July 13th arrived and that afternoon, with my 11 year old and 16 year old sons in tow, we boarded one of our church’s vans for a 91 mile drive north, then east, to High Hill Camp, in High Hill, MO. I and the 16 year old had volunteered to work at the Preteen 2(fancy wording meaning 5th & 6th graders) Camp. As soon as we arrived and I climbed out of the van, I began to think to myself, “I’m getting to old for this!”
Fortunately, I was assigned to a bunk room in McKinzie Hall with a friend from Florissant, as our former church there had also sent campers and adults whom I knew. That was a nice surprise and those Florissant 5th and 6th graders remembered me when I had taught them Sunday School when they were 5 year olds. It made me feel old to now see them at ages 10 and 11, but that’s life. It moves on year by year and kids grow. I am sure they noticed the grey hair that I sported which I didn’t have when they were 5! That grey hair also got me pulled into a Scavenger Hunt of sorts when the camp’s dean for the week, challenged the campers to find the camp staff who had taught him when he was in Sunday School at his church in Wentzville, MO. I had to turn many a puzzled campers away with a No! when they asked me if I had been the dean’s teacher.
As I got my bunk ready and my gear unpacked, I kept thinking, “I’m getting too old for this!” At bedtime, in trying to get 11 girls to stop giggling and talking, as it was now nearing 10:45 pm and they had to get up at 7:00 am, I kept thinking, “I’m getting too old for this!” The 11 girls in my dorm noticed that the next door bathrooms had been redone with nicely, newer tiles than our bathroom and reluctantly we had to tell our girls that they couldn’t shower in the newer bathroom. Gritting my teeth, I understood why they wanted to use the newer shower stalls. As I looked at the showers we’d have to use all week, not in terrible shape but showing their age, I thought, “I’m getting too old for this!”
Coffee readily flowed for the staffers as soon as we were ready for the dayand that helped get Monday off to a great start. Little events all week helped to make me realize that maybe I’m not too old to help out at a Preteen Camp. My two co-leaders and I were assigned to Family #4. My two co-leaders were much younger than I and they tried to be all buddy-buddy with the 11 campers assigned to us; 7 girls and 4 boys I was a bit sterner with our group, as they needed to stay on task and on time as we had a lot of activities to complete each day, completing some before lunch and some before the swimming break, and some before dinner. I noticed that by Wednesday that my 2 younger camp staffers were growing more irritated by the immaturity of some of our 11 campers and that the buddy-buddy, hey I’m cool act was not the way to work with or motivate 5th and 6th graders. When one of our girls injured her leg during the traditional faculty hunt( camp staffers donned black clothing, hats, some even put black marks under their eyes like NFL players do, then we go and hide somewhere at the camp and when it’s dark the campers are let loose to find us) and my two younger camp staffers were no where to be found due to their hiding skills, so it was I who our kids turned to to help the girl make it to the nurse. I stayed with her and helped to ease her pain, and give her comfort as the nurse made phone calls to discuss with her guardian as to what she would want us to do: give medicine and wait until morning to see how her camper felt, or arrive in the morning to take her home to see the family doctor. By the next morning, I noticed that the kids who had first wanted to sit with the two cool staffers on my Family #4 group were now wanting to sit by me. That made me feel not so out of it, and a bit pleased; guess the word got out how I stayed with their hurt fellow camper.
The meals at camp were very good-they hired a full-time trained chef this summer, as well as another cook. I hope the kids noticed the satisfying and tasty food that was prepared for them. The music was fine-geared to preteens and the high school and college-aged camp staffers. Me with my grey hair, didn’t know some of the songs and decided to clap along to those and rest my voice. The lead band guy looked like a cross between actors James Franco and Joshua Bowman-an actor on ABC’s Revenge, so of course, some of the 6th grade girls kept making excuses to talk to him all week. I sent my college age daughter a text about that fact and she sent back a text with an LOL-she said that’s usually what happens at camp, the girls all falling for the boy band leader.
There was also cases of puppy love developing around me as for some unknown reason, the 4 boys in my Family #4, had been dubbed the “cutest” by some of the boy-crazy girl campers and I noticed one girl in particular, hanging around the Fab Four when it was the daily 3:00-5:00 activity break time. I just shook my head as to that girl’s antics. She was quite a few inches taller than those boys but it didn’t prevent her from flirting like mad with our group of 11 year old boys.
The weather was wonderfully cool for our week: 70s and low 80s during the daytime, low 50s at night. Unheard of for Missouri in July, as it’s usually hot and humid. I was glad that I had packed a jacket and had reminded my own 11 year old and 16 year old to also pack jackets.
I got to see my 16 year old son in action. He did well working with his Family #10. He willingly led the group in two songs. One was when he was mockingly punished for leaving his water bottle lay around camp-at lunch he had to perform I’m a Little Teapot for the campers, who when he told them he didn’t know the words, they all enthusiastically jumped in and helped him sing the song! The second time he was helping lead a fun song, The Banana Song, when another staffer was mockingly being punished for leaving his name tag lay around the camp. I saw my son in action as he easily got 150 some kids to get quiet, took charge of the song, and then led them through it with all of the song’s motions. I also saw my son take his turn with one of the boy’s in his Family group who had asthma, help to cheer the boy up at various times, as he had to leave activities for his treatments, which he didn’t want to always take.
There was a young woman at the camp, a missionary to Haiti. Her daily presentations about Haiti, the people, and the minister and his wife whom she works with were all fascinating. Our campers got to make a toy like the Haitian kids do. Since they don’t have access to toy stores they will take used water bottles, a nail, string, a stick, and 4 water bottle caps and make a car that they can pull along behind them with the string. I hope that our campers remember at home when they see their water bottle car that their lives in the US are vastly different from the children in Haiti. I hope that they will remember the money we raised for the missionary’s mission and that perhaps one day, they will be the ones to listen to the urgings God places in their lives to go and serve others, to show them love, and to not be afraid to tell them the truth of the gospel.
Am I getting too old for this? Too old for camping with a bunch of 10-11 year olds? Almost old enough to being their grandparent? Part of me says yes, part of me says no. I do know that I enjoy teaching kids and helping them learn more about their faith. Perhaps I will return next year and if I do, I know I’ll survive it all over again.