Friday, January 28, 2011

Big Foot and the Green Team

The pink dyed ends of her hair flip out from underneath her gray derby style hat.  Her green plastic Prescott Pines Camp bracelet stands out among the rest.  She is the only one on her team; the other church has not arrived yet.  After the rules of the game are explained, the group of excited junior high campers is released to gather as many balloons as they can scavenge in the dark that now surrounds the camp grounds.  First they huddle as a team to come up with a strategy.  How will they keep the balloons from being popped by the counselors? How will they defend themselves against Big Foot?  Excitement continues to rise from Blue, Yellow and Red as the teams rush out the doors into the night. And then there is Green.  She is alone but undaunted. Back in the gym where they are to return with as many perfect sets of four colors they can find, we wait. The screams and the laughter indicate that the game is in full motion.  Blue’s door bursts open. Balloons pour out of arms but they don’t have a perfect set. They are sent back out into the dark.  On the far side of the building, Red’s door flings open.  They too are sent back.  We wait and we wait. And then she enters. The Green Team.  Confident and strong, she strides across the gym floor. Her smile shows off a mouth full of shiny braces. Red face flushed, she unzips her coat. Balloons float to the floor. She starts pulling them out of her pants as well.  By herself, she has found and secured two full sets, stuffed carefully in her clothes. I exclaim how awesome she is and she returns to the hunt.  One against many, she not only survives but conquers… 

This past weekend we had our first of three winter camps. Jenna, the sole survivor, is actually returning again. (She promises not to tell the others about Big Foot.) Last week, she asked questions about sin and the depth of God’s love for her.  We hope she is encouraged in the knowledge of the victory that we have in Christ. The theme of winter camp is survival. May each camper come to know that we are more than conquerors in Him!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Because of the Trees

