Saturday, May 26, 2018

The News from Magruder, May 20-26

The summer is upon us at Camp Magruder. We, of course, know this from the longer days and the higher frequency of sunny skies. We are also realizing its approach by the higher frequency of guests. This week was one of our biggest of the year, with an Outdoor School split week along with Sunnyside Environmental School. On the Wednesday when the first half of our split week left and the second half arrived, we served around 450 meals from our kitchen for lunch.

Thankfully for our small kitchen staff, we had a couple of visitors volunteering with us. Their names are Sam and Sarah Richardson, and they are on an amazing adventure to learn more about Christian Camping in the United States. For several years they have been traveling in an RV around the country, staying at religious camps and volunteering. During their time, they interview staff, take pictures and video, and write about what is unique about each site. Their project is called From Camp to Camp, and you can learn a lot more about their journey on their website. Serendipitously, they ended up visiting Camp Magruder on one of our busiest weeks of the year.

Walking around camp during this week was such a treat for the senses and the spirit. The weather was beautiful and warm. Everywhere you went, you were bound to pass a group of middle schoolers on to their next lesson, project, or activity. You'd hear kids singing their silly songs, watch kids journaling or drawing,  or momentarily eavesdrop on the conversation in progress. Encountering the camp so full of life does something for your own spirit, offering a sense of peace despite the busyness and hectic coordination necessary to make sure everyone has a bed and is fed.

At the beginning of the week, I felt a familiar vibe from the Sunnyside middle school students. The "I'm cool and not too interested in talking to you," vibe that middle schoolers (and lots of other ages for that matter) enter into a new situation with. By the end of the week, though, I knew about 2/3 of their names and they knew me. At some point, we had taken plates to the kitchen together, scrubbed dishes, learned how to paddle a kayak, or just shared goofy exchanges while standing in line. When you look out over a crowd of middle schoolers at the beginning of the week, it just looks like a sea of indistinguishable faces. By the end of the week, you recognize them. You want to make a point to say something to each of them as they pass you in the dinner line.

We also received lots of support from far away through several more generous gifts through our Amazon Wish List. So many people have been shipping us items, and each postal box is quite literally a little gift from someone who loves us. We get a notification when something new is on the way, and then a day or so later something shows up in the mail box. This has been such a heart-warming undertaking, because when you put yourself out there and ask for something like that, you have no idea if someone will step up and take care of the request. We have been so surprised by how many have joined this effort in such a short amount of time.

And as this post is being written, we are just about $1,000 worth of donations away from receiving our $35,000 grant from the Gray Family Foundation for maintenance projects. With these funds, we will update our failing boiler system to much more energy efficient heat pumps and on-demand water heating. The donations and grants are coming at the perfect time.

On the last day of our visit from Sunnyside, Sam and Sarah were also loading packing up their RV and moving on to the next site. In the hecticness of breakfast--refilling trays of food as they depleted, answering questions about ingredients for special diets, giving and receiving praise for a wonderful week--the Richardsons came downstairs to give me a hug goodbye. I wished them well with safe travels and lots of great adventures. I look forward to following their journey online and hearing more about what they discover along the way.

I look forward to the lessons they will learn about what our camps have to say about our faith. I hope to hear the insight they are gathering in the future. I hope their voices are heard by all of us. I look forward to continue to cross paths with them at National Gatherings and social media posts. Even more than that, I am so happy they are part of this growing family of people who have been part of the wonderful things that happen at this camp. They are a few of the many hands offering to shape this place, to build it, to impact its ability to do great things. Nick talked to me after that crazy Wednesday, saying if Sam and Sarah hadn't been there he didn't know how they would have made it.
It's true, they were lifesavers. I am seeing more and more of these in this work. More and more of the ways that there is help for the hard work, willing to offer what is available towards the efforts to transform lives.

There are so many ways to be part of sculpting those transformational moments here at Magruder. These days I'm seeing it at every turn. We hope you feel a part of that too.

This weekend we host our Memorial Day Family Camp and Camp to Belong. Next week is our last week of outdoor school. Take some quiet moments with us to celebrate the spring and prepare for an equally wonderful summer.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The News from Magruder: April 29-May 5

It's been a beautiful spring so far on the Oregon Coast.  We see blue skies several times a week and the temperatures (mostly) hold at decently warm temperatures.  April was a busy month.  We hosted two training weekends for counselors and summer camp leadership for our Program Camps.  One was for volunteer deans, chaplains, and counselors; the other was a training retreat for our paid Resident Counselors that travel between Magruder, Suttle Lake, and Latgawa.  It was nice to see so many familiar faces and to be reminded of how many people it takes to make camp happen.  Nice to remember that and see our community that rises up, believes in it, and partners with us to put it all on.  Throughout the rest of the month, Outdoor School carried on in full swing.  We welcomed a Men's Group from Imago Dei the last weekend of the month, which also started some of our first chances to lead activities this spring.

