After returning from girls camp (camp for teenage girls at church) as an adult leader, I thought I would reflect a bit on the experience. I was asked to go only a few weeks ago and it was not top on my list of things I wanted to do and was certainly not easy to figure out how to get my family taken care of in my absence. But, I knew they really needed someone to go and knew that I "could" figure out how to get there if absolutely necessary, so I agreed to do it. They have camp at a girl scout camp where I went often as a kid when I was a girl scout. I have sooooo many memories there.
I really liked the theme this year: Stay True And Never Depart (STAND). We had a good group of girls from our ward that went. Seriously, these girls are amazing.
Left to Right: Ariana, Jessilyn, Tess, Diana, Alli, Me, Caitlin, Selena, Katie, Genie (Maria is not pictured- she had to leave the day before due to a dance competition.)Once there, they are divided by age, or year of attendance. It starts at age 12 and they are the "first years" and on up to 4th years. After that, they are called "JC"'s or Junior Counselors and they help run the show- working with the younger girls to teach and lead them while learning to be leaders. I was placed in charge of the 1st year girls. They were really a neat bunch of girls. (1st years had red shirts, leaders yellow, JC's- green, other years wore other colors)
From left to right, back to front: Shelby (JC), Rachel (JC), Rachel, Me, Shannon, Kaylee (JC), Erin, Rachel, Nicki (leader) , Morgan, Emily, Jane (leader) , Julie, Donna, Jessica (JC), Emily, Caitlin, Becca, Emma, Eli, Rachel
Yes, if you read those names you are correct- there was 4 Rachels, 2 Emilys, an Emma and Eli. Made it fun trying to get names straight....
Thankfully things generally went very well at camp and at home and I did have a good time. But, as with all things there were ups and downs and I thought I would share some of those highs and lows.
Low: It poured down rain the whole first day and the camp was a giant MUD pit with rivers of mud flowing along the paths. I was there a brief amount of time before I was covered in mud.
High: Other than a brief storm on Friday, the weather was sunny and beautiful the rest of the time!
Low: My Home away from Home for the week......
High: At least it was off the ground. And, though it lacked in comfort, I really enjoyed just laying on my cot during free time and feeling the breeze blow through the tent with the peace of the woods. That was actually very relaxing.
Low: Getting off course on our 3-mile hike and turning it into a 4-5 mile hike.
High: It made for a fun adventure and we actually happened on the site of an old bridge that I have fond memories of when I went to this same camp over 20 years ago for girl scout camp!
Low: spiders and ticks....enough said...
Low: getting back from the hike and finding out several girls had multiple ticks on them despite being dressed appropriately.
High: Not finding a single one on myself!
Low: still feeling a bit creeped out wondering if there was one deep in hair that could have gotten away... ewwwww....
Low: trying for an hour the first night to get a fire going- but finally got it! Then trying for an hour the second night till someone else came along and did it. An ego bruiser there.
High: Victory! By the third night, got a good fire going in 20 min. by myself!
(the pic doesn't do it justice- there were more flames, but the camera didn't catch them well.)
High: S'mores 3 nights in a row!!!!! Woot Woot!
High: Skit night! Seeing the Stake Leaders (those in charge of the whole group) act as bubbly teenage cheerleaders...most of which would never fit the part...hilarious!!!
High: Our girls did great on their skit! They had two girls walking back and forth with signs giving bullying and teenage alcohol statistics. During that, the rest of us pretended to make fun of them. One by one, we all all stripped off our over shirts showing the hidden shirts underneath, as we joined with the girls with the signs (symbolizing giving up bad choices and joining with them to take a stand and make good choices). When done, our shirts spelled out "STAND TALL!!"
Low: Finally falling asleep the first night at 12:30, despite noisy girls, just to have one run into our tent at 1am because she heard a raccoon outside her tent and they were scared. After assuring her the raccoon would not hurt them with all the racket they were making. They took that as an invite to serenade the camp at the top of their lungs for the next 2 hours in an attempt to keep the raccoons away. They sang everything from Taylor Swift to church songs to ABC- whatever they could think of.
Even Lower: One of the adult leaders in our ward getting freaked out about the idea of a raccoon nearby (really?!?!) and unable to go back to sleep and keeping us awake from her sudden anxiety.
- getting girls to clean up after themselves.
- when we had bathroom duty, making them remop 3X to get it clean. Seriously- do their mothers not teach them how to mop?!
- being stuck with poor JC's in our group.... they are supposed to be learning leadership and leading the girls and helping them have fun. Our JC's had a serious attitude and didn't want to do anything. (They did step it up a bit the last day or so, but had already left a bad impression on the girls). Good JC's can make the experience for first years, but bad ones can have a bad effect on them. One in particular even disappeared for a while and didn't go on the hike because she didn't want to. Thankfully, the girls still had fun.
-THE SMELL IN THE VAN ON THE WAY HOME (took 4 girls home...) O...M....G...!!!!!
- watching the girls cook our breakfast over the fire.
- fun games and activities like "Minute to Win it"
- enjoying nature and the break from the world.
- having most of our meals cooked in a dining hall and only two over the fire (unlike when I was in girls camp with church many years ago and ALL meals had to be cooked over the fire).
-the last night, the girls were determined to "stay up all night"- ya- they were all out by 2 am. ha ha!
-getting to know these awesome girls and seeing their emerging testimonies of Christ.
I could go on and on telling all the activities and lessons they did, but that post would go on forever and no one would read it. In fact, I am impressed if anyone is still hanging on to this point. But, they had a wide range of experiences from learning self defense, to knot tying and outdoor fire safety and hiking. This was mixed with several spiritual activities and devotionals along with lots of free time and games that were just fun and silly. A good mixture. But, I thought I would share one activity of the many that really stood out to me and I think hit home to the girls.
On the first day, the camp director Sheila gave a bite size candy bar to the girls. She told them she would like them to save it until she asked for it back and if they did, she would give them something better. But, she told them, they had their free agency and could eat it if they chose but if they waited, they would get something better. If they lost it, it was the same as eating it. So, later, she exchanged the bite size for a fun size candy bar and told them the same thing. The next day, exchanged for a normal size candy bar and the next day a king size candy bar with the same story. Later, they all met together and she related the experience to chastity and to God and upholding our standards. She compared how the girls trusted her that she would deliver on her promise on something better because she had demonstrated she keeps her promises- so even though they didn't experience that "something better" yet, they knew it would be. Just like God. We know he follows through on his promises. There are temptations along our way to ruin our chastity that get bigger with time, but He promises that if we uphold our standards, their is something so much better waiting ( eternal marriage, happiness, etc).
At that point, she took the girls who resisted the temptation of the King size bar and took them into the dining hall which was filled with two long tables COVERED with junk food- delicous brownies, candy, cookies, cheesecake, chocolate fountain- it was amazing! And, it was all decorated nicely with christmas lights and pictures of the leaders wedding pictures. There was about 10 girls total who did not save their candy bar at some point. They were left outside at first and didn't know what the "something better" was yet. She talked to them about how they felt being left out, even though they didn't know what it was. Their friends got to go in but they didn't and how did that feel? Then she pointed out how in reality, no one is truly shut out of heaven- there is things like repentance and a merciful God that will allow all those who work at it. At that point, she let them in as well and all were able to feast. These girls had plates of cookies and brownies and candy and even grabbed extra for later is how much there was!