  I knew it. I did it anyway but I knew it. The skill is in the interviewer after all. If I could just ask the right questions, come at it from the right angle, these kids would say exactly the perfect profound thing and people would be handing over their life savings to send a kid to camp. The world would be forever changed! That was my hope anyway. After introducing themselves and their “babies,” Anna, whose doll is named Anna, and Katie, the older of the two sisters who is fond of wearing pink prairie dresses, followed me up to the camp’s gift shop so we could grab some Prescott Pines t-shirts and get a chance to just talk. I told them my plan - how I was just going to throw the camera on them and talk just like we were talking now. Simple. No gimmicks.  I wanted this to be as natural and genuine as possible. Those promos where kids are clearly fed the right answers seem so cut and paste. Now we were ready. The camera was positioned. The girls were posed. The warm-up questions had been asked.
“So tell me your favorite thing about camp.”
“What was one thing you liked best?”
“I don’t know.”
“What kinds of things did you do at camp?”
“Swimming, games, singing, eating.”  A little better at least the response was longer than three words.
“Why do you like to go to camp?”
“It’s soooooooooooo fun.”  Dramatic pause hoping she will continue.
“Do you learn anything at camp?”
“We learn about God.”
“What about God?”
“I don’t know.”  I just need to go for it. Time to just get to what I am after.
“Do you think every kid should be able to go to camp?”
“Because it is fun!”  She is nine years old. Remember she is nine years old.
“Some kids can’t come to camp. Do you know why?”
“They’re scared.”
“Any other reason?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well some of them can’t come because they don’t have enough money. How could we get these kids to come to camp?”
“Give them money.”
“So how do we get people to give money?”
Blank stare.
“Why should they send a kid to camp?”
“Because it’s soooooo fun!”  Time for a new approach. 
  I excitedly tell Anna, the real girl, and Kate that they are directors who are making a commercial to send kids to camp. (First we needed to explain what a commercial was. The girls don’t watch tv.)   Then I told them I was sending them to a special place to come up with three ideas. This way their creativity wouldn’t be stifled.  (They wanted to know what stifled meant.)  I introduced the- da-da-da-da -Creativity Booth!  (It was the sound booth in the back of the chapel.) They girls excitedly ran up the three steps and ducked down. A few minutes later, they were running back.  
“We have an idea!”
“Yes, yes, what is it?”
“If you come to camp, you get a free t-shirt!” Oh.
“Girls, that is great for kids! But what about adults? Why would they want to send a kid to camp?” Back to the creativity booth they went and few minutes later, a new idea.
“We got it! We got it! If you send a kid to camp, they will forget about their parents!” The laughing is almost unstoppable. I am left wondering.  Again, time for a new approach. 
“Anna, this will be your first time to camp, right? Katie, you went last summer. Anna, how about you ask your sister all the questions you have about camp?”  They stand in front of the camera again. I nod my head and they begin.
“So Katie, you say you go to chapel at night and sit on benches. Are they normal benches like in a park?”
“What color are they?”
“Like normal brown? Like a tree trunk or like mud?” 
“A tree trunk.”
“Oh. What did you do with your hair?” Really. This is important.
“I wore a braid.”
“Like in two braids? Or one braid?” 
Now the mother steps in.  She wants to know if she can help prompt the girls behind the camera. She shares all that Katie shared with her upon coming home from camp and knows what I am trying to get at. So she begins.
“Katie, when did you go to chapel?”
“At night”
“What was above you?”
“The sky.”
“Was there anything in the sky?”
“Anything in the darkness?”
“No? No twinkling things?”
“Mom! We couldn’t see the stars!”
“Why not?
“Because there were trees!”
“Oh trees. Lots of trees?”  Maybe we should just feed them the answers.
If she wanted her daughter to say “Camp is a place where you can experience the wonders of the outdoors and the mystery and greatness of the natural world” it was not going to happen. She is nine. I knew it.  I know better. I even train our staff here for our Outdoor Education program on the levels of cognitive thinking and the kinds of questions we can ask as teachers.  In the end, I put Mom on camera and she talked about the impact of camp on her daughter. When it comes down to it, at this nine year old point in their lives, they come to camp because it is fun. Soooo fun.  And that’s enough. It’s later in life when the impact really comes forth.  When the realities of life are longer than a one word answer, when the questions are deeper than color, it is in these moments that having sent a kid to camp will be empowering. I know it.  

Friday, January 14, 2011

Laughing from Head to Toe

Tristan, our new intern, and I have been laughing most of the afternoon. He is searching the Ultimate Camping website for skits that we can pull together as a resource. As a camp counselor during the summer of my junior year, I know the agony of coming up with a skit week after week. Maybe not agony but it definitely was a challenge.  My favorite skit though was one that really hit a deep truth with the kids. It had to do with the temptation of sin. 
It went something like this. On the stage is a bench with a sign, “Don’t touch.”  The first kid walks by unaware but then immediately returns and takes a second look. He reaches out and touches the bench. Trying to remove his hand, he realizes he is stuck. A second camper walks by and the first kid tries to pretend like there is no problem. Confused, the second camper walks slowly on but keeps looking back. When he realizes the other camper is stuck, he laughs at him. In a fit of hilarity, he puts his hand on the stuck-kids shoulder and then becomes stuck himself. A third camper enters the scene and then a fourth, the scenario plays out in a similar way – playing with the sign, laughing at it, even trying to help the campers become unstuck and themselves getting stuck. Finally, someone with a Bible enters the scene and points to a few verses. They all pray together and are free.  As they leave the stage, one runs back and turns the “Don’t touch” sign over so it now reads “Sin.”
 I was thinking about this skit even as I left the office to help paint the Hilltops. Just so you know, I am a terrible painter. To welcome us, the camp staff generously painted our place.  Ben, my husband, relegated me to the inside of the closet. After an hour of painting, he maybe has one drop on his hand where I am covered with color literally from head to toe.  So as I was painting the brown trim of the doorways this week, I found myself frustrated with the stray paint that insisted on getting on the white walls. At first, when I carefully wiped up the paint with the wet rag, I was successful in removing any trace. But as the rag itself became more and more saturated, I ended up smearing even more paint on the pure walls. This made me think of the skit and the nature of sin.  Only that which is clean makes clean.  Thank God for our Savior who covers us from head to toe! May this thought bring you the kind of laughter that only comes from the awareness that you are free -joyfully,colorfully, truly, free!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Heating Tunnel, a Christmas Robe, and a Camp Perspective

