I did a little math with my free time while I was home in Michigan the last two weeks. This summer marked my tenth in camp ministry. That includes my first two as a Counselor in Training while I was still in high school, and the five I spent as a counselor / core staff at Grace Adventures, the one I was in Tanzania, and the two I've spent here in Puerto Rico as program director. And that's not even counting the summers when I just showed up for a week or so to handle an overflow of campers as a rent-a-staff.
Having thusly proved my credentials, I pretty much have this whole Camp Ministry thing down and should therefore be finished making mistakes.
I remember a phone call I made to my old director before last summer, in the last few days before staff training. I asked him what I should do if I make a mistake. I don't remember exactly how he worded it, but he basically said that I should just expect to make a bunch of them and move on. While he talked, I was busy realizing how much I had just betrayed my own nerves and fears about being the dude in charge of a summer program.
Now that we've wrapped up our summer camps for 2012, I can proudly say: I made several mistakes and no one ever demanded my immediate firing, and things never came to a screeching halt, and summer turned out pretty great. After all, camp has a way of running itself.
Now that I say that, I realize I probably could have gotten more sleep.
But anyway. One of the reasons camp went well, and that it's able to run itself, is because we had a solid summer staff.
Seriously, though. This was a consistent and constant comment from parents, visitors, mission teams, and other staff:
"Your staff, man... they're pretty awesome. Like, seriously. I didn't expect this."
Okay, that's my paraphrase. But I heard it a bunch of times, and I swelled with pride each time. And I grew increasingly appreciative of the way our counselors showed up and owned camp like they did. Nope, they weren't perfect - like me, they made mistakes, too - but they definitely exceeded expectations. People don't expect a bunch of college kids to be able to handle this, to be this dedicated and this responsible.
But they're the hands and feet of the ministry, and a big part of the big things that God continues to do here. We've got a really solid crew of high-schoolish and college kids who come back year after year and do this camp thing better every time. They volunteer their time a few weekends in the fall, winter, and spring to help us with retreats, too.
When campers come, they expect to see them.
That, to me, is huge. There's a bond of trust, and a sense of community amongst the campers. We're blessed to have a lot of returners and a healthy mix of new faces who quickly settle in like old friends. Because many of them are old friends. The returners know when campers or counselors are missing. They have real relationships, amongst themselves and with the staff. Many of our counselors have been able to invest in the same kids and witness their growth year after year.
It's huge. And I think it's a huge positive for the ministry here at Campamento del Caribe.
So, mad props to our summer staff. Job well done. Keep it up, year after year.
(how about I conclude with an old, semi-relevant Audio Adrenaline song:)