Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Insights from my Mobile Front Porch

By L.A. Kohl
June 25, 2005

(published in the June 29, 2005 edition of the "Bullseye")

With our two weeks of managing youth camp over, we’re finally home again. (Well, some of us are anyway – our van and two of our teens are off to Mexico on a mission trip, and another teen is leaving today for youth camp at Windermere.) I thought I’d fill you in on some insights I learned this year, from my camping front porch.

Within the first few hours, I learned that rain can be extremely loud, whether you are sleeping in a camper or in a metal roofed cabin. So loud that it robs you of sleep and gets your week started with that “I’m all worn out” feeling right from the get go!

I found out that mothers of small children can still do the limbo…with the help of a few energetic, encouraging teenage girls! I’ve got pictures to prove it.

I saw, once again, that a man in his fifties can still relate well with teenagers. And without any effort on his part, he can even build up a fan club. (Yea, Steve!)

Here’s a cool thing we discovered at camp this year…new technology can be very useful and fun, even at a backwoods camp! The video clips each evening of the day’s activities were highly anticipated by many campers. (“Hey Jake, will I be on the video tonight???”)

I learned that today’s young Marine leader can cheat with the best of them. All in good fun, of course…but cheat all the same! I believe I can even quote him as saying, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough”. As I think about it, that train of thought may someday come in handy for him while serving in active duty…except rather than calling it “cheating”, we should call it “thinking outside the box."

I learned that the “camp nurse” position should probably be renamed the “camp mom” position. Campers away from home need someone to show their little boo-boo’s to, and someone to feel their forehead to see if they are feverish or not. Someone to say, “Ah, I’m sorry you’ve got that little bitty splinter…let me help you.” Someone to say, “You know, I think you’re going to be okay.” It was a BIG job, and I’m glad several other people helped me step in when we didn’t have a “real” nurse on site!

In closing, one of the most rewarding things I saw this week was that yesterday’s enthusiastic camper can become today’s responsible, dedicated and respected cabin leader. It is really neat, after a few years of doing this, to see former campers growing up into young adults and still wanting to come back. But now they come back to serve, rather than be served. That’s a life lesson well worth teaching to the younger generation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Good Girls gone bad, or Not...

by L.A. Kohl
June 19, 2005

(published in the June 22, 2005 edition of the "Bullseye", )
We all talk about teenagers sometimes, with a “tsk, tsk," a slight frown, and a shake of our heads. We’re quick to point out that the younger generation is just so disrespectful, or so disobedient, or some other kind of “dis” word. So, I thought perhaps you’d enjoy hearing about some teenage girls who did a very lousy job at camp at being ….BAD!

All of these particular girls shared a cabin together for the week – except the oldest of them…she was in charge of a cabin of younger teens. On the last night of camp, this group of five girls decided that they would really like to pull some pranks…play some tricks…be sneaky…something like that. A couple of them were thinking that this was their last year for getting to be a camper, as they will be graduating high school next year. So, after everyone in the camp had been asleep for about an hour, they snuck out of their cabins and met up to plan their schemes (with TP and whipped cream in hand.)

They just couldn’t help themselves though…they did everything so correctly! Earlier in the evening, they actually asked permission from the camp pastor if they could get up late and do some “stuff." And then, after they had snuck out of their cabins – guess what they did first? They went to see the night watchman and get permission from him, also! Strike one at being “bad."

After they gained all this permission to be “naughty," they decided it was time to TP something. But, they kept thinking that they really didn’t want to make a big mess for someone to have to clean up. Thus, they decided they would wind it into the volleyball net and write something. But, these girls have very few “four letter words” in their vocabulary. After much contemplation, they decided to write “ENCOURAGE” across the volleyball net in toilet paper…that was a big theme we had tried to teach the campers that week. Strike two at being bad.

I have to insert here that these girls were video taping everything they did – for evidence, I guess? Who knows, but anyway, next they wanted to video themselves playing a trick on someone with the whipped cream they were carrying around.

Could they squirt it all over some sleeping camper’s pillow? Perhaps…but when the camper came to, with whipped cream all over their face, they’d probably scream and wake up half the camp. Not a good thing, our nice pranksters decided. So, in order to avoid the camp-wakening scream, they decided they would just have to stage the whole thing themselves, for the sake of the video. One of our five lay on an empty bed in an empty cabin, pretending to be asleep. The girls covered her hands in whipped cream, and then gently tickled her nose. She reached up and wiped at her face, of course getting whipped cream all over it. Looked real enough on the video to be considered a “prank," without the accompanying loud scream! Strike three – you’re out, girls.

You may have struck out at being naughty, young ladies, but your actions “encouraged” me and many others. Thank you for being so dog gone good. I wish our world was full of more teens like you…or at least, I wish our media would tell us more about the ones like you, and less about the disobedient and disrespectful ones.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Good-bye Front Porch, Hello Camp!

By: L.A. Kohl
May 25, 2005

I’m writing this at the end of May...just as our homeschool year is drawing to a close, and our hectic month of June is looming before me. Nate and I are in charge a Christian youth camp, and this year that looks like living at the camp for two weeks in June. And the two weeks prior to that will be a “whirlwind” of final preparations.

Why do I bother telling you that? Because it means my “front porch” will have to be vacated for awhile. There are seasons in life like that. Times when I feel like I don’t have a spare moment to sit down and think about anything...much less write something worth reading. So, when you don’t hear any views from me, you’ll know why.

Do I regret my over-committed, busy, all work and no play (or pay) month? Well, as a stay-at-home mom, I’m used to the “no pay," so that’s a non-issue! But there are lots of “costs” to myself, my husband and our family because of what we’ve chosen to do. However, those of you who have been involved in any type of volunteer work know that the rewards almost always out-weigh the difficulties.

There’s the “cost” of lost time and income. With Nate being self-employed, any time he spends on camp is time lost earning money for our family. But wow – it’s amazing how the past few years that we’ve been involved in this, there always seems to be LOTS of business work for him to do in April and May, which pays for our month of June. That’s just a “God-thing” that we couldn’t work out if we wanted to.

There’s the “cost” of lots of stress and lost sleep as I try to figure out what kids should go in what cabins. What cabin leader should work with what age of kids? What will the final schedule look like? What will we do with the dozen extra kids that invariably show up at the last minute? How many cases of soda and candy do I buy for snacks? What kind of decorations do I buy, and how much money can I justify spending on such “non-essentials”? On and on I could go, but you get the picture.

But all that is off-set once camp finally begins. I get to hear kids exclaim how “cool” some of those decorations are. I finally get everyone situated in a cabin, and most of them are happy with their placements. I get to see kids eagerly line-up for the much appreciated afternoon “snack shack” visit. And most of all, I get to know some of the individual kids that come to camp.

There are too many of them to get to know them all personally – but that smile and hug you get from a few of the girls that you have in a class, or sit by in chapel...those kinds of things are priceless. To see a youth’s face glowing with excitement and awe over a new skill they’ve just mastered, or over a new spiritual decision they’ve just made – that beats any pay-check or personal free time we could have had.
So, off I go, as camp registrations are flooding the mail-box and cabin assignments are looming before me. Who knows, maybe I’ll come back with some great insights from my camping front porch! I have learned this much: life may not be simple, but it is rich.