Ben stepped on the gas but our fuel-efficient car went nowhere. The small bank of snow piled up on the side of the road was just a little too much for her. (Yes, our car is a girl and we named her Goose but that is a different story).  Giving up, we decided to grab the groceries and what luggage we could carry and trudge up the hill. We were anxious to get home after almost a full two weeks of travel plus it was getting late and we still needed to make dinner.  The first snowfall of the season and we had missed it but there still remained a soft blanket of white that made the camp path lights seem even brighter. Home. We made it home.
Immediately, we cranked up the thermostat. I smiled at the almost frozen olive oil as I prepped the onions for the soup bundled in my wool beanie and down-vest.  Ben, ever the engineer, constructed a warming tunnel under the blankets with the blow-dryer so that when we climbed into bed the shock of the cold wouldn’t be too overwhelming. Just as we were to fall asleep that night, I asked Ben to check on the kitchen faucet. Earlier there was no running water so I had done the dishes in the bathroom sink. Ben came rushing back into the bedroom quickly yet gracefully jamming his foot into his sock as he stood on one leg. (I have always been amazed by his balance when putting on his shoes and socks). “There is water everywhere! It’s coming out of the dishwasher.”  I mumble something about just turning it off (it was never on by the way) as I didn’t want to get out of the perfectly heated bed. The next thing I know though I am anxiously scooping out the small flood on the kitchen floor with the dust pan in my new Christmas robe. When Ben returns from turning off the water heater, I comment that things like this happen to missionaries living in other countries, not here.  “Welcome to camp, honey!” he smiles and continues to mop up the remaining water with our honeymoon purchased beach towel.
The next morning we returned to the camp office to resume work. It was the first time the staff had been all together since the celebration of the new year so Jim gathered us together to pray. Ben took the opportunity to tell the maintenance crew about our problem. Paul then shared with everyone about other busted pipes around camp and some of the damage. But we were thankful, very thankful. Welcome to camp.  As we stood there to pray for the coming year, we all were very well aware of the state of the camp this time last year.  The 2009 and 2010 storms have given us such a perspective. A camp perspective, you could say.  Pray for the extraordinary, expect the unexpected, and be grateful come what may. Step on the gas and welcome to camp 2011. 

A  Camp Perspective – Blessings of 2010   
100 new chairs
Individual and church gifts for our dining hall total over $42,000
Over $30,000 in the bank that covered the waste water treatment plant damage
Computer upgrade to Windows 7
Prescott First Baptist Church gave us a stove
An individual donated 200 gallons of outdoor paint
The Elks Theater donated lumber from their construction site
A washer and dryer was donated for staff housing
First Baptist, Tempe donated a commercial refrigerator for Frontier Village
A new generator for the waste water treatment plant
250 truckloads of dirt
Upgrading of Hilltop One and Three
Golf cart from Tucson Gospel Rescue Mission
Air hockey games (two tables)
Wood chips from Groom Creek Fire
New database
The welcoming of our interns – Danny and his wife Kaitlyn,  Chris, and Tristan
Our awesome volunteer, Seth
New staff - Allen becomes the Program Coordinator, Ben the Outdoor Education Coordinator, and Sandra, the Communications Coordinator
Our new housekeepers – Juil and Tori
Laura, our Accountants Manager, got married and Doug joins our Prescott Pines family
And we celebrated 97 decisions for Christ