So, I know because we have 13 weeks of camp this summer we are not actually half way through, but I figured we are close enough. And I thought that maybe at the halfway point some may wonder what camp in COVID-19 actually looks like.
Let me start with what I miss. I miss Fireside. I miss having incredible speakers like Justin Bills, Alison Springer, Connie Jakab, and so many more coming and speaking at Fireside. I miss worship. I miss Deuce leading worship. I've said it before and I will say it again, I believe the man is talented enough to be leading worship around the world. I miss campers and staff jumping up and down, singing, yelling, cheering, crying, dancing, hugging, holding each other, loving on each other and enjoying all the things that made up Fireside. I miss the post Fireside chats. Yes, I even miss Romans 16... 19... says. Yup I said it.
I also miss being woken up every morning by children screaming "Ga, Ga, Ball!!!!!" I miss my cell phone going off at 1 am because some child is puking and the medic needs help. I miss the late night pillow fights, the late night conversations and even the Horton Hut raids. I miss overnight camp as we have known it.
But here is what is happening. There are staff, most of whom are 16 - 20 years old, who are just loving kids. When a kid needs to be carried from one activity to another, I see staff throwing on a mask so they can carry the child. More importantly, I see staff doing whatever needs to be done to make sure that every single child who comes to camp knows that they have A Place to Belong. Bikes and scooters are racing all over camp. Seriously, it is wise to take a peek before coming around a corner or else you might get taken out by a 5 year old. Staff are connecting with each other in ways that I have never seen in my 6 years here at Camp Chestermere. I see the community around us rallying to support us in new and creative ways. We have more volunteers than we know what to do with.
Staff led devotions are happening 2 - 3 times a week. Questions being asked by campers at morning devotions are incredibly thoughtful, thought provoking, and insightful. The CLTD Program is as strong or stronger than it has ever been. Disciples are being made.
Just today I walked out of the Lodge and there was a staff member working with one of our Helping All Campers Succeed Children and both the staff member and the child looked as content as could be. I overheard another camper calling home and negotiating with mom as to how much Horton's Hut he was allowed. It's these types of things that warm my heart and make we want to get out of bed everyday and come to work.
I see a Year Round Team who is weary, worn out, tired, but just refusing to give up. After all, they were laid off due to COVID-19, came back, and in 10 days put together an entire plan to launch Day Camp in a way that has never been done before. Even now, the Year Round Team works a minimum of six days a week, usually 7, to ensure that the camp is able to run. Yup, we're tired. But each one of them keeps loving on staff, empowering staff, and doing whatever needs to be done with a next to nothing budget to Keep Camp Alive.
I see campers with smiles on their faces. Pool noodle fights have become commonplace this year. I see CLTD Leaders who 6 weeks ago didn't even know if they would have a program and now they have graduated two third year classes. 16 new CLTD graduates are now staff members. Like what? In SIX WEEKS they went from nothing to 16 graduates!!!!!!! How does one not get excited about that? I have parent after parent who is complimenting the staff, our programming and our organization. Kids are going home with a smile on their face and they want to come back - and that's a successful day at Camp Chestermere.
And we have learned some new things that we should keep going forward. Our new drop off procedure is awesome and don't be surprised if we keep it in the future. COVID-19 forced us to change and some of that change has been an incredible learning experience.
So, the message of this update? Camp is happening. Yes, we miss Fireside. But kids are finding A Place to Belong, staff are loving each other and loving kids, and through the storms that have come we live an attitude that is my favorite verse in the bible, "they do not need to go away, you give them something to eat."
However, there is a prayer request that I have. The fall is very uncertain for Camp Chestermere and we are exploring ways to ensure that staff are able to be employed during this uncertain time. I ask for prayers for discernment, wisdom, strategies, and
planning as we look at the fall.
We invite you to continue to support us through our Keep Camp Alive initiative. You will see more initiatives coming soon. But for now, rest assured that while it may look different, the ministry that is Camp Chestermere summer programming is happening. I would invite you to follow us on social media and invite others to as well. Help us tell our story. Tell your story about Camp. Stories are powerful.
Thank you for your ongoing love, support, prayers and concerns for camp. Feel free to reach out to me for ideas on how you may be able to help support camp at this time.