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Gramma and Grampa go to camp

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Last summer, we were Gramma and Grampa B at Maple Springs Bible Camp, a Canadian Sunday School Mission camp on the western shore of Okanagan Lake, B.C.

What do a gramma and grampa do at summer Bible camp?

Well, Gramma B spent a lot of time helping in the kitchen with food preparation and all the other things that need doing there. That didn’t include doing dishes because the LITs (leaders in training) did that as part of their training. Thankfully!

They also put us in charge of the Tuck Shop so that at 1:45 we had to be there to pass out the daily quota of poison… I mean, sugar, candies, and pop!

Gramma B ended up being head cook for the last 15 days. She was able to relate well to the campers and staff and successfully fulfilled the axiom “good food – good camp.” Being in charge of the food also meant shopping trips to Costco and the local IGA many times, and planning and catering to the unique dietary needs of some of the kids. It was definitely exhausting. Not to mention that she got a wasp sting the last Monday. That hurt for several days.

The work of Grampa B – that’s me – included giving lots of hugs, words of encouragement, and praying with the leaders for the special needs and situations that came up. Then too, there were all the handyman projects he was assigned: fixing broken picnic tables, picking up garbage, building a mailbox for the staff, and many other little things.

The most rewarding part was when I was able to chat and pray with the staff and even the speakers. We definitely sensed God’s presence with us. The last 10-day camp was particularly difficult. The kids were eight to 14 years old and many came from foster or low-income homes and very needy situations. We were all exhausted. The first two days involved power struggles. Then came the lice. After two days of special washing of hair and bed clothes, they were eliminated. Then the romances. You know how that can be at camp.

There are always the issues of getting along and unity with a group of people in such ministry. On top of that, tremendous spiritual battles. The Enemy didn’t want us there and didn’t want anyone to make decisions for the Lord. We prayed for that “hedge of protection” from a power far greater. As it turned out, everyone made decisions in one way or another, and we pray these will have a lasting effect.

For us as grandparents it was invigorating to see the energy these kids have – energy I have only in limited amounts these days. Sometimes I think the Lord got the proportions wrong. We thank God, though, for the strength he gave us each day. We were “renewed every morning” as he promised. We thank God, too, for his presence at camp.
That kid shouldn’t be here

Lennie*, 11, was loud and mouthy and annoyed his cabin mates. He was awkward. He just didn’t seem to fit in or be getting much out of camp.

I asked the co-director at the camp what was going on with Lennie. I wondered if he was an appropriate camper and suggested maybe they should talk to the parents. The director, wise beyond his years, explained that Lennie had been at camp the year before and accepted the Lord. He was living in a foster home. His father had left when he was three and his mother three years later. Now his foster parents were splitting up too. And Lennie is autistic and has attention deficit disorder.

That’s a lot of strikes for a kid his age.

At mealtimes, Lennie would often volunteer to say the grace and I have to say his was a beautiful prayer and very appropriate. So I backed off and watched to see what would happen throughout the week.

I watched the cabin leaders deal with Lennie. It was amazing. At staff meetings, they would always ask for prayer and any other support they could get. Lennie usually got a lot of one-on-one time with cabin leaders. Then I also noticed the change in them as they worked out strategies to deal with the boy’s sometimes obnoxious behaviour.

Something was also happening in Lennie’s cabin. The other campers were learning how to handle him. They began to understand him and accept him for who he was. It was amazing to watch the transformation. Lennie responded positively to this environment and grew in character. But mostly the cabin leaders and the fellow campers grew. And I learned something too.

I now believe Lennie was a gift to all of us. I thank the Lord that he arranged for Lennie to be at camp.

* not his real name

Jim Baerg is a retired probation officer. He and Joan attend the Lake Country Campus of Willow Park Church, Kelowna, B.C.

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