“How do you do three weeks of camp?” This is a question I’ve heard A LOT! Especially over the last three years. If you haven’t seen me post about it on my instagram, then you may not know that in June each year, I take out three weeks and volunteer as a counselor at my favorite church camp, Camp Lebanon. I attended as a camper from third grade until I graduated high school and began counseling as soon as I was old enough! You could say that I love camp just a little! So as you read through this blog post, I’ll slowly answer that first question. And hopefully this will shine a light on my “why” for camp and why I choose to take three weeks during the busiest season to go off the grid, endure sleepless nights and lack of internet service.
Week one was elementary full of elementary students. Beginning with camp 4Five! I’m a little partial to this one because I honestly think they’re my favorite age group to work with! I can spend all four days with them and come home physically tired, but my cup is always filled to the brim! I love seeing their faith and their childlikeness and becoming friends with them by the end of the week. Their energy, zeal and love for life seriously inspires me so much! My role at that camp this year was a bit different though. Now that I’m twenty-one, I’m technically considered a “senior counselor” so I didn’t get the honor of leading a team during the activities or competitions. Which I was kind of sad about, but I did have the chance to do some things I haven’t gotten to before!
One of those was being a hider during counselor hunt! We were instructed to hide in plain sight, but conceal our identity by hiding under or in something. My covering of choice . . . a trash bag laying on our black waterslide. I was pretty proud of the fact that I fit perfectly inside that trash bag and when I laid on the waterslide, I was hidden pretty well! (And to ease your mind, yes I did cut a hole in the bag so that I could get some air.) The point of the game was for the teams to find each counselor in their spot and once they located them, they were allowed to ask three questions to figure out who the counselor was. Once they guess correctly, they were given a popsicle stick with the identity of the counselor and that would reward them either a positive or negative point value at the end of the game. You can just imagine the type of questions I received! My size kind of gave away my identity (being 5’2″ and all), but it was still hilarious hearing the initial reactions of the campers. Things like, “are you alive?” “can you breathe?” “they’re in a trash bag!” and the endless screaming from the girls on the team when someone found a spider and a frog crawling on the outside of the bag! To say that I was amused was an understatement! ha ha!
Since I didn’t have an official team for the week, I was able to help out at one of the stations that the kids rotated to each day. My choice, drama. During the drama station, the kids get to play improv games and learn a skit to perform at service on the last night! It’s so fun watching them come out of their shells and try things in front of their friends. When you give them a minute to just be themselves without fear, it’s really cool to see what they do with it!
The last highlight from Camp 4Five has to go to my campers. Both in my cabin and on my (adopted) team! Our gals in Howard Right were so much fun! We were filled to the brim and my co-counselors and I had our hands full, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way! Those girls were filled with such spunk and the laughter echoed through the bunks every night right before bed time! Every night our cabin was split into small groups for the girls to have the opportunity to process what we had talked about in service. The discussions that our girls had and the issues they opened up about amazed me. Now, some nights it was just a giggle fest and reigning them in to get down to business was tough, but when we finally did, there’s was one constant girl who would take our questions and automatically dive deep into issues she was facing in her life! It swung the door wide open for the Holy Spirit to just pour into their lives and to use Catherine and I in a mighty way! And that’s just another reason I love that age group! There are some who just love to giggle, be silly and have fun! Others are longing to go deeper in conversation and take hold of their faith in that strong, childlike way! Seriously! These kids are going to do big things!
I’m pretty sure I could continue to write and write about just that one camp, but y’all! I did four altogether and you’d literally be reading this for hours if I exhausted all that God did and all the memories I’d love to share! ha ha! So, we’ll move onto the “short and sweet” camp known as 1Three! Elementary week concludes with a 24hr stay for first-third graders! These guys are filled to the brim with energy and they’ll take all that you’ve got and then some! But, they are the sweetest kids you’ll ever work with! They tell you like it is and you can always count on them to point out the truth, no matter if it hurts or not! ha ha! They also are the quickest to show love and affection! They walk about with so much freedom and childlike wonder! Sometimes I just wish I could revisit that age for a minute to be reminded of what it’s like! The 24hrs that these kids get at camp are JAM PACKED for two reasons: 1. they don’t get into too much trouble and 2. they don’t even have one second to get homesick! and I can proudly say that all 25 of my girls made it through their 24hr stay without going home! It was incredible! The short time period doesn’t allow me to build the same type of relationships with these girls like the ones I get at 4Five, but the short snippet I got was so worth it!
