This summer on Staff has been an incredible and life changing experience for me. It is such a privilege to spend 10 weeks of my summer having fun and teaching kids about Christ. Lakeshore Camp and Retreat Center was such a special place to me, as a camper and now as someone on staff. It is my home, the place I experience God the most, and where I feel the most unconditional love and acceptance to be truly myself. I can’t believe the summer is coming to a close. But during my time here, I have learned a lot of important lessons about myself and about life. This is a list of a few things I have learned:
1) Yum-Yum sauce is great on anything.
Have you tried that stuff? It’s some really good sauce. I will literally put it on anything now!
2) Kids refuse to walk at the pool!
I have never before said the word “Walk!” more than this summer. It’s so awesome that kids are excited to jump in the pool but for some reason, they think they must get into the pool that second. Or they think if they don’t get in line for the slide that minute they won’t be able to go down it at all. Sometimes I will be sitting on the lifeguard stand just laughing at the kids that refuse to slow down, even though I have to whistle at them every time they come by. They just get so excited to swim and I’m so happy that they have that much joy about a swimming pool or the slide. I hope they never lose that excitement!
3) Deet free bug spray burns your skin.
I thought Deet free bug spray was supposed to be safe for your skin! Then why does it burn?
4) Baked potato is not an entrée!
Wonder why it is hard to stay awake on Mondays! It’s because of Meatless Mondays!
5) Mosquitos can actually eat you alive.
A camper one week had 208 mosquito bites! Lakeshore doesn’t have mosquitos; it has little blood sucking devils!
6) Don’t scoop ice with your water bottle.
It causes Camp Puke! Don’t do it.
7) Don’t shoot archery at the Cement Pond.
The arrow will hit the cement, bounce back, and hit a camper in the face. Not a good idea!
8) Don’t lean back in the green chair.
You will literally be scared for your life. Just don’t do it.
9) Couches are for dogs, not for people.
Walk into the library and see Lily sitting on the only open spot on the couch. Then you look into Lily’s eyes and don’t have the heart to push her off. It’s like pushing your grandma off the couch.
10) Cabin time is not naptime even if you want it to be.
Elementary campers refuse to take naps! Please just lay down and be quiet! Even though you don’t think you need sleep, I definitely do!
11) It’s impossible for everything in the cabin to be claimed at the end of the week.
No one will ever claim that pair of underwear left in the bathroom. They have to belong to someone!
12) Gaga pit is a war zone.
Campers will literally shove their canteen in their mouths and sprint to the Gaga pit. They will fight and scream at each other over the game. For some reason, they enjoy it.
Alright, now for some more serious ones…
13) Patience truly is a virtue.
Wow, I never knew before this summer how hard it is to keep patience and show mercy to campers. Of course, not all campers. You will always have little angels that you love and enjoy being around. But sometimes you have campers that are harder to deal with. However, I have realized how important it is to take a step back from a situation that makes you frustrated. And then look at it from a new, understanding perspective by giving them the benefit of the doubt and loving them despite their bad attitude. The ones that act out the most are probably the campers that need the most Christian love and understanding. Therefore, I want to be the one willing to give the pesky little kid the love and patience, rather than lose my patience and lash out at them, even if it is hard.
14) Community exists here.
During staff orientation at the beginning of the summer, the staff was challenged to create a God centered, loving, and supportive community among the staff. As a first year staffer and being a very shy individual, I was skeptical in accomplishing this challenge. I didn’t understand how it was possible to have a community with 30 other people where I would be willing to come to anyone with my current struggles. Despite my reservations, I think I did find community with the Lakeshore staff, probably the best community I have ever been apart of. However, it is a little different than was expected and probably not what the people that extended this challenge wanted. I don’t think one person is able to support and love 30 other people. There is a nature tendency to gravitate toward certain people and that’s okay. I have grown so close to some outstanding, God centered, kind people on staff, where I know I can go to them for anything whether it be about camp drama, with situations outside of camp, or in the future when I leave camp. It is more than just friendships; it’s a group that bonds so deeply because we have shared this amazing summer together. We all have worked our tail ends off together, cried together, worshipped together, and joked together. And even though I haven’t experienced that with everyone on staff, I have shared those experiences with some and they have experienced it with others and so forth where we have all touched each other’s lives in some way. We are all connected and linked together as Staff 2015. We all understand what others are going through and we all are here for the same reason: to glorify God by teaching kids about His message. So no, I am not best friends with every one of staff; however, they take up a special place in my heart that will be there forever because we shared this incredible summer together.
15) You don’t need your cell phone.
Going a week without your phone by your side 24/7 seems like the hardest thing a college student can do. Not having my phone during the week seemed like a huge feat at the beginning of the summer. However, I have realized that you need it much less than you think and maybe you don’t need it at all. Even on Activity staff, when several times a day you aren’t directly with kids so you can have your cell phone out, I have found that I could do things that are so much more productive, such as read some scripture, write warm fuzzies, or write a friend a letter. It distances yourself from your campers even during the times you aren’t physically with them. It focuses your mind on other things rather than on the kids and on God. Also, it divides the community that we have created as a staff. Instead of talking to each other, supporting, and filling each other up, you are spending your relaxing time being filled up by the world by satisfying this generation’s constant need to know what everyone else is doing. Instead of being filled up by God or from the support of each other. So I decided for my own mental and spiritual well being to leave my phone in the cabin off for the entire day.
