DAVAO CITY, Philippines—32 campers, 39 staff and 13 “mini-campers” gathered at Eden Mountain Resort from May 3 to 11 for what most said was “the best camp ever.”
This 13th United Youth Camp in the Philippines (the 10th to be held at Eden Mountain Resort) was directed again by Edmond Macaraeg, UCG pastor for Visayas and Mindanao.
The 32 campers were organized into four dorms with a counselor and an assistant counselor. Each dorm was provided with necessary food, ingredients and supplies to cook their own meals. This practice began in 2004 and has continued for the eighth year, because campers enjoy this challenge more than being served already-prepared food.
The theme for this year drew its inspiration from the life of Jesus Christ: “Be the Best You Can Be” (Luke 2:52). A diamond was chosen to be the camp logo, being the best among precious stones. Radiating from it are rays of color, representing six areas of life: physical (red), emotional (violet), mental (yellow), social (orange), occupational (green) and spiritual (blue).
Each day, camp began and ended with God. The camp has a quiet time from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m., where campers and staff pray and do their Bible study. Before lights out at 10 p.m., each dorm again prays to close the day.
The first activity after breakfast each day is a two-hour interactive Christian living class. The six areas of focus were discussed in turn—how they can be the best that they can be physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, occupationally and spiritually. Mr. Macaraeg conducted the profitable and lively discussions.
Perhaps equal to the Christian living classes, the confidence course coupled with the wilderness skills activity was the most popular. Each camper and counselor was fitted with a safety harness and given one raw egg to carry unbroken through a hike up and down slippery slopes, with four challenges along the way. The first is the wall climb, a 35-foot vertical wall with climbing holds. From the top platform, one has to rappel down. The second is the 160-foot pulley slide over a deep ravine. The third is an 80-foot monkey bridge suspended about 20 feet over a rocky stream.
Before the last challenge, each dorm has to cook their supper without any conventional utensils. Since it usually rains on afternoons and evenings, cooking outdoors at night (using only headlamps) was an extra challenge. Of course, they were already trained for that.
After dinner comes the last “obstacle,” the perennial favorite—the mud tunnel. As its name implies, it’s a dark, muddy, slippery and extremely narrow tunnel snaking uphill and ending in a very tight squeeze through a 24-inch wide, 30-foot-long concrete culvert. The campers usually arrive at camp close to midnight exhausted, dirty, but jubilant—having survived 8-10 hours of facing and conquering their fears, and almost all still having their raw eggs intact!
The other camp activities were basketball, dance, first aid, inline skating, riflery, soccer and softball. We also conducted various workshops on a Friday afternoon to pass on marketable or useful skills. Each camper could attend any two workshops on art illustration, basic guitar, carpentry, cooking and baking, calligraphy, house painting, journalism and public speaking.
On the evenings we had orientation night, novelty games, a lively fellowship night and a special Mexican dinner with talent show. On the Sabbath, we had a Bible Bowl before services. Some campers and staff also performed a fitting special number, “Be Not Afraid.”
On the final morning of camp, each one sat down and wrote encouraging notes on each other’s “notebook.” After that, the closing ceremony was held where certificates and awards were given to all. As a reminder to always “be the best they can be,” a piece of diamond-shaped crystal was presented to each camper and some staff. With God’s blessings, camp was truly life-changing.