Saturday, July 23, 2016

The News from Magruder 7/17-23 (featuring guest blogger Anna Allen)

This week we asked Resource Staffer Anna Allen to tell us about her summer so far. 

This summer has been filled with a lot of ups, downs, changes, and crazy in-betweens; and it’s only half way over. Looking back it has been a lot of new experiences, things I will never forget and somethings that I wouldn’t mind forgetting. I have grown up coming to Camp Magruder as both a camper and a counselor, and this is my second summer on staff. Each of those experiences brought a different view of what camp was. None better or worse than the others; just different.  This summer has definitely proved the point that every experience is different depending on the type of groups you see or don’t see. I knew coming into this job as resource staff that it would be very busy and a lot of hard work, but there was so much that I didn’t think about. There is a lot more effort that needs to be put into things like planning activities, or even just facilitating the activity whether it be challenge course or lifeguarding. It is somewhat silly when you think about it; of course there needs to be a lot of planning to make camp work. But for some reason it didn’t seem like it took that much effort when I was 11 and watching the summer staff go effortlessly from one activity to another.  Maybe the campers think that same way about this staff now.

Another interesting thing I notice about being on staff is the connections we make with groups and the groups where there isn’t as much connections. There have been a mixture of groups coming in where they require a lot of activities facilitated by the camp staff, and those groups who just require an hour or two during the day and the rest of the time they are off doing their own thing. There are times when it is nice to have less responsibilities with the groups, because we get to enjoy our time a little more or do some work projects around camp. But at the same time, there isn’t that close connection that is found with the program week camps, or small retreat groups that need a higher presence from the staff. But each group has their own way connecting. One group in particular that I have on my mind, they only required about two and a half hours of leading either boating or swimming and the rest of their stay here was not facilitated by Magruder staff. At the beginning of the week I was a little sad that we didn’t spend much time getting to know the kids or staff, but as the week went forward I found myself having made those connections anyway. Even though I only spent short amounts of time with that group it was still nice to sit and talk to them about what they wanted to get out of that week and what their favorite aspects of camp were. Even though it was just small talk, there was still a connection made.

Another part of the camp experience that is fascinating to compare groups with is the camp store. During the program week camps that Magruder offers, most kids know what to expect in the camp store; some candy, drinks, shirts, sweatshirts, and a couple odds and ends that we have at the time. The retreat groups that come in are sometimes shocked at what we have in the store. One group in particular who hadn’t been to Magruder before was so excited that they could buy a shirt to show off to their friends where they got to spend time during the summer. Even though they had never heard of Camp Magruder before coming, they were still excited to wear something that had the logo on it.

It's also interesting to see how different groups have different levels of awareness in how they clean up. Ever since I was a kid coming here as a camper I always remember being told to leave camp better for the next group than how you found it at the beginning of the week. There have been some groups that take a lot of effort to make sure that the cabins are cleaned, the trash is thrown away, and all of their stuff is picked up. Those groups seem to make it almost like they were never at camp. They want to leave it better for the next group. Then there are groups who don't seem to see all the ways what they leave affects camp.  It is a little disheartening to realize that all of us at some point leave a mess in the beautiful places we love.  

The thing that kept popping up in my mind was however I react I need to remember the mission of Christian hospitality.  If one of the main goals in our mission statement is to spread Christian hospitality, why not lead by example instead of waiting for another moment to have that be true. What good is it going to do to complain about groups that might not even realize what they are doing? I think, for me, the best way to handle is it to take the extra time to clean it up for the next group that comes in so they see the Camp Magruder that I know and love. And to teach groups in the future the importance of why trash should be picked up from the ground, or that cans and bottles go in the recycling bin instead of the trash can. Being frustrated at a particular group isn’t going to solve anything. Learning to forgive and move forward will keep camp a happy place and one that is open for all.

Anna is serving her first summer on Resource Staff after being a Resident Counselor, Counselor, and Camper. She lives in Burley, Idaho, but her heart will always be in Nehalem, Oregon. You can find her this summer lifeguarding on the docks or shooting arrows at archery. If you tip your kayak on Smith Lake, she'll be on her way to pull you back to shore. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The News from Magruder 7/10-16 (featuring guest blogger Rikki Earle)

This week, we asked Resource Staff member, Rikki Earle to be a guest blogger and talk about the week from her perspective.  

This was our second program week of the summer, we had first grade all the way up through high school. The weather proved its unpredictability this week with a mix of drizzly rain, the kind that is just enough to be annoying and cover your glasses with rain drops. We also had some days full of sunshine. Sunday came with much excitement for us staff. The check in process has changed a lot since I was a camper. It is smoother now, but there was always something exciting about waiting and watching your friends drive into the grass, unloading their gear and running to meet each other in the center of the field.

I worked a lot with the Mini Camp; first and second graders sure are a crack up. It made me realize how much I missed being the dean. That age is a ton of fun to work with; they are so curious and energetic about everything. I think secretly I was happy to hand the reins over to someone else. A lot of work goes into planning and leading a camp, I don’t know that I would have had the time or energy to plan a week worthy enough for the campers.

