Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Camp Life

After going through six days of camp life, it's a familiar experience to feel like one lived through an eternity and a whirlwind all at once. Life outside of the camp routine becomes a bit fuzzy while life in the midst starts to spin. The whole experience must be approached with a sense of humor and the right sort of perseverance - the kind that keeps your feet moving lightly and your spirit grounded firmly - as you recognize this is a brief season.

I came out of the week with so much more respect for my friends that were counselors at The Oaks the summer that I was on the leadership staff as the Arts and Crafts Director. They signed on for four solid weeks of campers! Granted, this was one of the most rewarding things I've done, and I feel quite accomplished now, but it is also a lifestyle that demands great selflessness and a high standard of consistency and alertness. In my case, this looked like undisciplined emotional nine to twelve year old girls who could were obstinate toward me and downright nasty to each other.

Of course, this was not the scenario twenty-four hours a day. Peace and joy extended beyond sleeping hours to one-on-one conversations with the girls, much laughter, and many hugs. It was just that witnessing the meanness that human beings can show to one another wrenched my heart and having to interact much more on a disciplinary level than a more straightforwardly loving one left me drained at the end of each day (though the belief that discipline can be a form of love kept me going).

When I thought I had been drained of all patience and wisdom at the end of each day, I would rest my head on my pillow for a precious six and a half hours, wake up to the stars at 5:30 A.M., and gather with my fellow leaders for an hour to pray and encourage each other. With hot potent tea in one hand and my Bible clutched in the other, I would get to drink from the Source that truly revives.

I think that was the greatest gift I received from the past week. Consistently spending time with my Bible hasn't come easily in the past month or so, and the fact is that most months out of the year 'easy' is a foreign concept, but whether or not it is a natural inclination in my downtime or a consistently sectioned off activity in my schedule, it needs to be done. Not for legalistic reasons of need, but for soul-satisfying, relationship-growing reasons...and ones I am not even aware of until I dig in and open up.

So, as contradictory as this might sound, the past week brought me refreshment. It also brought names and faces into my life that will always be dear to me, especially the ones that were hardest to love.

But oh so many were easy to love! I was one of three Americans at the camp, and almost everyone else was from New Zealand, so I got to be more immersed in Kiwi culture and learn/be reminded of a lot about the lingo and food. For example, the use of as at the end of expressions, such as sweet as, isn't actually a different pronunciation of the word ass, and therefore it's okay for eight year olds to say (ask Elise about that!). Also, canned fruit combined with Neapolitan ice cream is not a strange idea for dessert/pudding, and New Zealand's version of an American hot dog is still a far cry from the real thing (which I really don't mind, since I could take or leave both countries' versions).

As I was saying, though, the people were wonderful, and while I probably won't see most of them again, they'll always bring a smile to my face. The leaders of the camp have passionate hearts for seeing the lives of children touched by God and the story of his Son reaching their ears. That was a beautiful, invaluable thing in which to play a small role.

[Thank you so much to my sister, Elise, for sharing her photos with me. I left my camera safely at home, so the girls you see are from her cabin.]