When I arrived at camp Kum-Ba-Ya, I was exhausted. I was worn thin before my first week of camp started. After getting up with the sun, waiting in the Nashville airport for a couple of hours, then driving two hours to Paducah and beyond, I was wondering how I was to manage a week of high school students, let alone a whole summer of campers. However, by the end of the week, I was raring to fly to North Carolina and eager to see what adventures awaited me at Camp Caroline. What happened during a week of late nights, early mornings, no air conditioning, bad jokes, and camp food to wake me up?
At our pre-camp staff meeting, I learned that I was to be a co-leader of a small group. At our very first meeting, I decided that we ought to play a name game to get to know each other. Each person in the group came up with an alliterative food to go with his or her name, and then we introduced ourselves accordingly. I was—and am—“Blaine Berries.” I worked all week with “Anne Apples.” Each camper introduced themselves, and we decided that our group was “The Avengers!” Duh duh duuuuuuuuh! Well, starting that first evening, the group and camp referred to me only as “Mr. Berries,” and the camp magic began.
The counseling staff decided that I should lead one of the fixed interest groups each day, and in this way see each and every camper at least once in a workshop environment during the week. So, the workshops themselves went pretty well as I did my best to make discussing labyrinths as a spiritual practice cool and relevant to high school, read Cain and Abel and related it to Ubuntu, and discuss the schisms that divide society. Some workshops went better than others—or so I thought. What I considered to be my weakest workshop (the subdued spiritual practice workshop) got the most positive feedback after the fact. Active, contemporary, changing high school youth actually enjoy sitting quietly to pay attention to what God is trying to communicate.
Huh. Camp provides a truly unique environment for this kind of self-discovery. Quiet self-discovery really opens up a lot of doors. However, I quickly learned that loud foolishness leaves just as many openings in its wake. A path to self-discovery and deep discussion lies in crazy songs and dances. If I put a fun song or loud game as a carrot on a string in “The Avengers” at the end of fifteen minutes of serious discussion, look out world, the campers are coming with their ideas! In these instances, we often didn’t even arrive at the carrot, but we instead used all of our time in deep discussion and thought.
This is not to say, though, that being loud and silly is not a valuable part of the camp experience as well. Indeed, loud and silly camp songs and skits provide some of my most memorable camp experiences. At Kum-Ba-Ya, I introduced a couple of my favorite crazy songs and some bad jokes to provide laughter—or groans—and show campers that to look like a fool at camp is perfectly fine and is even encouraged. These kinds of activities are important to develop leadership qualities, and having a good time expelling some energy is one of the most important parts of a camp experience.
At Kum-Ba-Ya, the camp sang a worship song called Light the Fire often, and one might even say that we adopted the song as theme music for the week. Some lyrical lines read:
Light the fire, in my soul
Fan the flames, make me whole
A cliché states that sometimes “the body is tired, but the spirit is willing.” Light the Fire asks God to rekindle God’s fire in each of us to live so that we may become whole individuals and make earth closer to God’s kingdom. Camp is a place that I go to light my inner flame, and at every camp I visit around the country I am called to share that flame.
Peace for the journey,