September in my archives, you'll come across The Adventures of Pastor Intern Mark in the Land of the Professional Leaders' Conference. My two friends are in that story under Liberal Woman Pastor and Glasses Pastor) and we're going to go bike riding that day.

Thursday will be my first day in the office. It's also my final supervisory session with Supervising. And then the office staff is going out for lunch. I'm guessing it is going to be a farewell lunch for moi.

Friday I will be in the office, hurriedly working to complete my sermon and a few of the other duties for worship. As well as packing and cleaning.

Saturday morning will be spent packing and cleaning and finishing up my sermon. Saturday evening will be spent leading worship and preaching.

Sunday morning will be spent leading worship and preaching, twice, separated by a farewell reception for me. Sunday afternoon and evening will be spent packing and cleaning.

Insert in there, multiple times, I'm sure, final visits to friends' houses, eating with parishioners, and other assorted closure type things. Yup... the end is right around the corner.

I cannot believe we are at this point right now. It is completely unbelievable.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


A Tribute To Sergeant Jen

Jen was the first counselor that I met my first summer working on summer staff. When I arrived with my parents, we were greeted by two loud and enthusiastic site managers who helped me get situated, and then we went inside the lodge where Jen was sitting at a table. She had come from Missouri or somewhere sort of distant like that, and so she had to come the night before everyone else was expected to be there. I was still dependent on my parents' for a car, so I had to be there the night before, too.

Jen was a bit on the short side, and heavier set. She had short red hair and freckles. She came from a Missouri Synod Lutheran background. They are a more conservative branch of Lutheranism that don't ordain women, don't fraternize/fellowship with other denominations, and love the ELCA so much that they don't even recognize us as a viable form of Christianity. And Jen was happy in the Missouri Synod. She was okay knowing that the most she could do in her church was Christian Education. She didn't see the need for women leaders and pastors.

Her goal in life was to graduate from her college with a degree in criminal justice, I believe, and do some sort of probation officer type work. She was employed during the school year in a facility for adolescent offenders, I believe. But she had met a good friend of mine in an online chatroom and, according to him, developed some romantic feelings for him. So on a whim she applied to work at the summer camp that she knew he would be working at, so as to be close to him. Poor Jen was barking up the wrong tree. My friend Matt was gay. But that's a whole other story.

Jen was one of those people that most others find hard to get along with. Immediately she began to rub people the wrong way, so people began to distance themselves from her and to avoid her. I try to see the value in everyone. I find that I often have a way of befriending those people that others do not. I seem to have a higher tolerance in that department than most. So I tried to be friends with Jen. But it was hard work. I often found that we would be horribly sarcastic to one another. Most of the time we were joking, although some times, I must admit, there was a lot of truth to the things I said. We worked at the same site our first week, and it was after that week that our camp director gave us the speech that we were not to use sarcasm with each other in front of the kids. Her reasoning was that they would not know if we were serious, or not. Jen and I knew that a large part of that was directed at us, and we never worked together the rest of the summer...

It was that first week of summer that she earned her nickname of Sergeant Jen. We were both assigned to junior high campers, and she tried to run her group in the manner of a drill sergeant. She didn't seem to realize that church campers did not require the same sort of discipline and motivational tactics that the adolescents she normally worked with did. This caused her campers to immediately resent and dislike her. Being junior highers, especially boys, they automatically began to ignore her. They would purposely be disruptive and obnoxious. Jen did not have the same means of discipline at camp that she did in her other job. She really didn't know how to deal with this, and so she reacted by shouting more.

Now I, on the other hand, do not yell at my campers. It takes extreme circumstances for me to get angry enough to yell at them. I went by the philosophy that they come to camp to grow in relationship with each other and with God. Not to be shouted at. So I would do anything and everything within my means to not shout (although there were many times I ended up yelling). I also have a tendency to be quite the goofball (I know you're shocked). I love to have a good time and to laugh and to make others laugh. So Sgt Jen's campers began to drift towards me. They would, at all costs, try to avoid sitting next to her in large group settings, and they'd sit next to my campers and me.

