Well, it’s taken a few days for me to get my “blog voice” back again, but it feels good to be at the keyboard. There is still so much to wrap up concerning the pre-teen camp we just completed last week in Missouri, but I thought I would take a few moments to write about it here on the blog.
I feel all the more motivated to say something since 2013 was likely the last year that I will direct the Missouri camp, since Mr. Meredith has asked me to hand some things off to others so that I can focus more on the telecast and on writing for the magazine. For the same reason, this will likely be my last year to coordinate a Feast site, at least for a while. [Which, by the way, gives me an online chance to respond to a rumor I heard upon returning to the civilized world on Monday… No, I am not being moved to headquarters. I have been told that HQ expects me to be in Ohio for quite a happy while, so if you are in one of my congregations in Ohio or Pennsylvania and you were excited that you might get rid of me, I’m afraid you are still stuck in my clutches! [Insert maniacal, villainous laugh here.] 🙂 No, seriously, I have heard nothing about being moved anywhere, and I suspect that my talk at camp about being asked to focusing more on the telecast and writing and stepping back from the pre-teen camp and Feast site coordination has morphed in the wild into “he’s moving to headquarters!” FYI: Nope. Another rumor bites the dust. 🙂 ] In the future, the Missouri camp will be in the capable hands of Mr. Gene Hilgenberg going forward — a wonderful man (if you know him, you already know this) who has commandeered the kitchen for the last several years there at the Missouri camp and who will, in all likelihood, do a better job than I did! I do hope to still attend the camp, as Boy #3 and Boy #4 are still going through the pre-teen camps, and as Boy #1 is a staffer there and Boy #2 an almost-staffer there. Whatever Mr. Hilgenberg would need me to do, I would be happy to try. Though he ought to know that I can’t swim.
And, for a last year directing, 2013 seemed a fantastic one. What a wonderful camp we had this year!
We were concerned about the weather, since circumstances forced us into July. Normally we are there in June, and when your campgrounds have no air conditioning being later in the summer can be a big deal. Yet, the weather was just fine, with our last day before check out having a high of 85°. We had a brush with “real hot” the day before that and had automatic procedures that kick into place if the heat index reaches a certain point, but they were not necessary. Temperature-wise, we were very grateful for this year’s conditions!
And as for the campers — wow, what a great group! Our camp was almost maxed out — the biggest group of 8-to-12-year-olds we’ve ever had! We added a cot to every dorm but one just to squeeze all the kiddos in and had to house three of our “sibling campers” (too young for staff, but too old for camper status) in the director’s cabin with us and the Fritts family, where they could hear all of our super-secret “director stuff” going on. (Summary of super-secret “director stuff” conversations: “Man, camp is going great!” “Yeah, it really is, isn’t it!”)
And the staff: what an all out fantastic group of people. I had one young man come up to me who has personally experienced virtually every level of participation in the Missouri camp — camper, high school staffer, and adult staffer — who said to me that, in his opinion, this was the best, most dedicated, most good-hearted, and most consistently hard-working group of high school staffers the camp had ever had. In my seven years, I would have to agree. Not only did they pull their load, but they consistently asked if others needed help, and they had a fantastic, positive attitude the entire time. Magnificent. And the adults were no slouches! 🙂 I am tempted to name some in particular, but I know I would miss many and would feel guilty about it, since all around we had a beautiful bunch of people who let God work through them to make the camp all it could be this year. And that includes Mr. & Mrs. Jason Fritts, who were welcome additions this year! It was a real blessing getting to know Mr. Fritts better (I continue to hear awesome things about his daily Christian Living classes for the staff), and he and Mr. Hilgenberg were great Assistant Directors. Their support along with the work done with others in organizing the camp over the years made my job as Director this year the easiest it has ever been.
I hope you will go out to the LCG Living Youth Facebook page and check out the Missouri pictures and videos. My Beautiful Wife and Mrs. Merrilee Markopoulos worked hard on them (and thanks to the additional volunteers who also submitted pics!). They captured a lot of great faces and looking at those pictures and watching the videos is a lot of fun.
