The 2012 Boy’s Wilderness Camp was an awesome experience for our guys. To enjoy the great outdoors for an entire week will be the highlight of the summer for our young men. I decided to have a more relaxed atmosphere this year, instead of having a rigid schedule to adhere to, and the guys were so appreciative of this choice. We fished when we wanted, swam when we wanted, and explored the woods at will. We had several exciting softball games, played disc golf, rode horses, and spent a lot of time in the lake.
I can still hear the laughter echoing across the lake as the “king of the hill” was determined by who could remain on top of the water trampoline. One of the most hilarious things I got to see was watching one of our “big” boys launch one of our “smaller” students off the blob. The blog is a slightly deflated airbag attached to our water trampoline. So you can imagine the airtime the little guy got, screaming the whole time before he plunged into the water.
As a counselor, the greatest reward for me was the one-on-one ministry time I had with the students. As we sat in the middle of the lake in a boat, with no interruptions, except the occasional fish on the line, I was able to speak to their hearts from my heart, man to man. The relationships I have built with these young men has grown to a depth that would have otherwise been impossible. I was able to engage in conversations that would never occur in a group setting. Only in this intimate relaxed setting will they express their insecurities, fears, or the deep issues they are trying to deal with.
Another thing I was able to share with them is the love for the outdoors, and the skills I have developed over the years. I was able to teach them about the ethical treatment of nature, and the preservation of God’s creatures in the wild. One of the hard lessons for our young men was releasing the fish that were too small to keep. I am an avid outdoorsman and strongly believe in the conservation of what God has given us stewardship over. As I taught them how to fillet the fish they caught, it was easy to demonstrate why we let the little fish go so they can grow into bigger fish for next year.
One of the things that I will forever remember occurred on Thursday night as we had church in the woods. The intrigued looks on the faces of these young men as I was speaking about the Red Sea crossing, and we were, at that time, sitting on a spot directly overlooking the lake. I painted a picture across the canvases of their minds’ eye, but they had the visual of the lake before them. “Imagine walking across that… with the water piled up on either side.” They were actually able to imagine the power of God’s hand in the defense of the Israelites.
I showed them what poison ivy looked like, how to split wood so it would be manageable for the fire, how to find wood to burn without chopping down trees. I taught them how to tie a hook on their fishing line, how to cook over an open fire, and how to put up a tent. Most of all I taught them about God’s creation and to respect nature. They learned the importance of team work, how they can live off the land, and how fun it is to be in the wilderness.
Right now they are trying to convince me to have an end of the summer wilderness camp. I am so pleased they enjoyed it so much. Who knows, maybe in late September we’ll be back out there.
Rev Jeff Lowery