I'm not sure how best to recap. I want to capture as much as possible, without losing your attention due to the length. I believe the memory of this camp would be very valuable to many different sorts of people.
Sunday, I arrived in the morning, had an all staff meeting, and got the 4th grade boys (13 of them this year) cabin ready to go. I would be the head counselor, with James and Mike B assisting, and Caleb and Mike C as my junior counselors. These four guys, ranging from high school to grad-school age, brought more skill and energy to my group than I could ever ask for. As campers arrived early afternoon, we got them unpacked and situated, and then down to the lake for swim tests.
The basic layout for a day of camp was:
- wake up the boys at 7:30, give them 20 minutes of quiet time to get situated and read from their bible if they'd like. then clean the cabin and get ready for flags
- flag raising, with the whole camp - 3rd graders through 7th graders, with a nearly 1:2 staff to camper ratio. breakfast. the dining hall consisted of square tables that sat 8 people each, with benches. assigned tables for the week assured that you had somebody from each grade level at your table, but did not switch around, allowing each person to get a broader taste of camp.
- various activities each day - including these things over the course of the week: swimming, archery, workshop (we made ladder golf and game boards), hood runs (see obstacle course pictures in my photos), day hikes, lunch, "low ropes" team-building games. Older age groups did other things too like tubing and canoeing.
- flag lowering included a brief "talk show" that would bring up various kids to highlight interesting stories from the previous day or two, and some sort of story by the camp director, Randy. It would be a story about love - our theme for the week was "Make Love your Aim" - based on "Let Love be your greatest aim" based on 1 Corinthians 14:1 - and often about having a relationship with "Holy" - an affectionate first-name friendship with the Holy Spirit.
- dinner - and all the meals - included random breaks where we would all do a rowdy song together. at dinner, clean cabin awards were delivered, and occasionally junior counselors would get up to highlight a brief story from their day.
- campfire in the evening, more songs - I think I'll have a couple funny videos to share on here about that too - and skits. Throughout the week there was also an ongoing staff skit about an evil dictator taking over camp and trying to change the theme to make hate your aim, and various instances where the campers were not persuaded to worship idols, to cheat at games, to lie, to take steroids, and they ultimately overcame him by their love and with the help of elijah. It was pure comedic genius thanks to all the staff involved, and especially the planners and main characters - Mike B and Becca F.
- one night, a campwide game of Capture the Flag replaced campfire. It was insanely fun for all involved.
- in the evenings, my group would pray together - expressing concerns/intentions that we could pray for, talking about what we enjoyed and what was difficult each day, and saying an Our Father together. After that, all but 1 of the counselors would leave for staff social time - we took turns each night - and the 1 remaining counselor would read from a book aloud while the boys lay in bed and fell asleep. We worked on a book James had brought, called "Holes".
- Each group had a name we chose prior to camp, ours was the Steadfast Snipers.
That was the basic layout of the week. It is the abridged version of a summary of the briefest glimpse of the week. I can't really actually properly describe it in a blog post. It would have to have been a series or something. But it helps to understand simply that the whole point of the camp was for us to love the campers, to grow in friendship with them, to show them our lifestyle of love amidst difficulties, and to basically give them a fun time! It was a markedly different strategy than other Scout camps that I am used to, but it is the same camp - with some major enhancements and progressions - as the camp that I attended myself as a camper, when I was their age.
Oh, on Thursday I decided at the last minute to jump into the guys staff belly-flop contest. I'm glad I did. Even though I am not quite a showman nor a skilled acrobat - both of which were necessities for doing well - I decided that I would be willing to go through a bit of pain for the camp's enjoyment. :) And enjoy it they did!
Camp concluded Thursday night, and campers left Friday morning. Staff stayed afterwards to cleanup camp for a couple hours, and then lunch together, and hang out at the waterfront. That was a lot of fun, and I am eager to continue experiences like this. It is an interesting experience to be gaining more and more insight into the conditions under which South Bend POP kids were/are raised, and also gaining more insight into them as individuals - those who are currently children, and those who have returned as adults.
Flickr Photos: South Bend POP Camp, '08
The Facility (separate staff & mission for this week)
James' camp reflection series