Summer camp… most of you are probably fairly familiar with the concept and have likely volunteered at one. Let me tell you, though, that chances are you have never experienced a camp like TREK. TREK stands for “To Reach Every Kid,” and we use allegorical storytelling to explain the gospel to kids while experiencing God’s beautiful creation in different outdoor locations. Sounds cool, right? Every year there is a different theme: Pirates, Robin Hood, Knights and Barbarians, Cowboys, and more. The theme is played out through the week, with the staff dressed up in costume and different “story” events happening throughout, like raids from the bad guys (staff dressed in disguise to fit the theme) or “nightwatch,” where each camper groups takes turns walking around keeping guard of the camp at night from the opposing evil characters (which comes with the thrill of getting scared silly!). This year’s theme was The Search for the Northwest Passage. The campers were The Northwest Company and we were competing with the Hudson’s Bay Company to reach the Northwest Passage (heaven), because we were sent out on this mission by the King (God). I did not have a lot of opportunities to take pictures as I was mostly watching out for my kids, but next week I will be returning as kitchen staff and hopefully will have more pictures for you then!
The theme verses this year is Philippians 4:12-13 with a focus on being content and knowing that God will provide for all we need.
We met at King Road Church Monday morning and bused the kids up to a spot on Coldwater River. Since the location changes every year (for the most part), everything needs to be brought up and assembled the weekend before camp starts. It is so very rustic and I love it. Instead of cabins, we have portable storage shelters with a tarp ground cover. Until recently we had teepees, but over the many years they had received a few too many holes so it was time for something new. We have had some pretty great locations in the past; when I was a camper for the Robin Hood theme in 2007, we slept in treehouses in the woods! Just for fun, here are a couple pictures from that year.
Since this was the Fur Trade, it made sense that our encampment was on a river. There were other articles set up around the site to make it look more authentic.
We try to keep the theme as convincing and real as possible to make it more fun for the kids. This is especially difficult on the grades 8-9 week, but even though they know it is fake, some of them still get really pulled into the story and enjoy using their imagination. For people like me who love storytelling and dressing up, sometimes it hard to remember that conveying the gospel message to the kids is more important than making the story convincing! But still, storytelling is very powerful and helps us to make sense of things, just as Jesus told many parables when he was on earth.
Each day the campers have crafts and activities, and these as well are adapted each year to fit the theme. This year’s crafts are leather pouches, toy sailboats, lanterns, and mini fur trader villages! The kids got so creative with these, it was great to see how into it they were.
Each night we have Hoedown, where we sing camp songs and hear a message from one of the characters in the story. The message helps tie together the story we are playing out during the week and how it connects with our Christian walk. Every year there is also a new TREK Song to fit the theme, so we learn it and sing it every night. Once the campers are in bed, the counselors and co-counselors takes turns each night to participate in counselor meetings, where we sit around the fire, sing, and talk about how our camper groups are going and pray for specific situations and campers. I love going to these, because when you are occupied with looking our for your own group you don’t really know what is happening in the other groups, so you get to hear about some amazing things that God is doing in the camp that you may not be aware of. It is also a great opportunity to ask for support and prayer, as well as drink hot chocolate and eat wonderful homemade cookies!
This week at TREK I was a counselor, and although I loved every single one of my kids and had a lot of fun with them, this was probably my most challenging year counseling because of different issues within my group of kids. To be honest, it was tough, and there were many stressful points throughout the week. Although that was not enjoyable, I think it is so cool that the theme verse is about God’s provision: “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Those circumstances caused my to rely on God for my strength day to day. I was able to practice relying on God and others when I knew I did not have the strength on my own (which is also cool because I believe my year at Quest really helped with this). For me, counseling at TREK has always been an experiment in trusting in God. I know I am never able to do it on my own, so how willing am I to trust that God will lead me and that He has things under control? I am a very independent person, so even though the week was difficult, I am grateful for what it taught me. Romans 5:3-5 says: “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” I was a little discouraged with the ways things ended within my group, but I also saw a lot of good things happen as well, and I have hope knowing that God will continue to work within the hearts of my campers.
On our last night, a long-time volunteer for TREK, Adam Kruger, shared with us how he saw TREK: In the song “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan, one of the lines says “heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.” This is not a kiss between a man and a woman, but rather, more like a dog kiss… sloppy, messy, wet, but in a way that is so loving, as if the thing that will make the dog the most happy is running up to you and licking your face. TREK is that sloppy wet kiss, as heaven meets earth in our messy interactions as we love each and every one of these kids. Fellow counselor Markus Stahl put it very eloquently: “That’s what TREK is, it’s a raw, dusty, whimsical place where love flourishes and where heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.” This week I saw heaven meet earth in the awfully beautiful disarray as God touched the hearts of His precious children.
“I believe everything that You say You are, I believe and I have seen Your unchanging heart. In the good things and in the hardest part, I believe and I will follow You.” -Jon Guerra