Might be my tenth year of Girls Camp – I’ve lost count. Why am I doing this again?
It was a question I asked myself as I packed the car to the ceiling with food, plates and cups, bug spray, and countless other items for 150 girls. Hours of planning and preparation are required to pull off such an event.
Is it worth it?
I took a deep breath as I continued packing late into the night checking off items on my very long list. History has taught me that pessimism can rear its ugly head during such circumstances. This quiet, but persistent visitor demanded my attention and gave the following five reasons why Girls Camp was not for me:
Five o’clock in the morning. I needed to get myself ready and hustle up to Pine, Arizona to meet the youth at Camp Lo-Mia.
Forty years ago I entered my first year of Girls Camp at this same site. A nostalgic thought. I took a good look in the mirror. Only one thing to do.
I danced and sang with those pigtails. Then and now.
There’s something contagious and wonderful about surrounding yourself with happy, energetic teenagers. Camp is fun and free. Free to be silly. Free to celebrate sisterhood.
Free to be young again.
Maybe I can just lay here for a few minutes and close my eyes. Not enough sleep the previous night was catching up with me.
No rest for the weary. A surprise dance party was planned. Not just any dance party. A glow-in-the-dark dance party under black lights.
Girls and leaders joined together as we put movement to the music. A celebration of light and life.
We were unified as we busted out moves long forgotten. Decades bridged as we applauded and laughed at each other.
Unforgettable. Better than anything I could have dreamed up with a few more hours of sleep.
A requirement at camp that worries the best of us. The dreaded hike. A necessary event which pulls us out of our comfort zone and forces our minds and bodies into the wilderness.
Ponderosa pines everywhere. As I walked up the trail behind the girls, my friend Dennis encouraged me to put my nose deep into the bark and sniff. Vanilla. A curious fact about these particular pines that I’d forgotten.
The JC’s took advantage of the quiet scenery and taught us about ourselves.
The girls stood in circles, reached across, and grabbed hands. An entangled mess. Challenged to work as a group and get themselves back into the original circle without releasing their hands.
We talked about lessons learned. Getting out of difficulties in life. Patience as we figure how to fix our entanglements.
Addye is a 13-year-old member of my church group. Her mother wanted her to attend camp with the other girls her age, but was concerned about her special needs. Addye has Down Syndrome. I told her mother to come with her to camp.
I watched as Addye joined with the other girls for games and singing. I watched her listen attentively during spiritual discussions. The camp experience was surely a success for her.
I learned afterwards from Addye’s mother that she was profoundly affected as well.
Addye’s mother watched her daughter make new friends. By watching the interactions between the girls and her daughter, she recognized new ways that she might help Addye become independent.
Her mother learned how unconditional love is acquired. She watched some girls dutifully serve Addye where no common interest or communication existed. Some girls were at ease in the service. For others, it was too much for more than three to five minutes. But always in that service came appreciation, kindness, love and then the unconditional love and charity.
Teens reaching out and serving each other and teaching others who watched.
“Welcome to the belly of the whale.”
A statement that grabbed my attention immediately as we sat on logs in a quiet grove of trees.
The bible story of Jonah. I’d heard it. But the LIT’s took that story and made it come alive.
We were Jonah. We applied his grief and doubts to past and future events in our own lives. We spoke of trials. And pain. Things we all share.
The LIT's testified. Our tears are prayers that only God can hear. Trust that God knows your trial. Ultimately it will make you a stronger person.
Seventeen-year-olds testifying to 12-year-olds. Words packed with power because they were spoken by peers.
You were made for a reason. He loves you with infinite love. Forget about your imperfections because God doesn’t make mistakes. You are the miracle sent here straight from heaven.
I watched their faces. Quiet contemplation. Determined eyes. Stillness so thick you could feel it as the Spirit taught.
Lessons we all learned in a grove of trees.
Testimonies were written on flags that hung from the lodge ceiling in celebration of new commitments made. A stirring sight.
And so we take these girls away from it all for just a few days. Close them off from the latest YouTube videos and attempt to open their mind and spirit to a higher level of understanding.
Summer is short. Each year it seems the school calendar begins sooner. There is only so much time. Choices must be made.
Camp Lo-Mia. Why am I doing this again?
Pigtails, sleepless nights, hikes, teenagers and life lessons …
See you next year.