We opened the rustic wooden door to cabin F5 and met “Avocado.” He said we could call him “Avo” for short. He had dark curly hair, and looked to be in his 20’s. I wondered from what foreign land he was given this name. Certainly somewhere where bravery was required because he happily welcomed my 9 year old son Jack and seven other rambunctious boys into the tiny space with 4 sets of bunk beds. I wondered if he knew of all the chaos likely to come; the laughter, the quarrels and the lack of showering that would impact that cabin for the next few days?
I got settled with my own mom bunkmates in a cabin down the path. Though I was at the campsite too, it was still the first time leaving my son overnight with another adult in charge. The boys at camp could be from 2nd to 6th graders. My son Jack is in 4th grade and this weekend was his first real sleep-over. He could not have been more happy about the freedom. I was optimistic too, but I still didn’t know what to expect from camp.
Within our first group session I started to catch on to camp culture. I learned that the camp staffers receive a funny nickname by their peers. Avocado’s real name was Paul. The camp counselors who served at the retreat were energetic, fun, loved Jesus and served our children whole-heartedly. These young role models held worship, organized the games and supervised kids in cabins. They didn’t know it but they cast vision for us about how it might look for our sons to serve others as they grow up. After only a 3-day getaway to the mountains, I must admit I came away with much more than I had expected.
So what did I learn at Camp? These are my top 5 take a ways:
- Our Bond
The theme of our weekend was “Unbreakable Bond.” I think these very words encouraged the heart of every mom. Now at ages 8, 9 and 10 we see our sons maturing and feel their growing independence. School, friendships, and their own interests like sports and music now capture most of their attention. While we applaud their healthy independence, at times we miss the younger version of our boy and those days when we were together more. So this theme was a reminder that an enduring unbreakable mother- son bond already exists. As he and I invest in that relationship we just make it stronger.
The motto for Pararescue team is “That Others May Live.” Jumping out of planes to rescue people in distress is both admirable and appealing to everyone with a sense of adventure. The boys learned about bravery, courage, and perseverance. But as a mom I could see the clear relationship between this motto and the role of mothering. The choices we make daily are for the good of our children, so “that they may live.” From what we cook, to how we spend our time, and money, we are satisfied with appropriate selfless choices. We recognize the responsibility and honor of shaping a precious human life. Metaphorically, having or adopting a baby is when we jump out of the plane. Our mission is to raise each child to physical, emotional and spiritual maturity. And our method will involve providing the circumstances so that they might thrive. We will be equipped for every situation we encounter by following our leader the Lord God who gives us the strength and wisdom we require.
- Mangos and Papayas
Every group session began with worship lead by our enthusiastic camp counselors. The upbeat worship songs had clever hand motions, dance moves and a healthy dose of humor. These catchy beats and silly gestures helped us remember the words and more importantly the truth of the message. Singing about Jesus together with children should be this fun. I hope my son grows to love worship. Singing is such a special way to praise God and feel close to him. I can only imagine Jesus looking down at us singing and laughing and bet he delighted in all that was taking place in his name.
“I like bananas, mangos are sweet,
I like papayas, (papayas!), but nothing can beat
that sweet love of God.”
- Interval Training
Our speaker helped address the inevitable issue with maintaining stamina and strength in parenting. She summarized that well-rested people will be up for the challenges that they face. We need to recognize sleep as a piece of spiritual armor to equip ourselves with. In Isaiah 40:29 it says, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Even God rested on the 7th day after 6 days of creation work. When we are tired from our work we can pray and ask God for his strength. However it would be even better to come to God first with our schedules and plans. Seek God regularly for discernment as to where to spend our time. In some cases we may need to say “no” to good things in order to have more peace. Building in rest and recreation is healthy and actually makes our work time more productive. For example, we learned that distance runners who stop to walk for a while to rest, could actually increase their overall race times. Living life in intervals, like an athlete with built in rest periods, gives us stamina and strength too.
- It Starts at Home
Those who enlist in the military quickly learn how critical it is to have a team mentality. For their very survival they work together and depend on one another. Values of bravery, perseverance and loyalty are instilled in their training. The motto they operate under is, “No Man Left Behind.” The first place that sons and daughters learn about loyalty and team is at home. Our family unit has it’s own team identity, unique experiences, and shared values. The bible equips us to live this way in Matthew 22: 37-39 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. “ The bible says that all other scriptures can be summed up with these two commands. So God’s love is the best motive for building and bonding our family together. Once we experience life like this at our home base, we will naturally carry out these values with our neighbors. It is also God’s great desire that “No Man Left Behind” when it comes to experiencing his deep and personal love for every person.
At the end of our 3 days, I learned that my sons favorite activities were the zip line and the capture the flag game. In short: the thrill and the fight. When our entire camp met on the field for the rules of capture the flag they divided us into two giant teams. One team was white and the other blue, and we were given war paint. The paint had to be on our face and arms to easily identify us from a distance. This little bit of paint and taking sides, inspired the competitor in my son. Long after the game had subsided he kept the war paint on. He washed around the war paint. When I brought him home Sunday afternoon he fell asleep in the car still holding on to the moment. Back home that night he had a baseball game and while he put on the uniform, he still wouldn’t wash his face. I am so grateful that both of us found inspiration and memories made at camp that we will hold onto long after the weekend in the woods.
Thank you Lord, and thank you Mt. Hermon!