“Hi Ho… Hi Ho…It’s off to camp we go”
This past week was spent in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania as the girls and I attended Young Women Camp with our church. As illogical as it may sound, spending this past week with 100 teenage girls was just what I needed. Getting away and heading into the woods was just the boost I needed to recharge my “batteries,” refocus on the bigger picture, and spiritually refill my bucket so that I could return home and be a better momma and wife. It was wonderful laughing with the girls and other leaders and stepping away from the distractions of the world for a short time. Camp week was just as Kimberly Rinehart describes:
“Camping is more than just getting away.
It is the clear blue sky, the song of a bird, the beckoning woods, the wide open spaces.
Camping is greeting the breath of dawn unhindered by the walls of city life and watching the sun set in ribbons of color as it says, “goodnight” to a perfect day.
Camping makes hearts grow lighter and food taste better.
It’s sharing songs around a campfire and gazing up in silence at a star-filled sky.
Camping is more than just getting away. It is the thing we need to rekindle the spirit of a simpler time, refresh our hearts with nature’s beauty, and remind us that life doesn’t have to be so complicated after all.”
The theme this year was:
Press Forward with a Steadfastness in Christ
Each day the larger theme was broken down into the four smaller focuses of “Feasting upon the word of Christ,” “Having a perfect brightness of hope,” “A love of God and of all mankind” and “Endure to the End.” Each day there were devotionals, guided scripture study, and focus classes that revolved around each of these phrases.
In our 7th year cabin we played off the fun theme of Dr. Seuss, incorporating it into our decorations, pillow treats and devotionals each night. I picked a Dr. Seuss book to read to the girls every evening that encompassed the theme of the day…
Feasting upon the word of Christ……. “I can read with my eyes shut”
Having a perfect brightness of hope……. “Are you my mother?”
A love of God and of all mankind…….. “Horton hears a Who”
Endure to the End……. “Oh, the places you’ll go”
Then while sharing a spiritual thought or story we discussed the lesson that could be taken from the Dr. Seuss tale if we but listen with spiritual ears. I was astounded at the insight of the girls and the wonderful discussions that came from our evening devotional time.
The girls at camp spent their days working as levels and their nights sleeping as levels with the other girls their age as well as their two adult leaders. Molly was a 5th year girl this year which meant she had the opportunity to serve as a youth leader and help plan lessons and devotionals for the 3rd year girls she was over.
I was at camp as the leader over the 7th year girls. These are the 18-year-old girls that choose to come back to camp the summer following their senior year before they head off to college or other plans. The activities that fill the campers’ days vary by level and what skills are needed for certification. For the 7th year girls the days aren’t spent getting skills passed off but rather serving as “goodwill ambassadors” around camp.
Much of what they do is quiet, behind the scenes acts of service. They plan fun, free time activities for the girls each day:
They run the camp store where the campers can make purchases from snow cones and popcorn to bandanas and water toys. These items aren’t purchased with traditional money but rather camp tokens that can be earned through helpful deeds and kind acts witnessed around camp.
They plan pillow treats and thank you gifts for everyone that is at camp and spread goodwill and joy through these secret acts of service.
They wake the campers each morning and lead the evening programs each night.
They step in and help where needed whether that is as an extra set of hands on a hike with younger campers or in the kitchen lending a hand to the awesome kitchen staff who make sure we are all well fed at camp.
This year they also started a new program to encourage the girls to keep their cabins clean. They called it the “Golden Dustpan Award” and the winners were announced daily at dinnertime with a clever song written and performed by the 7th years.
(Sung to the tune “Dear Future Husband” by Meghan Trainor):
“Dear future campers here’s a few things you need to know
if you want to win the prize each and every night.
Oh, sweep the floor. Oh baby, sweep the floor.
Make your bed and maybe even shut the door.
This ain’t a laundry mat. Don’t do that.
Pick up your clothes. Pick…pick up your clothes.
You got to know how to pick up like a lady. Don’t drive your leaders crazy.
Throw that trash away.
Ahhhhhhhhh….Dear future campers,
Here’s a little thing for the winners.
Tonight’s prize goes to cabin _ _ _.
This was a musically talented group who used their creativity to write a thank you song for the cooks,
As well as win first place in the Oatmeal Challenge with their original music medley!
This was my 7th year at camp but my 6th year serving as leader over the 7th year girls and it is a job that I love. These girls are exceptional! It is joy watching them mature every year as they move up from level to level and then witness that maturity peak as they step into the role of camp leaders.
The group this year was especially near and dear to my heart. They were such an extraordinary group of young ladies and it was a joy to have my oldest, Miss Gracie, as one of my 7th years. Although Grace has one more year of high school this was her 7th year at camp. I have spent the last 6 years looking forward to being her camp leader and that privilege, in conjunction with the opportunity to work with such awesome 7th years, made this camp year extra special!
While much of the JCDs’ (7th years) week is spent serving everyone else at camp I try to plan a special activity just for them in which they have the chance to make something for themselves to take home. This year we tie-dyed pillow cases for them to take with them when they leave home as a memento of their 7th year at camp.
The also had the chance to help teach the other campers how to make the jewelry craft for the year…a neat arrow charm bracelet reflective of our “Press Forward” theme.
Our BIG service project for the week happened on Thursday when we weeded and mulched the beachfront area of the state park we were staying at. We spent 3 hours working and with the manpower of 100 girls plus leaders we were able to complete a very big job. The park was incredibly grateful for the 350+ man hours of service we were able to offer and the girls were able to experience the blessings that come from working as a team and the satisfaction of a job well done.
After a hot, sweaty morning the girls enjoyed some fun free time in the afternoon. The kitchen staff served us a delicious lunch of walking tacos and then the girls were free to swim, enjoy water time on the kayaks and paddle boards, or simply relax and visit with friends on the shore.
Molly tried her hand at paddle boarding for the first time and rocked it like a champ!
Camp unity peaked on Friday when the girls were asked to work together on a special unity activity. They were broken into 4 groups and given the task of building, decorating, and using a traditional maypole. It was fascinating to sit back and watch as a team of many personalities figured out how to work together to accomplish the task set before them. The end result was inspiring and beautiful.
There is so much good that comes from Young Women’s camp for these girls:
They are spiritually fed, they are able to escape the distractions and pressures of the world for a while, they are able to learn new skills, be silly with each other, serve others, become more Christ-like…but one of the greatest blessings that come from escaping into the woods for a week are the friendships that grow from that shared experience. Not only among the girls but among the leaders as well. What a joy it is to stand in the darkness of the camp commons and hear the giggles of girls coming from the cabins as they talk, laugh, share, and bond with each other.
On Saturday we arrived home tired, stinky and sore. Physically I was drained but emotionally and spiritually I was charged and filled to capacity. Heading into the woods for the week with 100 teenage girls and their leaders was just what I needed. I am so grateful for the amazing, inspired, awesome leaders that made the “magic” happen. What a joy-filled week it was!