Okay! Onto week two! Camp 9Twelve. I loved every minute of Camp 9Twelve, but I think it’s probably the most exhausting week I’ve ever lived. But at the same time, it was SO life giving! I would live every week of my life like that if I could! The last few years our high school camp has looked a bit different. Instead of all camp, team competitions all day long, we’ve broken our time increments into student chosen “tracks”. These tracks have ranged from sports & rec to arts & crafts and drama to worship. Earlier this year, our camp director reached out to me and threw out the possibility of adding a sixth track: photography! I was all for it and began brainstorming ways that I could use the 8hrs I had with my students to make them photographers! Y’all! I think that choosing to teach that track was probably the best decision I’ve made so far this year! I had no idea how encouraging and life-giving it would be take myself out from behind the camera and teach others to do what I do! It renewed my passion for literally every aspect of photography and gave me the confidence that I actually knew what I was doing! (which if you’re a creative or a business owner, that confidence is priceless!) I’m planning on writing an entire blog post just around the kids in my track, my experience and then to show off some of their work! Just wait until you see what they came up with after only one hour of classroom teaching! It blew me away!
I also need to give a shoutout to my dear friend, Kiirsten! This gal helped me every step of the way through teaching that track and is the only reason I remained sane most days! When I doubted myself, she stepped right in with words of encouragement! Just her being there most days gave me the drive to keep going when the late nights and early mornings took a toll! She is a ray of sunshine that can brighten anyone’s day and I love how we just get each other and our creativity feeds off of one another! Goodness! Kiirsten, I could write a novel about you, friend!
Although most of Camp 9Twelve was spent with me running around like a mad woman, preparing for my track each day, the services each night plus my small group were my way to really connect with the gals in my cabin! We had dubbed ourselves the “snack pack” on the first night of camp when all the cabins had time to create a cabin flag and chant! Our girls were so funny when it came time to decide on a name, but the abundance of snack foods they each brought made the decision easy once that name was thrown out there! ha ha! Like I said before, this camp was exhausting with three 2am nights in a row working on some video projects, but I wouldn’t trade it for a minute! My Ball cabin girls, my 17 OG Photography Track kids plus all my fave counselors made the week so much fun and filled my cup more than I ever could have imagined!
Alrighty! Only one more camp to recap! Camp 6Eight! I never would have thought that junior high kids would be in my realm of serving when it came to ministry! But the funny thing is, other than the littles, they were my first “official” camp to counsel like five years ago! Crazy! And this year was such a special one! I’ve served at Camp Lebanon as a counselor for the last seven years! And in that time I’ve had so many great kids filter in and out of my teams and cabins! I know that you’re technically not supposed to pick favorites, but there’s one group of gals that filled my cabin at 4Five a few years ago and they’ve just stuck with me since then! We’ve basically “grown up” together even though they’re all much younger! This year, that group was going in EIGHTH GRADE! Like what! I had them in third grade, forever ago! And this was their last year before heading to high school camp! Goodness! So, needless to say, this year at Camp 6Eight was a special one for me and all the kids that have been in my cabin! I so wanted to gather them all to get a picture, but there wasn’t ever a good time to make it happen.