St. Pius Middle Schoolers perfecting their rowboat form.
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This  week along with Outdoor School, we hosted St. Pius Catholic School, a group of about 50 middle schoolers.  Troy and I would watch them all file in for their meals each day, engulfed in conversation and chattering excitedly.  We spotted a few that reminded us of middle school versions of past staff members and laughed.  They were a fun group.  Troy and I lead boating for them on Wednesday and Thursday.  Rik and Kevin, our maintenance men, have been working for almost a year now restoring our rowboats.  As I pushed each team of rowboaters out, I was able to really appreciate their improvements.  They're really beautiful with their new finishes and restorations.  The new row boats glide across the water elegantly now and remind me of those quintessential camp moments (which include teaching, reteaching, and making dramatic flailing movements trying to help middle schoolers understand how to row in rowboats).  At Troy's session, he had one group of kids catch a snake.  Boating with them was a great way to shake off some of the rust before the summer.


Todd Bartlett, our executive director, hooked into the Giant Swing.
On Thursday the Camping and Retreat Ministries Board arrived for meetings that would take place through Saturday morning.  I joined them at meals.  They were excited to be here.  On Saturday morning, I got up to join them for breakfast, and I sat down next to Todd, our executive director.  Not far into the meal, he leaned over, grinning, and asked me the likelihood of the Board being able to squeeze in the opportunity to go off our Giant Swing.  The Giant Swing is our only high ropes challenge course element, not to be confused with the Big Swing that once stood over our evacuation hill before a storm tore down the tree it hung from.  The Giant Swing is aptly named; it's giant and will make your heart stop for just a second when you first start to swing.  When you're at the very top, you can over the tree tops, over the archery range, past the south Challenge Course to the ocean.

Knowing what's it's like to spend a weekend sitting through the meetings, discussing important topics and the future, I wanted to be able to make sure the Board had the opportunity to have their try at the Giant Swing.  So just before lunch, one-by-one every member of the Board that wanted to swing got their chance.  Every participant made it to the very top of the element, which is not usual, and it was really fun to see everyone whoop and holler.  It's hard not to vocalize surprise or the jump of adrenaline with a drop that fast.

I climbed up the ladder with each member to hook them in and give them one last encouragement just before we pulled them to the top.  When you look into someone else's eyes at the top of that ladder, you peer for a second into eyes mingled with fears and excitements that are more obvious, easier to read, than the eyes we often peer into on the ground.  I usually run the Giant Swing for youth and the occasional counselor or leader.  I'm accustomed to that heightened fear and excitement looking back at me through younger eyes.  It was really neat to see it from the eyes of the leaders and directors on our Board.  That experience helps me spot those emotions when they're more subtle as we stand with two feet firmly on the ground.  It also helps me understand a little better each person's brand of fear and excitement and all those emotions that come out of that and exist in-between those.  It was a joy to spend my Saturday morning with them.

I reminded over and over again all of the preparations it takes to make camp happen.  It takes our volunteers coming to get trained every year -- volunteers to live in the cabins with campers, to dean each camp, to lead us in our spiritual practices.  It takes our Resident Counselors, who travel and train to make each week of camp the best week for someone.  It takes Rik and Kevin, making sure our boats float and our buildings stay strong.  It takes our Camping and Retreat Ministries Board, guiding us, securing and deciding our often-unseen foundational needs.  It takes you, reading this blog and sharing in our community even when you're not here.  It takes me, ready to greet you when you come through the gates to this special place.

If you're looking for another way to support our community and help us prepare for the summer.  Camp Magruder has made an Amazon Wish List for the Summer 2018.  It's a range of things, some big, some small, that we need for the summer.  New markers for hours spent in the Boathouse and for decorated door signs that will greet campers as they arrive to camp, new mic stands for that legendary Variety Show comedy skit, more arrows for our archery range to replace old and missing ones (even though, we know none of us *ever* miss the target!  Nope, not us!).  We'd love your help in preparing for the summer.  Using this link (http://a.co/i16IIHVyou can visit our list.  We've listed each item's priority level and how many we need for this season.  There are items ranging between $6 and $200.  Any gift is so valuable to us.  We hope you'll share this with your family or your Sunday School class or the friends you've attended camp with each year.

Then, we hope to see you soon.  Camp is just around the corner; register at www.gocamping.org/campsessions.