Do you remember your first day of school? I do. I did NOT want to go. I remember standing at the end of my driveway, crying and looking back at my house, upset with my mother for making me go. I was scared and wanted nothing more than to stay home and play with my toys. Getting on the bus, I was filled with dread, and I was certain that I would hate everything about school.
A few hours later (Kindergarten was only half a day for me), I returned home from school. Mom was there to meet me, and boy, was I a different child than the one that got on the bus that morning. I was smiling, happy and couldn’t wait to tell my mom about all the fun I’d had at school!
Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience, or perhaps you’re facing one now? “Wait a minute, I’m way past kindergarten, what’s he talking about??”
Dread over something new and unfamiliar is common. And while we learn to handle it better as we age, that certain feeling of uneasiness over doing something we’ve never done before stays with us for life. Perhaps you even feel it now, as you consider going to one of UCG’s many summer camps.
And while it’s normal to have a few butterflies in your stomach, it’s also important not to let it stop you from doing things. You’ve probably heard the old saying, “How do you know you don’t like it if you don’t try it?” It’s been a long time, but I’m pretty sure my mom told me that on that dreaded first day of school too!
It’s an old saying, but it’s true: If you just give summer camp a try, I know you’ll like it! And to help convince you of that, here are four things I guarantee you’ll enjoy:
1. Meeting new friends
Your parents and pastor have probably already hit you with this one, but it’s true. It is IMPOSSIBLE to go to camp and not meet someone new. Not only will you meet someone new, I can virtually guarantee you will become lifelong friends with many of them, whether it be fellow campers, counselors or activity staff. And not only do you get to know them at camp and have a lot of fun together, when you go to the Feast of Tabernacles a few months later, you’ll probably run into someone you already know and then have a built-in companion!
2. The food
Now, let me clarify here. I’m not trying to say that all the food at camp is great; in fact, let’s just say, some of it’s not quite the way momma made it . . . But mealtime together is a great opportunity to get to know people. It also provides a routine to the day. One of the things many first-time campers dread about camp is not being sure what is going to happen next: Are we going to volleyball, or is it archery? Arts and crafts, or Christian living? While your counselors will always be there to give you a head’s up on what activities are next, breakfast, lunch and dinner are set parts of your day you can count on. And if the food happens not to be so tasty, then at least you’ll have the camp experience and something to talk about for years to come!
3. You’ll learn about yourself
Let me get a little deep for a moment. At camp, you’ll get to experience all kinds of new things. Maybe you’ve never shot a bow and arrow before. Or perhaps you’ve never had a chance to learn to dance. What about rock climbing or balancing on the high ropes? (Don’t worry, there are safety harnesses.) I promise you’ll experience something new, and here’s where we get deep: You’ll grow. Learning a new skill at camp is one thing. Learning that you can do new things and that you are only limited by your own mindset is something else altogether. One of the greatest benefits of camp is that it helps you to learn you can truly do anything you set your mind to.
4. You’ll learn more about your Bible
UCG’s summer camps aren’t just a place to learn how to play basketball or make cool crafts. They are a place to learn more about God and His Word, and more importantly, how doing so will make your life better. Consider Proverbs 9:9-11: “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.” You probably already know quite a bit about the Bible. At camp, you’ll learn more and, as mentioned, how it can help you have a longer, happier life!
Okay, now that I’m done preaching and have removed all doubts you might have had about going to camp (right??), here’s what you need to do:
Talk to your parents and let them know you want to go. Don’t take no for an answer (sorry parents . . .). If money or transportation is a problem, talk to your pastor—they’ll do their best to work something out!
Go online to uyc.ucg.org and find a camp location and time that works for you. The teen camps this year are:
Cotubic, OH June 20–27
Hye Sierra, CA June 27–July 4
Pinecrest, MO July 11–18
Northwest, OR July 18–25
Camp Woodland, GA July 23–30
Winter Camp, WI Dec. 27-Jan. 2
Register for camp and watch your emails! Once you get registered for camp (it’s not hard, but you should do this with your parents since there is some adult stuff that they need to know), make sure and keep your eyes out for emails from camp. After being accepted, you’ll receive more information telling you what to bring or not bring and other stuff your parents will want to know.
Camp is a wonderful experience that no one should miss out on, especially not because of fear. Consider what Isaiah the prophet wrote: “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13). Whatever worry or concern you might have about camp, God will help you through it as you come together to meet new friends and learn more about Him! CC