This post was submitted by our Jr. Camp Dean, Patti Raymer.
“He is the vine and we are the branches, His banner over us is love!”
What a fantastic Junior Camp we had this season at Camp Ithiel! We began with a large turnout (39 campers!) and an enthusiastic camp staff and we ended with saying farewell to elated and blissfully exhausted campers on Friday evening who were already eager to return again for the next camp season in 2018!
Junior Camp was jam-packed with activities like kiddie pool kickball, fishing, canoeing, swimming at the pool, rock climbing, silly songs, outdoor cookouts, fun around the campfire, Gaga Ball, water relays, and so much more! Of course, these things were in addition to what our awesome staff (chaplain, counselors) prepared to help strengthen (or sometimes begin) our campers’ walks in faith.
Our theme focused on John 15: 5 – 8 where Jesus was using imagery of a vine and branches to demonstrate how He is the vine, God is the gardener, and his disciples and followers are branches that are to bear fruit in God’s name. The goal was to have our campers in this age group understand the connection that our Father wants for us through His son, Jesus Christ.
Each day was focused on a mini-theme with supplemental scripture emphasizing what it meant to remain connected to God through Jesus, ways to bear fruit to glorify our Father, and strategies to help our campers (and ourselves) create and maintain a deeper relationship with Jesus.
This age group is such a fun and active one, so I knew that if we were to be truly impactful, we would need to get creative! Michaela (our chaplain this week) and I worked closely together, along with the worship team, to plan engaging activities that spanned the day starting with Morning Watch in the Outdoor Chapel and ending it with Vespers in the evening. Object lessons, keyring reminders, amazing worship songs, interactive games and thought-provoking reflection journals helped to bring home the message of Love that God has for everyone when we are connected to Him through His Son. I believe that we made the message tangible and relatable to our young and eager campers.
One of our daily messages focused on the word “sacred” as we studied a passage in Joshua when the Israelites finally made it to the Promised Land. We discussed how the place in the river where they crossed the Jordan became a sacred place for them to build an altar that honored God’s fulfillment of His promise to them and also signified a way to continue to tell the story for generations to come. That sparked an idea with me. See, camp is such a special place to me, and it is also special to so many others, full of history and wonderful memories over the years. I decided to do some researching and digging into our camp’s history and turn our campers into super sleuths over the course of the week – in the hopes that they may find their “sacred spot” where they feel connected to God at Camp as well. So, each day began with a Camp History Mystery Clue that family groups had to answer and return to me by dinner time, and each evening ended with a little “history nugget” from me about that specific location. The campers had a blast and I loved hearing their wonder at some of the history as they sat in the Outdoor Chapel or rang the bell or worshipped in the Little White Chapel. I believe a connection was made for them with some of these locations. In fact, several campers shared with me and their counselors that they had found their “sacred spot” throughout the week! If you get a chance, ask your camper from this week about their sacred place or what they might remember from their History Mysteries! You are sure to learn a thing or two about this awesome place!
On the very first full day of camp, campers learned the meaning of our camp’s name… “God with me.” And, after a wonderfully exhausting, energizing, and positively challenging week with our campers and staff, I can honestly say that there isn’t a more perfect name for our summer home away from home. God was truly present with us this week!