Along with program camps we had a few retreat groups join us. Camp Grandma was here the first half of the week. Different from the Grand Camps we host, this was just one family. The grandparents are from Bay City and they take their 5 grandkids for a week of the summer. This year they decided to come to Magruder. I was on the water trampoline with them for a while, Andrea and 4 of the kids came out and were all jumping together. Well, it was more like the boys were jumping and the girls were trying to stay on their feet. It was so cool to see the pure love they all have for each other, some of the kids are from Washington and some are from California. Even though they don’t live close to each other, the relationships they have with one another are strong. I’m sure that has something to do with Andrea and the trips she takes them all on. It’s nice to see this place I have called home for so long help connect family members that live in different places.

After Camp Grandma left, a new group came in called Camp More. This is their very first year as a camp group. Camp More is a group designed to empower teens who stutter to find their voice and use it more, as well as building more self-confidence. I spent a lot of time on the trampoline so it should come as no surprise that I was out there for a while with Camp More. I was talking to this one young lady about her goals and plans for the future. The passion and dedication I could see in her during our conversation was empowering. She is going into her senior year of high school and has more figured out for herself than I did when I was a senior. I told her that I was studying communications and special education and she made a comment about becoming an SLP (speech and language pathologist). It’s never good to put ideas in my head like that; I’m apt to change my degree plan for the 6th time.

Making connections was a hope I had for myself at the start of this week. Connecting with people and building relationships is really something that drives me and gives me a feeling of purpose. We had a lot of people come through our gates this week. I think that’s really the beauty of being involved in a camp and retreat center, knowing that this is a meeting place for so many different people and groups. We are able to bring people back together as well as help facilitate the growth of new relationships. 
Rikki is a second year summer staffer, who has also been a camper, counselor, and camp dean. If you visit Magruder this summer you may find her lifeguarding, leading challenge course, waxing poetic about Harry Potter, or singing the Stegosaurus Song.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The News from Magruder 7/3-9

This week we saw our share of sunshine, clouds, and the occasional rain. We served a variety of retreat groups, so our week was segmented by one group leaving and another showing up. In work like this there is a revolving door of opportunities. Much like the weather, we wake up one day with one backdrop, and the next day something slightly different colors our work. We learn to find beauty and passion for all of it on our best weeks, understanding the blessing it is just to get to walk in a world like this.

When the week began, we were in the midst of our 4th of July family camp, our largest family camp of the year. There are many familiar faces at this camp. Parents and grandparents who have come for years, children who have grown up coming to this camp, young children who are just stepping into the tradition. It is such a pleasure to join a community like this, especially during moments like the variety show. We were treated to kids singing songs, corny jokes, dance routines, and this beautiful air of support, encouragement, and laughter. There are moments you step back from experiences like this and catch yourself admiring the gifts on display or the courage to get up in front of people and share something, and you feel such a momentary safety and comfort with a group of people you may have just met days ago.

On the evening of the 4th, everyone was invited out to the beach to see the chaotic insanity that is the Oregon Coast on Independence Day. People hunker down in the sand late into the night, building big bonfires and setting off fireworks to compliment the huge how that the city of Rockaway Beach puts on. It was chilly and cloudy that night, though the clouds could have been the haze of smoke from all the beach fires and fireworks. Some of us stood together in the cold night air, turning back and forth looking north for a spell, then south, seeing explosions in the sky in both directions. Later we settled down with some of our family campers at a fire making s'mores, blasts still going off all around. What a nostalgic feeling to exit the beach on the way to your bed with colorful blasts to your left and right.

At the end of a week like this with several groups, 4th of July fireworks seem in some ways like a few minutes ago and in other ways forever ago. Our family campers left out, our staff cleaned up the vacated cabins, and children's retreat from Faith Center, a church out of Vancouver and Kelso. We learned a bit about their ministry and their passion for serving communities hit hard by addiction and incarceration. During those three days we also had the Appointive Cabinet for the Oregon-Idaho conference of our own Methodist Church spend a night with us. Visitors abound here at our camp, and we hope that we have made all of them feel welcome.

One day this week, while I was talking to Jay in his office, Dora and Ryan rushed in, looking for an object to help them remove something from the kitchen. Evidently, a bat had snuck in through the door of the loading dock, and of course, no one wants a bat in the kitchen. Dora stayed back and expressed her discomfort with bats, teaching Jay and I the Spanish word for bat (murciƩlago). Ryan managed to get the bat out with encouragement from a plastic lid. No need to worry if you're joining us soon to eat. Ryan disposed of the lid.

There are so many guests who have come through our doors. When I look back even over the year 2016 and think about the diversity of people, disciplines, and missions, I am proud of all the ways this place seeks to help people along on the journeys they set out on. I think about how this is a sanctuary, an oasis, an escape for so many. I think about what is shared under the roofs, between these walls, under this sky. Think of all that has been passed, all that has been seen in more than 70 years of this camp.

