I have some great memories of summer camp, and I love getting to send my own kids to camp. My second child, Brynn, is shyer than her big sister though. So I knew that Brynn might have a hard time being away from home for an entire week. I solved this dilemma by volunteering as the camp counselor.
How hard could one week of sleeping in a teepee with a group of 8-year-olds be?
To begin, the camp wasn’t exactly what I expected. After all, I only had my own camp experience to compare with, which was more like spending a week at a lodge.
This camp, however, was definitely on the “roughing it” side of the outdoor experience. In fact, everything we did – eating, meeting, playing – was all outdoors. And the “rooms of necessity” were hardly KOA quality. But that’s okay.
We slept in teepees. Yes, actual teepees with canvas draped around wooden poles to form a cone-shaped tent. Our teepee was open at the top too, so we could lay in our sleeping bags and watch the stars before falling asleep.
This sounds exciting, but every day comprised of a fairly substantial hike. We hiked uphill and downhill – all of it across rocky terrain. Those poor little 8-year-old legs were quivering and shaking by the time we arrived at our daily destinations. Shoot, my legs were quivering and shaking too.
It was a lot to ask of little girls. But, for the most part, they were stoic.
I kept telling myself: It’s all worth it. Brynn and I are creating memories together. Best of all, Brynn was experiencing for the first time the whole campfire thing. Singing songs with silly motions. Watching skits with crazy characters. Listening to stories while smoke from the campfire floated away. This was camp. And I loved it.
Amidst all the fun – albeit very tiring fun – I prayed for Brynn and the other kids. I prayed that God would meet each kid in a special way.
The mom-counselor in the teepee next door shared at counselor time how her daughter had accepted Jesus into her heart. I remembered seeing her daughter the evening before at campfire. She was in her own world – eyes closed, hands raised. It was very sweet.
By week’s end, I was tired and sore. I couldn’t wait to sleep in my own bed and eat in my own house. More than anything, though, I was hoping that something more meaningful than losing a few pounds would come out of this weeklong adventure.
On the last night of camp, my girls were climbing into their sleeping bags when Brynn said, “You know what, Mom? Even though Jesus is a boy, I still like Him.”
No hands raised. No eyes closed. Just a kid in a teepee. But in its own way, it was just as sweet.
And it made my week.