Summer camp is a big part of what we do and here’s what it looks like from a first-time camper’s perspective. Meet Fiona! She is currently 8 years old, and attended her first week of overnight camp with us this past summer. I asked her why she wanted to come to camp at BBC, and what some highlights were from the summer. She said she came because of friends, and was curious about what we did here. She reported loving Messy Monday activities, the Polar Bear Swim, and discovering a family of mice in her cabin. She also liked the fun prayer songs we do (especially the Superman one) and that all the counselors had funny nicknames.
OK cool. Maybe this good stuff wears off after coming back a few times… Meet Riley! He also came to camp for the first time when he was eight years old – but he is now fifteen, and has been to camp seven summers in a row! I asked him what he likes about camp and what keeps him coming back. He shared that “there is nothing that compares to camp!” And while he really enjoys the all-camp game of capture the flag, and said that of course “you gotta love the whizz ball.” The people are actually the reason he returns year after year. He loves that you get to spend your whole day “hanging out with cool and nice people and just having fun together.” He said you just can’t beat that! One of his favorite parts about this past summer was getting to meet a lot of new people as well. He is also looking forward to applying for the CIT (Counselor in Training) program and becoming a counselor here one day. Our staff have enjoyed getting to build relationships with Riley over the years, and think he will be a great addition to our team!
As people grow older and shift from camper to counselor and then beyond, things look different yet again. Dan “Chick” Laubach, program director this past summer shares from his view: No matter how many times I’ve gone into a summer at camp there are always a few knots in my stomach. Will the new staff blend with the returning staff and become a family? Will the kids in each cabin get along with one another? Will the shepherds be able to make connections with the campers that will create real impact in their lives?
Well, staff training went really well, the first group of campers looked pretty awesome, the shepherds I had lined up had done a great job in the past… but as a leader I still worried. These worries were calmed by Tuesday night of the first week of camp. The whole camp sat on the new pond beach singing camp songs and listening to the shepherd, Creek, share about reflections. Creek instructed each cabin, one at a time, to approach the water of the pond and look at his/her own reflection. Campers and counselors together looked down at the full honesty of their outward appearance. Among obvious beauty, many saw zits, scars, smiles, frowns, bags under eyes, worn clothing, etc. Creek challenged campers to look past the negatives that might come to mind when staring at one’s reflection, and focus on a good quality they could see in themselves. Then, each cabin left the pond’s edge and huddled together in the field. They shared with one another the qualities they saw in the other campers in their cabin that represent our being made in God’s image. It was a beautiful and emotional experience, bringing tears to many young middle schoolers who don’t often think about how they were wonderfully made. That evening I saw cabins come together, counselors lead faithfully, and the shepherd make a life-long impact on many kids. Knots in my stomach were untied!
You can read more about that evening on the camp’s blog: https://www.bethanybirches.org/2018/07/reflections/
Though this was my last summer as the Program Director at Bethany Birches, I know it’s not my last experience there. Bethany Birches is doing powerful work in the lives of the campers and also the staff. I strongly encourage you to join in through volunteering in the kitchen, maintenance, or shepherding. If you’re in your 20’s, consider becoming a counselor this summer. If your time is stretched thin, consider donating money to the Kids To Camp Fund so that more campers can experience the love of God at BBC. I hope to see you up on the hill and experience together how God is moving in the lives of those at camp.
~ Courtney “Wonder Woman” Hollingsworth, Program Director
~ Dan “Chick” Laubach, recent Program Director