Victor Kubik sits down with Scott and Gayle Hoefker to discuss the UCG camp program, and reflect on the recent United Youth Camps directors conference.
Inside United Podcast: Episode 069
[Victor Kubik, Scott Hoefker, Gayle Hoefker]
[Victor Kubik] This is Victor Kubik, President of the United Church of God. Our guests today are Scott Hoefker and his wife Gayle, who are here from Cincinnati at the home office for the United Youth Camps Directors Conference. Welcome.
[Scott Hoefker] Hi Vic, good morning.
[Gayle Hoefker] Good morning, Vic.
[Victor] It's really good to have you here on Inside United. Scott is pastor of three churches in the Carolinas, and he and his wife live in Charlotte. Could you tell us a little about the conference, and what you felt was the most important thing?
[Scott] Sure! Glad to do that. What struck me was the comradery, and just being very open and honest, and we brought in quite a few extra people this year, some of the new ministerial trainees and others. But the discussion openly of things that, as camp directors, that we work with, and how to integrate that with more people as we develop for the future. And it was really inspiring to see the vision of where the camps are going.
[Victor] Well I was just very impressed by the fact that it was such an honest assessment of things that worked, but also things that didn't work, you know? What could be improved. One of the most important components of camp is education and spiritual understanding is part of the camp program. Could you tell us about how that works through the day?
[Scott] Well, what we do is we have a theme that's set up. The directors, we discuss that at length about camp. Guided by God's Word is what we used last year, and when we have in the morning the Compass Check, it includes the whole camp, and it's a short short few minutes, we wind that through and weave that through the day. During the classes, instruction, and then in the Christian Living in the evening. And my wife and I also have integrated this in Columbia, the youth camp in Columbia. And when they come home from camp the focus, they've learned and had fun, but it's the spiritual focus in educating about what our vision as a church is, as well as the United Youth Camps.
[Victor] Well, one thing that's really struck me is, well about you, is that you have done camp in Columbia, and maybe Gayle, you could tell us about that because you write a very, very interesting travel blog which I enjoy reading. Tell us about what your impressions are of camp in Columbia.
[Gayle] Well, one thing we've learned is that you have to be conscious of the culture variations, because they think differently than Americans do so we can't just completely take the American program and take it there, we can take various aspects of it, but we do have to consider culture. And so, they're much more involved in relationships, so we have more free time and just time to chat and get to know each other, but still including the educational aspects and some challenging activities like in activities and things like that. But culture is very important to consider when you're planning or working with a camp in another culture.
[Victor] Have you gone every year to the camp there now for a number of years?
[Gayle] We've had the camp in Columbia for four...well five years, but we've only been there the last four years.
[Victor] Did you have Guided by God's Word as your theme last year?
[Gayle] Yes, that was last year. We have tried, every year we've done it, the past four years we've used the same theme that they've used in the United States camps. And we plan to continue to do that because it builds a bond, it builds a unity that comes across through the Church.
[Victor] Could you tell me Scott, and both of you, what a young person would get in one of our camps, youth camps, that they wouldn't get at a comparable camp elsewhere?
[Scott] One of the things they get is, from the mentoring of the staff, and the ministers and wives that are there, is a vision of what we are trying to do as a whole, as a Church. And we strongly...it's a Bible camp, it's a church camp. We don't just say that in quotes. It's a camp to help them with their relationship with God, to build that, and there's a lot of very fine activities, those are important, but we take them back in foundationally to focus on God and His way of life.
[Victor] Gayle, could you tell us any stories, or any instances of a special camper and what they have gone through and what they became after camp?
[Gayle] Well, I could tell you one of myself. I went to camp the first time when I was 12 in 1975, but then I had the opportunity to go to camp in Scotland in 1980 as, I was an exchange student through the Church to a family in Ireland. But I went to camp in Scotland and interacted with the Ambassador College students that were there at the time, and with all the campers, and we were there for 3 weeks. And while I was there, even though I had grown up in the Church my whole life, I said, "I want to be like these people". And I knew to be like these people, I had to live the way of life they did, and I knew that included following God and being committed to His way of life, and so I can point to that time at camp as when I made the decision that I was going to live God's way of life, and camp had an integral part in that.
[Victor] Tell us about one of the young ladies in the Columbia camp was disabled and she was able to be integrated. That was quite a story, maybe you can share that with us.
[Gayle] Geraldine is one of the campers, and she's 17, but she was at camp last year when she was 16 and her first time at camp. And she was born with a physical disability, she can't really use her fingers or feet. She can walk, but they're kind of webbed. So she has problems, she's very enthusiastic, but everyone included her. They would help her out, I know this year we had the Amazing Race and of course everyone has to work as a team and you have to arrive at the activities as a team, but we had to run from one activity to the other, so one of the big guys just picked her up and carried her because that was how we were going to make it as a team and do it quickly. And she said after the first camp, she said, "Thank you for camp, I have felt included, and felt I wasn't excluded like I am sometimes at home."
[Victor] Well that's fantastic. Tell us a little more about this conference. You know, I sat in on most of the sessions, and I thought it to be just very, very enjoyable and revealing, just how it takes up a lot of the year, you know, in planning and preparing for it. But do you have any impressions that you would like to share from the conference and how we are going forward?
[Scott] A couple of impressions. One is the volume of work, and camp is not new to us in directing it, but the sheer volume of preparing for camp. It doesn't start two weeks before or a month before. It runs most of the year, and the process of application, planning like all aspects. Just, it's incredible the details. And what struck me too, the commitment and the professionalism of the directors and the staff. It isn't something, "Oh I think I'll roll out of bed and do this". But also the focus on the campers, and what God, as my wife talked, is trying to do with them, and how we can facilitate that, it's not about us. And that just struck me as the commitment to our youth, and the commitment to the overall vision as we talked, about making disciples.
[Victor] I'm writing about that in the e-news today, about making disciples, I feel like that is one of the most important areas and demographics in the Church, to make disciples, is our children, to make them committed and to teach them what we believe, and to make them feel as compelling, and to become strong in believing the teachings that we do. For them to be able to live it and pass it on.
[Scott] Absolutely. We are. My wife, both of us, have been in the camp program, I remember the first time at SEP years ago in the 70s we talked about it, it was a game changer, if you will, for life. Going to camp, I'll never forget it, and I reflect on that often. The camp's only two weeks, or a week in some cases, out of the year. And we have this short window to reach them if we can as God's calling them. We believe that and teach that. But to reach them as much as we can to pass that vision on, to help them be students, and teachers, and ultimately, it is coming more quickly than we ever thought, to replace us as the next generation. And my experience has been it does.
[Victor] And we hope that when they come back from camp that they continue in the ways they are, and continue to pass it on, which we hear over and over again from parents, how they actually do that.
[Gayle] I think that they see the staff, the ministers in daily life like they are, and they say, "These are men, women that are just like myself, human, and they're living this way of life, they're happy, they're excited about life. I can be, too", and I think that they build a connection, and the staff and the campers can connect through the year, building on what they built at camp.
[Victor] Well, we have really enjoyed having you on Inside United. I feel like this is one of the most exciting subjects that we have in the Church and it’s one of the longest traditions in the United Church of God is maintaining these camps, and enthusiasm has not declined and has actually increased as we serve a very valuable possession in the Church which is our children, who, as you said, will be taking over for us. So thank you joining us Inside United. Come back again soon for more.
[Scott] Thanks Vic.
[Gayle] Thank you.