This week, I’m blogging about LYFE Camp, the week-long United Methodist Church youth camp where I’m in my fourth year as Dean. While my blog is usually about creativity and writing, I hope regular readers and campers’ parents alike will find inspiration in reading stories about camp. Thanks for reading, and your comments are always appreciated (I’ll pass them along, too, as I’m able).
Today is the day my staff have been preparing for all year long. As a staff, we’re all fairly low-key this year in terms of feeling prepared. I’m the kind of Dean who likes as much preparation work done as possible before campers arrive to save on stress. We need our energy for the campers, not stressing out about stuff we could’ve already done. That said, our day with campers started peacefully but got nice and loud pretty quickly.
A handful of campers, new and returning, trickled in from 3:30pm-4:00pm. I had the chance to chat with some parents and meet new campers; usually, it’s the folks traveling from outside of the metro who make the drive up as families and I always encourage parents to see Decision Hills at least once to help with context when their youth return home. Anyway, things were off to a nice and slow and quiet start… until the bus arrived at 4:00pm. Over thirty of this year’s forty-two campers rode the bus to camp (ably piloted by capable EUMC volunteer Liz R.) and it was made obvious that camp was kicking off to a boisterous start as they spilled into Camp Center. The bus also pulled into the back parking lot instead of pulling around to the side we’re used to seeing the bus arrive from, catching many of us by surprise. Registration was as smooth as I’ve ever seen it. Campers arrived with paperwork in hand, payments ready, and meds all set to go. From a Dean’s perspective, we’ve had those nightmare years when people show up with nothing they need, making phone calls home and faxed documents a priority on that Sunday afternoon, so thank you, parents. CITs helped campers make nametags and load their belongings into the cabins and played pick-up games of volleyball by the beachfront and lightning on the basketball court.
At the beginning of dinner on our first night, I said, “Welcome to LYFE Camp 2009!” and was bombarded with a wall of sound. Applause, cheers, wooing, and one happy Dean with a big smile on his face. The Dining Hall holds seventy-five people this week: eleven Senior Counselors, thirteen Counselors-In-Training, forty-two campers, and nine Decision Hills Staff. That’s a lot of people screaming and applauding over their excitement for camp! After dinner we gave the rundown of suggestions for a good week (drink water, get sleep, act, dress, and speak camp-appropriately, etc.) and gave campers some free time before we dove into evening programming.
The Senior Counselors did a sketch to introduce ourselves we called “LYFE Camp Safari.” I grabbed Reed F., a first-year camper, and gave him a pith helmet that matched mine as the Indiana Jones theme played in the back ground and we met various SCs all dressed up as “wild” animals including a dog, cat, frog, pig, bee, alien, tiger, elephant, monkey, and ladybug. The CITs introduced themselves with a “Twelve Days of Church Camp” number including my favorites, “ten degree showers” and “three SWOISAGE (sausage) biscuits.” Calling sausage “SWOISAGE” is just one of the many odd, endearing, and long-standing traditions at LYFE Camp. I was lucky enough to be there in the mid-90s when it accidentally started at breakfast one day; really, I’m pretty sure most of our LYFE Camp traditions started by accident, which is probably the best way to go, anyway.
Everyone was placed into a small group made up of one SC, one or two CITs, and three or four campers of mixed ages, genders, and churches. They did some ice breaker discussion and made “secret friend” bags before worship brought us back together as a large group. I led evening worship with scripture from Hebrews 11:8-10 as the backbone to explain our theme this year, “LYFE Is a Highway.” We’re encouraging our campers to use this week to explore themselves and their personal faith journey, reminding them that the road they take will be unique and their own while also something they can share and do with others. Monday is “Rest Area,” bringing us to camp to take a break from the world back home. Tuesday is “Construction Zone” in which we examine where our lives need repair or something new or something demolished. “One Way, Wrong Way, This Way, That Way” on Wednesday reminds campers that they have a say in how they choose to live their life in terms of being the best kind of person they can be. Thursday will bring us Quest and “HOV Lane” seems quite appropriate, given that our small groups are definitely a high-occupancy vehicle for growing trust. Finally, on Friday we talk about how to “Merge” with the world back home.
Worship went well and was followed with a beautiful sunset on Meditation Hill with a large V of geese flying overhead, a rousing campfire, and get-to-know-you cabin meetings. As Dean, I was glad we stayed on time for our first night and, as far as I know, most everyone got a good night’s sleep.
Tomorrow brings our first full day. Stay tuned, dear reader!