A report by Corinne Plett
e’re turning this place into a camp!” Those words started it all.
As a family we enjoy many sports including climbing and mountain biking. So when we moved to the country a number of years ago, a network of bike trails all around the bush on our property, and a number of bike bridges and stunts soon became part of the landscape. One summer evening, we stood in the backyard, looking over the way things were developing there, and those “We’re turning this place into a camp” words were spoken. An idea was spawned.
Maybe we could run a day camp – we could have a group of kids here for a week for a great time, and also give our own older kids some valuable and practical leadership experience. In some ways this just felt like returning to our roots, as we directed a camp for over a decade.
One night, sitting around the campfire in our backyard with Jamie Howison, the camp idea came up in conversation. Jamie said, “Hey, maybe we could run that as part of saint benedict’s table.”
A year later the first ever saint ben’s day camp became a reality.
And now, 3 years later, we have wrapped up the 4th summer of running the week-long camp. Over the years the camp has expanded to include 17 campers – kids from the st. benedict’s table community, kids from the area where we live, and 6 kids coming from an EAL classroom of African immigrants that our family volunteers with during the school year (their participation in the week made possible due to campership donations). Our dream has always been to have a mix of ages of kids involved, and our campers were ages 8-15.
Our camp mornings begin with a Bible time of imagining Bible stories together, and then are spent in skill development in the areas of biking and bouldering. After lunch, comes “Silly Stories” – crazy skits! Two of the skits allow campers to participate in them and they ALL wanted to be part of these, which kept me up late the night before writing in parts to accommodate them all! Activities such as Capture the Flag, photo scavenger hunts, group bike rides at Birds Hill Park, a drum circle, a massive water fight, the trampoline, and a water slide down the slope of our backyard fill our afternoons. The campers leave at 4pm, and then the preparations for the next day fill our evening.
Why do we do it?
As spring approaches, the real work starts. Advertising, administrative tasks, registration forms and waivers. New bike trails to build, free wood to find for building bridging on the trails, bridge construction, three days of weed-whacking said trails to get them in shape for riding again. First aid materials to gather, the bouldering wall to tweak, change rooms to put up, the water slide to get ready. We provide bikes for about half of the kids, and those bikes need to be kept tuned up and in good working order. So, bike maintenance. Trips to Value Village in search of hideous dresses and wigs for our skits, creative, interactive Bible times to put together, skill classes to prepare so kids are challenged and learn, skits to write and practice and practice so that they bring great laughter and participation from the kids, games to research and work out that will be full of teamwork and fun. And believe it or not, the list does go on!
Those that know us well see the amount of time and work and effort that goes into this, and the natural question they tend to ask is, “Why do you do it?
Yes indeed – why do we do it? We do it because we believe it matters.
It matters. The kids who come matter.
It matters that they have unforgettable experience – not because we “wow-ed” them with entertainment, but because of their experience of an environment where they are free to be themselves, to not have to look around them and wonder what others are thinking of them or if they are acting in the culturally expected manner. It matters to be part of a group that welcomes them to be part of shaping the experience.
It matters that they are in a place where they can work hard to be all they can be at whatever they are doing, to challenge themselves and push themselves to see what they can accomplish in the various skill areas offered.
It matters for us to, despite huge diversity of age and culture, form unique communities where we can connect, laugh together, create together, care for one another, help each other, and share from our hearts. Rich community experiences shape and form us and create a hunger for more of this good thing called community – of something that feels like spending the week with a big family.
It matters to be nurtured spiritually through experiences that touch upon the deep integration of body and spirit – ways of relating, living, playing in creation and sharing community that bring together our activities and our spiritual formation.
And it matters to be nurtured spiritually in ways that are intentional and deliberate, where time is set aside to encounter Christ in new and fresh ways as we together move into stories from the Bible, imagine them together, and open our hearts to what God what might want us to hear through those stories. It matters that they can share their insights as they imagine these stories – imagine themselves in these stories of a shining man rolling a huge stone away from a tomb, imagine the face of Jesus and the life-giving words of hope and healing he offers a woman as the powerful scent of perfume fills the room, imagine the thoughts and feelings of the crowd that is fed so very much from so very little, imagine what Jesus might be able to do and the good he might bring if we just offer him what we have – our hands, our mouths, our hearts.
“This was the best week of my life.” “Can I come back again next year?” With sweat pouring down his face during a bike ride: “That was SO much fun! Can we ride some more?” “This has been the most incredible week ever!” After an interactive Bible story time: “I think Jesus is telling us that no matter how bad things seem, he will always be with me.”
Yes, it matters.