Monday, March 27, 2017

The News from Magruder, March 19-25

The rain is slowly letting off at Camp Magruder, and we are beginning to have more days where we aren't totally inundated with water. This is not to say that every day is dry and sunny. Even now, most days rain still manages to fall at some point. But, we are seeing glimpses of the blue sky. Our skin has even seen sunshine here and there. It has been a very rainy winter on the coast, and a string of sunny days sounds like almost too much to ask for. We are seeing hints that it may return, though.

This week was a split week for Outdoor School. On these particular weeks, one school group comes in at the beginning of the week, leaves on Wednesday, and another group comes in on its heels to finish out the week. It adds an extra day to ODS's typical weekly schedule, and presents some logistical challenges on that Wednesday where one group is coming in and one is leaving.

Imagine the feat it is for these staffers to finish up with a group and take care of all that you do the last day of camp. Cleaning the cabins, packing, eating the last lunch, wrapping up your sessions, saying goodbye to everyone, putting a ribbon on those meaningful relationships that were established in those three days. Now imagine as you are doing all that, also managing to do all the things you do as you welcome in a new group. Helping them get off the bus and find their way in a new place, giving introductions and introducing the staff, eating the first meal (right after the other group ate their last), teaching them songs, learning their names. Think of the emotional transitions for staff members that has to happen in quick succession. They do this and do it well, but it is an impressive undertaking.

I think about how this is the life of a healthy camp. You welcome the stranger, and the stranger leaves a little bit more a friend. This is powerful and life-changing work on both sides. It has an impact on us. A good retreat experience can stay with us for weeks, months, years. But when you work at a camp, it's important to be able to put feelings and experiences on their proper shelves, so you can go back to them later. It won't be long before you will need to be totally present for the next group. In a world that puts so much value on multi-tasking, camp sometimes requires a good organized shelf where we quickly switch from one item to the other.

Towards the end of the week, we were also joined by a Church of God Men's Retreat. We hosted participants from all over the country, who gathered on the Oregon Coast for a time of fellowship and worship together. This group along with our outdoor school group presented more logistical challenges, mainly in the realm of dining. This is also a big part of camp life. On the surface, what is often seen is the relationships, the care for the buildings and grounds, the way we try to make it nice to the eyes and comfortable for the guest. The underground work is the scheduling, the coordinating among staff people, the meetings just to figure out how to hold people in the same place at once.

This week we hosted meals in the upstairs of Carrier Dining for outdoor school, and the Men's group in downstairs Chappell Hall. That seems straightforward enough, but that means the meal must be split in the kitchen and carried to two different locations. Kitchen staff must haul food, plates, cups, utensils downstairs. We need two KP crews. When the meal downstairs is finished, all the dishes must be brought back upstairs to be washed, then back down for the next meal. We have to coordinate this to try to avoid a traffic jam between the groups at the dishwasher. The kitchen staff must be on the same page. All this must be figured out before the groups get there to eat.

We spent a lot of time over the past few weeks, and even months, planning for these events, knowing that having two large groups like this together could be uncomfortable if we hadn't prepared for it properly. At the end of the week, most of the work done, it was a nice release to stand at the serving line with Big Mike watching our guests enjoy their meal. Our work at this point was just to watch the food and make sure the serving dishes were refilled it needed. The tough stuff was finished. We talked about how smooth things had gone, we talked about some of the characters in this group and what a hoot they were. Every now and then, I'd grab an egg roll or piece of curry pork and snack as we saw the fruits of our labors and just took a moment to enjoy life.

At the end of the day, it is a beautiful thing to see these processes go smoothly. We don't always get them perfect, but it feels like such and accomplishment for multiple groups to get their meals, to talk about how tasty the food was, to have a few moments just to greet people and ask how their day has been. It's also a pleasure to work with people committed to these types of challenges. When you get home at night, you are tired, but it is a good kind of tired, a warm kind of tired. You leave with a good feeling deep down, because you did something that could leave an impact on other people, and it has also left an impact on you.

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