Kurt was a youth worker who had brought a group of campers out that week. He was a previous summer staff member and he and I were very similar in a lot of respects. Especially in the way we chose to deal with the campers. Jen, in a moment of great frustration, came to Kurt and vented about how her kids didn't respect her, they didn't listen to her, they didn't pay attention to her. She had done everything she could and they just would not do what they were supposed to do. She was at the end of her rope.

So what did Kurt do? The next meal time he approached me. "Hey Mark," he said. "I see that you have a pretty good relationship with Jen's campers."

"Yeah, I guess."

"Could you do me a favor? Would you mind having a talk with them, and ask them to give her a break? They could be a little better at doing what they're supposed to do."

I was taken aback. "Have you seen the way she treats them?" I asked. "I think it would be better if someone had a talk with her!!"

So Kurt agreed to talk with her, and I agreed to say something to her campers. When I tried, they argued and told me what I already knew. But I begged them to just give her a break and to not push her buttons. In the end they agreed, and the week finished out a lot better than it would have otherwise.

Now, as I said earlier, Jen and I never worked together again the rest of the summer, and I can't say that I'm disappointed about that. So I can't say for certain that she improved in the way she treated her kids, although she seemed to be doing better as the summer progressed. She did, however, keep the nickname Sergeant Jen and to this day anyone from the summer staff that was there that summer who looks at a picture and sees her face will inevitably mention Sergeant Jen.

So here's to you, Sergeant Jen. You boldly took a step of faith, coming to a camp in a different state regardless of the reason behind it. Your methods were a little unorthodox and perhaps a bit inappropriate, but your heart was in the right place. I don't know where you went after that summer or what you are doing now, but I pray that God has continued to work in your life. Perhaps some seeds were planted that summer that forever altered the way that you see and treat young teenagers, or perhaps you moved on to a job that was more suited to the gifts and abilities you possessed. Wherever you are, I hope you remember that you are a beloved child of God and that even though most of us who worked with you would have a hard time seeing how it would be possible, the Holy Spirit did indeed work through you that summer and it did touch lives and change hearts.

p.s. Don't hate me, but here is an interaction between Jen and I that is sort of typical of the way we were with each other: A group of us that stayed at camp over the weekend were getting ready to drive into the city for supper. Several of us were standing outside and Jen had pulled on her staff jacket. She looked at me and asked, "Mark, does the jacket make me look fat?" Looking at her, I got a mischevious glint in my eye and said, "No. But your face does!" Her face turned bright red and she proceeded to chase me all the way around the lodge. I ran in fear that my life might be cut horribly short. She didn't catch me. I can be quick when my life depends on it.

Friday, August 05, 2005


i forgot!

I ordered another pair of liturgically colored shoes! So now when these arrive I'll have liturgically appropriate shoes for:
Epiphany and the Season of Pentecost (green)
Advent (blue)
Pentecost Sunday, Reformation Sunday, any feast days, and ordinations (red)
and now Lent (purple)
I'm excited! And I think that makes me a huge church nerd.


camp memories

So I started a post last night about some more of my experiences at church camp. This particular memory was about one of the toughest weeks I've ever had at camp, and my experiences with a young boy named Brandon or, as I referred to him then, the little red-headed boy from hell.

How great is it for a camp counselor to refer to his camper like that, right? And it was even a 1st-3rd grade week! But this boy had some behavioral issues which resulted in him trying to beat me up on numerous occasions, calling me a "f***ing idiot" repeatedly, punching another camper in the face, attempting to bite several counselors, and refusing to do much of anything. He was one of the campers that I could have taken my own advice with, and repeatedly reminded myself that he was a beloved child of God.

Anyway, I've already spent more time talking about him than I had wanted to. In the midst of writing about Brandon and all the other crazy kids we had that week, I thought to myself, "Self, you've really only shared some of the more traumatic experiences you've had as a counselor: mucking through the gross water to unstick canoes; a camper who pooped his pants; and now you're going to write about Brandon?" I began to think that if any prospective camp counselors were to read my blog, they might be persuaded to do something else for the summer, and that is the last thing that I would want.