Teams at Camp 6Eight are kind of a big deal. At the beginning of the week, all the kids are sectioned off into six different teams and two leaders are appointed to lead them. This year, my team was blue. Or better known as the “Blues Clues”! On the first night, our kids came up with that name and my co-leader, Tim, and I just weren’t too fond of it. But after further discussion and some brainstorming, we decided to just go all in with it! We took the familiar songs from the show and threw our spin on them to create some great chants, like instead of “we just got a letter” we switched it to “we just got the W!”. Those became our rally cries at every team competition, win or lose! One thing you should know about me when it comes to any sort of team or game, I’m REAL competitive! And as a team leader, I’ve even more! I love rallying my kids to achieve things as a team that they couldn’t do alone! And I was SO PROUD of them multiple times throughout the week! They literally gave their all and left everything they had on the field each time they stepped out there! Even though we didn’t come out with the final win, we were still “the best team here”!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I could probably write a book about these three weeks. The memories made, tears shed, spiritual breakthroughs and laughs shared! All the things that culminated to make this one of my favorite years at Camp Lebanon, yeah I could keep going for a while! But I want to leave y’all with this. Camp will forever be my “hard restart”. It always makes me reevaluate where the Lord wants me to be and what he wants me to do. It reminds me of my calling and especially my identity. I’ve been asked before, “how do you do three weeks of camp?” and I think I can finally give a good answer. I decide each year to counsel camp for three weeks because, in this season, it’s how I’m best able to pour out and serve within my gifting and calling. I also LOVE it with every fiber of my being. Even in the exhaustion, I love seeing what God is able to do when we willingly check out of regular life and choose to commune with him and his people for an entire week. Life change and breakthroughs happen at camp and I’ll forever choose to be a part of that if the Lord leaves that door open for me.
If you can tell, we all had our hair braided! So it called for a group picture! This campfire crew kept us laughing with their flashlights and skills to make people feel like they were celebs on the red carpet! They also held their own while we sang the campfire songs! Such a fun night! Liz and Catherine! Thanks for being THE BEST Co-Counselors a gal could ask for! We should just make it a yearly thing, agreed? Our nightly service selfie!!My “adopted” orange team! If you see that flag flying towards the ground, that’s actually attached to a boat made out of cardboard that our kids put together for one of the counselors to actually float in across the pond! It definitely an exciting project! These girls! Man oh man! We had the best girls in Howard Right and this picture is a pretty accurate description of what we all looked and felt like each night! The laughs were unending! Especially when they drew faces on their chins and told stories while laying upside down! I told you our girls were special! ha ha! My photography track kids! We had to get a group mirror selfie because so many of them would practice their skills in this mirror all week! “We will not be in the mood, not until we get our food! Snack Pack, Snack Pack!”
My face all week long! They never failed to keep me laughing! Kiirsten! You’re adorable!! Every year on Wednesday at Camp 9Twelve, a group from the Warren County DD comes out to hang out with our students for a few hours! It’s always the highlight of the week and I can remember it being my favorite when I was a camper! This is Titus and he was always the one I’d hang out with when I was a camper! He’s so much fun to be around and he’s always stirring up trouble! Our student leadership team brought back an old Camp Lebanon tradition. Inner Tube Madness. It requires a large pile of inner tubes in the middle of a field plus teams filled with brave campers who are ready to give it all in a quest for the most inner tubes brought back to their home base. It typically results in someone getting dragged across the field and a few people leaping right into the inner tubes. Is it the safest game ever? Probably not. Does it remind you of a real life version of the Hunger Games? Most definitely! This fight did end up in someone being dragged. But I decided to get it on video instead of in photos. So, if you want to see, make sure to watch the highlight reel above!
Worship every night was so good! The band. The speaker. The presence of God. Seriously such a highlight for camp! Love this Snack Pack from the Ball Cabin!
Blues Clues ready to dominate at dodgeball! Oh! And we did!
They also rocked this match of tug-a-war! So proud! Our annual counselor shaving cream war picture! The last day of Camp 6Eight always involves a whole lot of shaving cream and running around a field prepared to be covered! We then make the hike across the campground to the waterslide where we wash it all of in the pool below! It’s for sure a highlight of the week for everyone!
The end! I made a mental note as I was writing this blog that I need to be better at documenting the week of camp when i don’t have my big camera in hand! I tend to just live in the moment and leave my phone in my bag, thus the reason why there’s a lack of pictures for most of the camps! However, I’m glad I had these few to give you a picture into what life at Camp Lebanon looks like!