At the same time, there are those moments here and there that cannot be captured in pictures, and those are still sticking with me in these days after the event is over. For instance, there was the time when someone, I think Mr. Hilgenberg, was addressing the assembled camp outside the dining hall and referring to the bit of rain we had that morning (rain which ended before activities, I should say!) and saying something about how you might think it looks gloomy. Right after he said it, a little girl’s voice very excitedly rang out really loudly, “Not me! I’m happy! I prayed for this to happen!” We all laughed, and it was a beautiful moment. I have to be honest — part of why I can’t remember what Mr. Hilgenberg said was because all I can remember about that instant was that excited little girl! It was so cute and such a wonderful reminder that we are rearing a group of young people who, even before reaching their teen years, are developing their own individual relationships with God. Very neat.
There were a few moments in our annual Musical Chairs event that were really memorable, too. I had one adult who was new to our camp say that it was neat because she’d never seen musical chairs happen with folks so young where there weren’t any tears. I hope that’s because we do it a bit differently in Missouri and spend some time setting things up in a particular way. (E.g., When the music stops and a person is left without a chair, they are to throw their hands up, belt out an Elvis-y “Thank you very much!”, and run around high-fiving the remainder of the circle. They often forget the Elvis, but no one forgets the high-fives!) Also during our musical chairs, there was a time when it was a boy and a girl racing for the lone empty chair, and when the boy got to it ahead of the girl, he paused and graciously motioned for her to sit in his place. What a gentleman! 🙂
You know — as I sit here, I realize I could type all day about the little things that happened here and there that made the camp a wonderful experience. But not only do I not have all morning and afternoon to sit here and reminisce, also it would still fall so very short of really capturing what a great week it was. Suffice it to say that the moments were many, and that it was very clear to me that God had tremendously blessed the Missouri Pre-Teen Camp this year. Over the last seven years I have had the opportunity to be a part of that camp, He hasn’t always allowed things to come together so easily, to be sure, but His hand has always been apparent, and this past year was no exception. What a truly wonderful year.
Each of the Living Church of God’s pre-teen camps — Texas, Missouri, and West Virginia — benefit from being similar to each other but not exactly the same as each other. Each one has its own personality and vibrancy, and each one adds its own special qualities to the overall purpose of serving the families of the Church. It has been such an incredible blessing to me and to my family to have been able to participate in two of them and to get to direct one of them. You do it for the kids, but, in the end, it changes you, too. One of my staffers this year mentioned to someone else (which was just passed on to me in e-mail as I was typing this) that even though our camp was structured around the kids, he felt that he benefited as an adult, too, and that he would be a better father for the experience. I totally know what he is talking about.
Being asked to direct the camp in Missouri — which, as those who know me could attest, is nothing I would have ever asked to do — has resulted, over the last seven years, in one of the greatest, life-changing experiences of my life. I will be forever grateful for the (frankly) scary call I got way back in February, I believe, of 2007 from Mr. Gerald Weston, telling me that the Church wanted me to run the pre-teen camp in Missouri. It has been a wonderful opportunity getting to know so many children, teens, adults, and families in the Church and getting to watch all of them work together to make something that is bigger and more wonderful than what any of us could have made through individual effort — something that leaves you with no doubt whatsoever that the Living Christ is in active control of His Church and that God is doing something marvelous down here among His people. My thanks go out to Them, to Mr. Weston for that call, and to all who have participated in the camp and have given it their all to make it something special.
And, the best is yet to come! Mr. Hilgenberg has a bead on some new sites for Missouri that may have air conditioning (gasp!) and even some swimming pools with water and without trees growing out of them — and which may even cost less than the place we’ve been using! Though part of me will miss the “spooky old pool”, I will not miss the sweat. 🙂 I look forward to being a part of the pre-teen camp while my own kiddos continue to go and to getting to see the amazing things God will do with it in the future. But for now, I just want to communicate my thanks — to God and Jesus Christ, to be sure, but also to all out there who participated in the Missouri camp in any way and for all of you out there who prayed for it (and I know there were many of you). Thank you, thank you, thank you. It was a wonderful year, and I am so grateful I got to be a part of it.