So I thought that today I would share one of my happier memories from camp.

It was the last week of my first summer as a counselor. After being deployed as day camp staff for a few more weeks than I would have liked, I was finally back onsite. I was even assigned to be with junior high kids that week. I was excited! The kids began arriving and we moved them into the bunkhouses, and then when we had a large enough group, we took them to the field to begin playing some big group games. Generally, you have to have finished 7th grade to come to one of the junior high weeks at my camp. But because this particular church had registered a big group to come the same week, they were able to sneak in a few that had just finished 6th grade. In the midst of the game, I happened to befriend five boys from this church who would be going into 7th grade. Their names were Danny, Joel, Colin, Michael and Chris. There was some immediate bonding that took place. They seemed to think that I was pretty great, and I thought they were just hilarious. Every meal they'd make sure to save me a seat at their table, and they'd follow me to various things like worship and campfires, just to make sure that they were able to sit by me.

Well, the week progressed and finally it came to the end of the week. The camp I worked at was separated into four sites. Two were for elementary aged campers and two were for junior/senior high campers. All four sites throughout the week were fairly decentralized and had very little interaction with one another, besides passing by on a hike or on the way to the pool. However, the camp week was started and ended by a big group gathering where all four sites came together for singing and worship. At the closing program, all of the counselors would get up in front of the assembled campers and parents and we'd sing a song that we had chosen, and then our camp theme song. It was at that closing program, the last one of the summer, that I began what ended up being a yearly tradition, and that was I started to cry. You see, I could have stayed at camp ffoooorrrreeeeevvvvveeeerrrrrr, so when it came time to end the camp season, I was never ready. I always wanted it to be longer.

Well, after everyone was dismissed, I walked back up the camp site to make sure my campers got all of the stuff out of the bunkhouse and to say good bye to everyone before they left. I especially wanted to make sure to say good bye to my five little guys. A couple of the boys had come up to me right afterwards, wanting to make sure to give me a hug and to make sure I was alright. We walked back up to the bunkhouses and I began looking for the rest of them. Finally, I'd said good bye to all of them except for Joel. As I kept looking, I rounded one of the bunkhouses and came into the central area of the site and saw Joel running towards me. We hugged and that's when I heard him say, "Thanks for making my summer so great!"

During that next year I kept in contact with all five of them through occasional letters. Then the summer rolled around again and I anxiously and excitedly moved back out to camp. The last week arrived and all five of my boys were back, and this time they brought a few more friends. It turns out that they were so set on wanting to have me as their counselor again, that they had spoken to their pastor and asked him to write a letter to the camp director saying that he wanted to make sure that I was at that site again for that week. I was a little floored when I heard that, but it worked!

Well, to make a long (and perhaps pointless) story short, I continued to keep in contact with those boys, a few more than others. Although, through the years I have fallen out of contact with most of them. One of them moved and we lost touch. I guess a couple others decided it wasn't very cool to keep in touch with their church camp counselor. However, I have managed to stay in touch with one of them, occasionally writing an e-mail or chatting on instant messenger. He's now getting ready for his junior year of college. Of course, every time I try to picture him as a college junior (I've seen him in person and in pictures, so I know what he looks like...) I always go back to that little sixth grade kid with the funny sunglasses and the goofy smile.

Camp is really an amazing place. The relationships that are started there are often some of the strongest, and some of my best friendships have begun there. So, I guess, really, what the point of this post is meant to be is to say, If you have even the smallest desire to go and be a camp counselor for a summer - DO IT! It is amazing and life changing! Don't let my horror stories scare you away. Go and experience some of your own horror stories! I promise that in the scheme of things they're not really that bad, and anyway, several years down the road you'll be able to blog about them!!

visit these sites for more information!
Presbyterian Camps and Conference Ministries
Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers
ELCA Outdoor Ministries
Reformed Church in America Camps and Conference Centers
United Methodist Camping and Retreat Ministries
United Church of Christ, Outdoor Ministry Association
Disciples of Christ Youth Resources (this was the best I could find... If anyone can direct me to a better webpage, I'll gladly replace this link!)