At the end of the 4th of July family camp, I shared in communion of grape juice and hotdog buns with some of our guests. As we finished, little Louisa, who I remember from last year's group, ran up to me and wrapped around my waist the way only a 3 1/2 foot child can. I asked myself what I had done to receive such affection from someone I'd spent so little time with. How can connections with this depth arise in such a short amount of time spent together. I thought about how I hope Louisa, her parents, her siblings continue this tradition, continue to visit us each year. I hope to see her grow and how this thing we build in this special place with shape us both.

On Friday, we welcomed a Conference for Women in Graduate Sciences and a Korean Catholic youth group. On Saturday, counselors and deans for our second program camp joined us, and campers will come in the next day. Camp Magruder is continually becoming a place people seek to stop and rest. We pray that what they find here will be something they'll want to hold and take with them and that at least some of these guests will return, so we can see all the ways they've grown (though we could do without the bat coming back to the kitchen).

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The News from Magruder 6/26 - 7/2

Summer on the coast is beginning to really show itself, with cool overcast mornings, giving way to beautiful warm, sunny days. These are the days that make you happy to be working at a camp, because you know even if most of your day is taken up by indoor work there will be a moment you get outside. When you do get out, you'll find yourself surrounded by the green of the pines, cedars and spruces, the blue of the sky, the soothing sounds of the ocean waves just yards from where you stand.

This week we hosted Camp to Belong, one of our most endearing partnerships. This organization works within the foster family community to make the relationships within the system more meaningful, to be sure foster kids don't fall through the cracks of life. This particular camp takes siblings who have been separated within the foster care system and lets them spend a week of camp together. It is powerful for the campers, which makes it powerful for anyone involved in helping create the experience.

For most of my 25 years in camp work, I've been near some sort of camp experience that incorporated campers from foster care systems. I've gotten to know kids from the system. I've watched some grow up and seen how even just one week of camp a year can influence that growth. I've heard the difficult stories. I've sat with them and tried to be a witness to the sadness, anger, shame, the disillusion that so often comes from at some point having such an undependable family structure. These experiences resonate forever, even if a stable family is found. There are questions that will always be difficult to answer.

I, like many of the counselors I mentored, went in with this feeling of inadequacy. When we heard the stories, when we got to know the campers, we felt unworthy of the work. I had somehow managed to avoid abuse and neglect. I had not been pushed to the edge to survive. I had gotten pretty much everything I needed, and I hadn't done too much different to deserve it. It didn't seem fair, and it wasn't. What could I possibly offer these campers who had seen things I could not understand on their level?

We all spent time struggling with this. It is the struggle we inevitably come from as we realize there are much more terrible things happening in the world than our own pressing concerns. Many of us broke down under that helpless feeling, understanding more deeply the real pain in the world and our own guilt at our self indulgence, thinking we had some kind of serious problems. That helplessness may have been insightful, but it did not help the campers in front of us in need of love. I realized that my life which had been so full of love and abundant blessings wasn't given to me because I had earned it, but it was a gift. A gift to be used as a tool. I was to take that love that I had grown to know so well, and I was to share it with those who did not. No, I didn't understand their pain, but they were teaching me about it. And I did understand love, and I could teach them about this thing that had been so elusive to them so far.

On one of the first nights, Camp to Belong had a carnival in the central field with lots of blow-up games, bags of popcorn, saltwater taffy, and lots of campers dancing, playing, and laughing. Even if you don't participate in the blow-up obstacle course, the bouncy house, even if you don't throw and hit the target at the dunking booth, you can't help but smile and have your spirits lifted by watching campers enjoying these events. Then when you know these are siblings who may only be together for this one week enjoying the bouncy house, your heart gets bumped up a few more notches.

This week's group had some serious attention issues. Charlie, the leader of Camp to Belong Retreats had a hard time getting the group quiet, even to make simple, quick announcements. It's certainly frustrating, but you realize that we are hoping to help people move down the road, and we often have to meet them somewhere we didn't anticipate. As long as we can get them a little farther down the road, we've done good work with our time. Maybe someday we'll see them travel much, much farther down that road.

At the end of the week, I managed to sneak away from camp late in the evening to have a Skype session with my sister who lives in Tennessee. We try to talk about once every week or two, but this past month I have been occupied by so much that's happening here at camp. When we were
teenagers, in similar age ranges to last week's campers, we would spend just about every week night in the room of the other. We would stay up making jokes about our homework, updating the other on personal life, and playing the music we were currently into. This felt much like one of those nights. There were certainly things we talked about our teenage selves would have found somewhat lame, but we did touch on the latest Saturday Night Live.

I think about how much that bond continues to shape me in ways I don't understand. I hope we don't hoard all the goodness we've experienced to ourselves, I hope we share it for others to experience. I know we are lucky to have received all the love we have. I realize more and more that it isn't promised. There are many out there in great need of that love overflowing from our cups. I see how Christ went out and poured that cup freely. I hope we don't forget our cup could feed many.

This week we host our 4th of July Family Camp, then Faith Center, the UM Conference Appointive Cabinet, and the University of Oregon Women's and Graduate Sciences Program. As you pray, let's hope the love we share spreads far beyond us to where it is needed most.