Another summer has come and gone for me at Camp Cross. This year I had to leave a little before the end, which while never a desired arrangement has enabled me to start my seminary education on time and begin building a strong community with my fellow seminarians.
Speaking of building intentional community, I want to talk about one of, if not the single greatest, summer that I have experienced at Camp Cross. While I had initially planned to keep up to date each day (then every other day, then each week), I’ll instead be writing about the summer as a whole and the impacts that we as a staff made, and the impacts that our campers had on me.
It’s always a nervous proposition to bring 10 20-somethings together to live and work together in intentional community, while throwing them into the fires of the high-energy, high-stress, high-demand role of camp staffer. It is even more so, when you are intentionally trying to bring in some staff without Camp Cross ties, and in turn beginning to change the philosophy of not only what it means to be a staffer, but what it means to experience Camp Cross. However, this summer proved that it can be done, and can be done with tremendous success.
Coming together for staff training back in June, tentativeness and feeling out of each other quickly gave way to learning how to work together, laugh together, eat together, and begin learning how we might live together into the mission of camp and the Church in general.
As the summer progressed with the first few weekend camps, the staff was challenged, but remained strong and came out of those first few trials, strong, bonded, and ready to tackle the week-long sessions with passion and enthusiasm.
Junior High may have been the single most challenging week at camp this summer, both with it being the largest with over 50 campers and being the first week-long camp the staff would experience. Also, the two staff liaisons this week were rookie staffers, an unenviable position to be in, having to take control of camp and learning how to do that largely on the fly as no one else had done it before them this summer. Through some minor struggles and challenges, the staff came together to produce a fantastic week of camp for the kids. The laughter, memories, and junior high romances, helped create a week that these kids will not soon forget, and the staff as a whole began to understand what it truly meant to be a staffer at Camp Cross. They always approached the activities with enthusiasm and joy, even when physically and sometimes emotionally drained. Never letting their own challenges put a damper on anything that these campers wanted to experience.
Following Junior High with Mid-High, the staff truly came into their own and began to shape what it would mean to have been a member of the 2012 staff. Mid-High was an exciting week, with a lightening-shortened under-deck rave, the introduction of a new camp game, and a fantastic and deep morning program, the staff, counselors, and campers really came together to produce one of the best weeks of camp in my memory. The support of the community as a whole was especially evident in small group discussions, where our campers were not afraid to bare their souls and really get at the issues that they face back home. Being able to provide such a welcoming and affirming setting is what being a Christian camp is all about, and this week clearly illustrates the impact that we can have on the lives of those that come to us.
Our next group to come out was an outside group, Camp No Limits, for kids and families that have experienced limb loss. I looked forward to this camp all summer, never having been able to work their camp in the past due to school or work commitments. I was not disappointed. Camp No Limits brings together a great group of kids, parents, and their own team of counselors and support staff. In addition, they were able to have a local organization, Team St. Luke’s, come out one day with wheelchairs specifically designed for basketball, and one of their athletes who will be competing in the Paralympic games at the end of the month. I had a great time working with the kids from this group (a few of which we tried to convince to come join us for our own sessions because we enjoyed them so much), and will hopefully have the opportunity to join them in Maryland in October for another one of their camps.
My last week at camp this summer was the Intermediate camp. I really enjoy working with this age group, as they are pretty much willing to take on any task you put in front of them, all-the-while maintaining wonderment about the world in general. They’re full of life and fun, and you can’t help but get caught up in their pure joy. This week also presented one of my biggest challenges, as I was called, for the first time this summer, to step up into a more pastoral role, specifically in working with one camper, but also in giving support to those that needed a listening ear and comforting words. I am glad that I was able to step up into that role for this week, and I believe that it helped keep camp on an even setting. It also showed me how to work with a kid that wants absolutely nothing to do with you or the place they’re in, and we developed a bond together (a friendship might be too strong, more like a coach and player). I know that made an impact on their week, as evident in their statement at stick ceremony in that they had “learned that everything’s not about me.”
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I had this summer to step into the role as Program Director and help lead the staff and the camp into a new future. I hope that I was able to make as big an impact on all those I worked with and touched this summer, as they made on me. This summer feels like the perfect coda to the first 25+ years of my life, and I look forward to how these experiences continue to shape me as I move into the next piece(s) of my life.