These are just a few denominational resources for Christian church camping! There are plenty of other resources out there to help you along the way!

Thursday, August 04, 2005


in the face of adversity

When an intern's supervisor is on vacation for the entire week, and all the responsibilities and tasks to make sure that worship goes off without a hitch, plus all of the responsibilities during that week which are normally shared, fall onto the intern's shoulders, that is often the time when the intern buckles down and barrels forward. This is often the time when the intern works extra hard to make sure that everything gets done on time and that there are no loose ends flapping around.

Of course, this is the time when I can't focus on much of anything, and this is the time when I sit down at the computer to begin work I think, "Oooh! A crossword puzzle!"

In case you couldn't tell, I'm having trouble concentrating on work, right now. It's not that I'm concentrating on anything else, because I'm not. I'm surfing the web, doing crossword puzzles, chatting on instant messenger with friends... Basically anything I can find to do BESIDES work. Writing this blog would be another wonderful example of things I am doing that don't overlap with the things I should be doing.

Well... I suppose I should get back to trying to do something constructive. It probably won't last long, however.

Monday, August 01, 2005


words of inspiration

So my friend Christina, who is a camp director down in Texas, asked me for words of inspiration for her summer staff as they enter the last week of the summer.

I think first and foremost I'd say: Finish strong!! My old camp director always used to say, "This might be the eighth (or ninth or tenth or eleventh or whatever) week for you, but it is the first week for these campers." Put as much energy and enthusiasm into this week as you did for all of the previous weeks, the kids who come at the end of the summer deserve it just as much as the kids at the beginning of the summer did.

Remember to see each camper as a child of God. Whether they're your favorite or not (and don't lie... we shouldn't have favorites, but EVERYONE does), whether they're cute or not, whether they annoy you or not, whether they poop their pants or not, whether they call you horrible names or not, whether they require more of your attention and supervision or not... Each one of them was wonderfully made by God, and is loved by God just as much as anyone else. Looking back at my experience as a counselor, there are several situations in which it would have been good for me to remind myself of this. Perhaps I would have handled things better, been a bit more patient, not raised my voice. Maybe I would have given more attention to a camper who needed it and a little less to a camper who was easy to love. Maybe I wouldn't have been AS glad when they're parents came to pick them up on that Friday. Or, who knows, maybe I would have been just as impatient or raised my voice just as much or given just as much attention to the cute, loveable one or did an extra happy dance of joy when they left. But I would have reminded myself that even though I might not like them, that doesn't mean that God doesn't absolutely and completely and wonderfully love them just as they are.

Be proud of the work you've done and are doing. Camp is tough, hard work. It takes a special person to be able to spend week after week after week after week outside in the hot summer, spending time with large groups of kids, playing silly games and singing sillier songs, sleeping on uncomfortable beds, all for very little money. Not everyone can do that kind of work!! God sees the good work that you are doing. Your reward will be great in Heaven!

And, because the Admissions office at seminary would expect nothing less of me... Have you considered a vocation in full time ministry? Maybe a youth director or a camp director or maybe, possibly, potentially ordained ministry? Prayerfully consider using the gifts that God has given you in this way. I mean, you've already survived a summer at church camp. If you can handle homesick campers and hormonal teenagers and being stuck working with that staff member that you absolutely didn't want to work with, then I think you're more ready for the realistic demands of full time ministry than you think you are. So think about it. Talk to someone who is already doing it. Contact a seminary. Ask for more information. The church needs more leaders like you!

I'm sure that I could think of more, but it is late. If I do happen to come up with any more bits of wisdom, I will be sure to post them. And if there are any readers who have camp experience (as I know there are) feel free to add any words of inspiration and insight that you might have for their last week of the summer!!


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