Summer camp—a God-powerful experience

Summer camp—a God-powerful experience

October 01, 2015

By Courtney Glienke

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Summer camp.    

Those two words can trigger memories for anyone who has ever experienced it. Camp means making friends that become family, facing challenges in a safe environment and meeting God in the wonders of Creation.  2,523 campers experienced all of this and more this summer at one of Iowa’s three United Methodist Camp and Retreat Centers.

“I was so impressed this summer at how our programming went at each of our Iowa United Methodist Camps,” said Rev. David Hobbs, Leadership Development Minister for Camping and Christian Formation. “The youth and families that came to experience camp really were impacted in so many ways for Christ, and I think a big part of this was the Christian care and guidance that our staff gave to each and every person. It really was an incredible summer.”

“The excitement of sleeping under the stars, 
or the pure joy of accomplishing something
that may not have seemed possible at first
are unmatched.”

From classic camp activities like canoeing and horseback riding, to cutting-edge programming like go-karts and caving, there is an activity for everyone at an Iowa United Methodist Camp. Through all of these activities, faith-building and safety is of highest importance.

“Our goals are simple,” said Bryan Johnson, Site Director of Lake Okoboji Camp and Retreat Center in Spirit Lake. “To help campers feel safe, secure and loved; to help them make new friends and to share and learn about Jesus Christ.”

Ann Brehm, Assistant Director of Pictured Rocks Camp and Retreat Center in Monticello, added that the staff is a key component to creating an environment where growth can happen.

“We value every child who comes to camp and do our best to provide the best experience we can for them,” said Brehm. “We have been blessed with wonderful summer staff members over the years and a dedicated full-time staff which are the key to accomplishing that mission.”

Rachel, a long-time camper at Wesley Woods in Indianola, witnessed the caring and dedication from the camp staff first-hand. 

“Everything at church camp is awesome because of the special people who work there and the amazing kids who show up every year,” she said. “I feel very connected to my faith at Wesley Woods because of things like Chapel, which is probably my favorite. Being out in nature just makes me feel closer to God.”

Parents Notice Affect on Life and Faith

“She has made new friends there and comes home with wonderful memories and stories each year,” her mother Linda said. “The counselors create a safe place for her to talk about her faith and to ask questions, but also keep everyone busy with lots of fun activities. It has been a very positive experience and she’s already looking forward to going back next summer!”

“The success or failure of what we do in camp and retreat ministry is tied to the ability [of our staff] to build community and relationships with the campers,” said Deke Rider, Site Director at Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center.

According to a survey conducted by Wesley Woods, 76 percent of campers said they would someday like to be a camp counselor, and Rachel is one of those campers.

“I plan on being a Junior Staff volunteer at Wesley Woods next year not only to continue to grow in my faith, but to help others grow in theirs,” she said.

Rachel is just one of many campers who continue to grow through camp as Junior Staff volunteers, and then apply to become camp counselors. Others discover camp later in life through friends at college or even just searching online for United Methodist summer camps. Many seek a summer experience where they can share and learn together about the Christian faith.

“I got to be surrounded by a Christian community whose whole purpose was to care about children like God loves us,” said Emily, a camp counselor at Pictured Rocks. “As a staff we got to know the campers, we saw them empower each other and learn about God in new ways. That was the highlight of my summer.”

While another summer of camp has come to a close, the seeds of faith that were planted will continue to grow in each camper, volunteer and staff member that had the opportunity to be a part of this empowering experience.

“The excitement of sleeping under the stars, or the pure joy of accomplishing something that may not have seemed possible at first are unmatched,” said Cassie Leitzen, Program Director at Pictured Rocks. “These are confidence and faith building moments that each camper and staff member will take with them. Even though they have left camp, camp doesn’t leave them.”