16) Not only do you show unconditional love to your campers, they show it right back.
One thing that surprised me the most about being on staff is the love that kids show. I knew that it was my job to show them love and mercy no matter what they do. However, I never realized how much love they would show you back. On staff, you will make mistakes and wrong decisions but the campers will love you no matter what. They love you for being you. They don’t care take what clothes you wear, how you wear your hair, or who you are friends with. They love you because you are there for them and love them. You are their role model and who they look up to.
17) Giving kids attention and your time can cure anything.
All kids want is attention. They crave for you to watch over them and care for them. They want for you to point out how they are special and how they are important. Even though it might be annoying and overwhelming at times, it is something easy I could do to comfort a kid by giving them attention and make them feel special among the rest. They want you to listen to their concerns and make them feel reassured for how they feel. That’s all they want.
18) God is present in the most unexpected places.
Sometimes you work on a worship for days and put your all into it. You pray, you read scripture, you work hours practicing on a skit or cutting paper for an activity, and you think through a moving proclamation to say. And then it doesn’t go as planned. You don’t feel God moving through the kids or touching them at all. But then the next week you plan a worship that was pulled together last minute and you struggle through it and you see every camper at the end of the worship with tears in their eyes, holding on to their cabin mates and praying for each other. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not supporting the idea to wait to the last minute to plan a worship, but what I am saying is that God works in mysterious ways and moves people when you least expect it. All you have to do is put yourself aside and your idea of what a perfect worship is and what it takes to plan it. And let God use you to convey His message and what He wants the campers to hear. If that means to spends hours planning and preparing, then do it. If that means changing your idea last minute to teach the campers what God wants them to hear, then do it. Be brave enough to listen to what God want and put yourself aside.
19) Each person has a specific role in helping this camp.
By being put on Activity Staff, I was really worried that I wouldn’t have an impact on the campers like I did as a volunteer counselor. But I think the most important lesson I have learned this summer is that each person has a role to play in making this camp run so those kids have a joyous, God filled week. Even though I am unable to interact with kids at my activity period, (because I have to be watching from the lifeguard stand), I know I was hired to keep the kids safe and so they can have fun playing in the pool with their counselor or talking with their new friends in the lazy river. God called someone else to be that person to spend 24 hours a day with campers. And I get the privilege of making that possible for the counselor. Also, at All-camp activities, a lot of behind the scene work goes into planning them and making sure they run smoothly. Activity Staff undertakes that planning so the campers and counselors can have an amazing, hopefully stress free time. Thus, every role at camp is important and impactful to the campers.
20) The permanent staff is here to help you, not to hurt you.
Being on staff is a job like no other. Specifically, your bosses here love and support you probably more than any boss you will have in the “real” world. Of course, they will correct you if you do something wrong. But they also care about you and want what is best for you. They will support your decisions no matter what and always have your back. They care about your life outside of camp and hope the best for you. They are always available to talk to you and listen to whatever you need. They literally pour all they have into this camp in every aspect.
21) You make a difference.
People on staff get into a routine. We basically do the same things every day and know exactly how to do our job and how to do it well. After a while, it is natural for us to start to do things because we have to, no longer because we want to. We know what we have to do day in and day out and we know we just have to get it done. However, we start to wonder what if I wasn’t here? Someone else could easily iron fuse beads, lifeguard while the kids are swimming, or even take care of a cabin of kids. Do I even do anything to affect the kids? Did I touch their lives at all this week? But I have realized that every once in a while you must take a step a back and reevaluate what you are doing. Get out of your routine and make sure you are doing everything to the best of your ability and with a positive attitude. Make sure you are showing Christian love to each of God’s children and don’t treat them as just another camper. And know that without you on this staff the kids wouldn’t have experienced the week that God intended for them. Because God wanted you on this staff so therefore you have a purpose.
22) Must make the most of every situation.
A positive attitude makes a huge difference at camp. Everyone has jobs or activities at camp that they prefer not to do. No one likes to sweep the cabin, run around in the hot sun, or walk all the way out to the creek. But even though you are here for 10 weeks, the campers are only here for 1. Thus, you must make it the best week of their summers. You must get them excited about everything you all do during the week. If they see you excited about every activity, participating and giving your all, then they will do the same and have a much better week.
23) As a person on Staff, you will see God less in worship and more in the little moments with your campers.
Because the Summer Staff is at camp for 10 weeks, we experience a lot of the same worships and theme times, the most expected places to experience God at camp. Therefore, as a counselor, you tend to see God in other ways like when your campers accept the isolated camper, experience God changing their lives, or just hanging out and getting along in the cabin. You probably won’t experience God in some big, extravagant way but you will see Him in the little moments with your campers. You will just be sitting in your cabin hanging and laughing with your campers when you realize God is here and God is good.