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 MinistriesEpiscopal Camps and Conference CentersELCA Outdoor MinistriesReformed Church in America Camps and Conference CentersUnited Methodist Camping and Retreat MinistriesUnited Church of Christ, Outdoor Ministry AssociationDisciples 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!