It escapes me how a Baptist girl growing up in East Texas managed to not go to church camp, but somehow I managed to. There were some youth trips and GMA (Girls Missionary Auxiliary) events with great youth leaders that included James and Brenda Wheat and Jim and Sue Reed. Those trips gave me some opportunities I might never have had.
So when our church needed a male sponsor to attend camp with our youth my hubby, being recently retired, was top on the possibilities list. I had some vacation days to take so we ended up agreeing to go as sponsors with another mother from our church. We had no idea of what we were getting ourselves in to. But our pastor gave me some great advice. He said when he went he looked at it as an opportunity to enjoy being a kid again. I could do that!
Last week apparently was church camp week all over. Our neighbor, a Mineola High School graduate finishing up his college degree, attended a different camp with some of the youth from his church. A man I was sitting next to at the oil change place Saturday morning said his daughter in Royce City had just returned from a camp in Oklahoma. Deep emotion briefly flashed across his face as he shared that he was glad she went and she “had gotten closer with the Lord.”
Our camp was in Gary, outside of Carthage where following a cell phone GPS is a waste of time. We wandered around on a farm-to-market road, passing other church vehicles who were also circling trying to find their way. My husband stopped at a very shady looking store to ask for directions. He approached a decrepit-looking man in the parking lot and lo and behold, the elderly fellow had helped clear the property for the camp.
When we arrived in our cabin a dirt dauber was bumbling around near the ceiling. It caused a stir a time or two when it got a little too close for comfort to some girls. You haven’t lived until you’ve shared a cabin with about 15 teenage girls in bunk beds, not to mention three shower stalls and toilets and a few window unit air conditioners. The showers were going just about nonstop. The campers were rewarded for doing good deeds and I believe that’s the only way Cabin 10, our cabin, was named cleanest girls cabin the first day. One of the girls took it upon herself to sweep the entire cabin, including around other campers’ bunks, and was pointed out to a camp staffer.
I’m proud to say my co-sponsor and I showed up to do our part in the staff (college students) versus sponsors volleyball game. We both were hoping not to get our new tennis shoes dirty though. We accomplished that because when we arrived the court was already manned with some pretty hardcore athletic folks from a church who regularly play volleyball. The sponsors gave them a really tough contest this year, but ultimately the staffers won again.
It was heartening to see so many nice young people in one place who would look you in the face and smile and act respectfully. We knew their lives aren’t perfect, but for a little while they were surrounded by caring adults and camp personnel doing their best to lead them in the right direction. It was referred to as “a camp bubble.” Yes, when we got home just about every time we didn’t move we fell asleep, but the experience was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It gave me awareness of the efforts being made to rescue our young people and great appreciation of those doing so.
On Friday as we were toting our bags out to our vehicles I looked around with a slight bit of wistfulness. The beds were stripped and the cinderblock concrete-floored cabin was empty - except for the dirt dauber that got the cabin back to itself once again.