Archive for June, 2012

Bonfire

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Flickering light from the bonfire ripples across the water and dances on the opposite canyon wall.  It lights up the still solemn faces of campers and counselors.  The bonfire is an Echo Valley once-a-session tradition and we’ve gathered here in the late evening for a time of worship and prayer.

It’s Crosstalk night at Echo Valley.  This night is the spiritual turning point of each session.  The Round Up, usually a lively and wild event, is tonight more subdued and focused.  Worship and prayer take the place of games and skits, and the message by one of the Central Staff members is of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

After Round Up, each person goes off by him or herself to be alone with the Lord.  Then we all come together by the waterfront to watch the bonfire, look at the stars, or just close our eyes in reverence.  Hunter Beauchamp leads in some songs of worship with his guitar.

“This moment is about God,” he reminds us.  “It’s not about the fire or whatever might be going on in your life.  Right now, this is about worshiping him.”

I know that Crosstalk can be an emotional high in the midst of a very energized two weeks.  It’s tempting to simply let that emotion carry me, enjoy this time as a “spiritual experience,” and then walk away internally unchanged.  This is a struggle I’m sure everyone here shares.

Still, I have hope that the Holy Spirit is at work among our hearts tonight.  He is faithful beyond our understanding of the word and he is in love with every single one of us.  At these thoughts, peace fills my spirit and tears of joy fill my eyes.  Above, the stars shine brightly as we sing and God smiles down on his children.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

As we solemnly file into the Old Pavilion at Echo Valley, I steal glances at the campers and staff around me. It’s the summer of 1997, and I’m surrounded by “No Fear” t-shirts and Doc Marten sandals. The smell of Polo Sport cologne permeates the air. Everyone is serious, quiet, pensive. We take our seats as the sun shoots its last rays over the canyon walls, and Greg Rich steps forward to read Psalm 107.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,

for his wondrous works to the children of man!

For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Greg sets a single candle down in the middle of the group, and by its light we recount story after story of what God has done in our young hearts over the past 2 weeks. There are tears and we are sad to be leaving, but overall there is a profound sense of thankfulness for what we have been a part of. Most of us have never seen what it looks like to consider God on a daily basis, to learn about Jesus and his love for us in the context of close-knit community.

“God showed me that he loves me, and that’s what makes me beautiful.”

“God made me remember how much I love my sister. He changed us both.”

“I see now that God is using the pain in my life to bring me closer to him.”

“God gave me friends who love me for who I am.”

 

This tradition, called Say-so for the Psalm 107 reference, is as alive today as it was when I was a camper in the ’90′s. On the last night of each session, we gather together and give thanks. He has truly done great things.

Dig Into The Library This Summer

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

A research study conducted by Johns Hopkins University indicates that many children “lose academic ground” over the summer months when they are out of school. To combat this, many libraries promote summer reading incentive programs. But keeping our kids’ minds sharp is only one reason to encourage them to read over the summer—books can be friends that usher them into new lands, encourage their curiosity, and teach them about the world they live in.

This summer, keep your kids engaged with reading by following these tips:

1. Check your child’s school website and local library to find summer reading incentive programs.

2. Be a frequent visitor to your library and get to know it better. Has your child expressed an interest in a topic such as dog breeds, an exotic cuisine, or space travel? Find nonfiction books that will feed her curiosity. If he’s a dreamer who loves stories, find great novels to pass the time on car trips or quiet afternoons.

3. Make a list of the books you loved as a child and share them with your children. Do Harriet the Spy, Black Beauty, Little Women, or The Lord of the Rings trilogy bring back fond memories? Introduce these books and more to your kids. Click here for age-appropriate recommendations.

A chat with Joseph Triola, Program Crew Boss

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Name: Joseph Triola
Age: 20
Education: Currently a student at The University of Texas at Austin
Major: Youth and Community Studies

After spending 12 summers (eight as a camper and four on staff) at LLYC, Joseph Triola knows his way around camp. This summer, he’s leading a group of high school seniors in “the behind-the-scenes jobs that make camp run.” Among many other jobs, the crew will take out trash, build sets for skits, and set up parties.

Joseph is up to the task—and not only because he is known by his friends to be a hard, dedicated worker and manager, but because leadership has been much on his mind lately. “This year, even more than in the past, I’ve been learning a lot about leading others in a Christian manner rather than a worldly one,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about leading by example and how to delegate things in a way that glorifies the Lord.”

Working with youth in organizations such as Young Life—or, he jokes, someday being the next Kevin Mayne and directing LLYC—is Joseph’s goal in life. “I love youth ministry because I believe it is an awesome opportunity God gives us to teach kids about eternal life and pull them from the darkness early on in life so they may experience God’s plan for them to the fullest,” Joseph said.

“I truly would not be who I am or where I am today if it wasn’t for LLYC!”

Summer Money Matters

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

This summer, instead of simply dispensing cash to your children for ice cream and movie tickets, give them opportunities to earn spending money. Chores such as pairing socks and watering plants can be done even by very young children. Discuss budgeting, tithing, and sensible spending as you teach them to honor the Lord with their wealth. (Psalm 3:9)

This Summer: Keep Your Kids Safe Online

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

The days of children wiling away their summer vacations wandering the neighborhood or playing kick the can and whiffle ball with their friends are gone. Today, many kids spend their long, lazy days alone in front of a screen. Although popular sites such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook can be excellent ways for kids to learn new things and to connect with friends, they also are rife with images and information that can be far more harmful than a bruised knee or bee sting.

To keep our kids safe, parents must keep aware of what sites our kids are visiting and information they are sharing. Keep them safe by setting time limits for screen use and by employing a few other tactics such as managing their passwords and privacy settings, frequently engaging with them about the sites they visit, and discussing what is—and what isn’t—an appropriate thing to share online.

Better yet, go “screen free” a few days a week this summer and instead of letting them click away on their laptops, smartphones, or iPods, take them on long, meandering walks in the woods in search of crickets or dragonflies. For an in-depth look at kids and Internet safety, click here. Wishing you a safe and happy summer break!

A chat with Dayton Whites, Singing Hills Guys’ Staff Director

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Name: Dayton Whites
Age: 21
Education: Currently a college junior at Texas A&M University
Major:Biomedical Sciences
Dayton Whites jokes that LLYC is “kind of in my blood” not only because his parents first met at Laity Lodge Youth Camp, but also because both spent many seasons at LLYC.

“They were both campers, and Dad did everything from crew boss to head cook,” he said. “And my mom was a counselor and worked as a wrangler for the horses.”

Following in their footsteps, Dayton has been on staff at LLYC for the past four summers and was a camper for three years before that.

“Going to camp gives kids a chance to begin making their faith their own. The Gospel is presented so clearly and campers can come, be themselves, and be shown God’s love through their counselors,” Dayton said.

This summer Dayton serves as Guys’ Staff Director at Singing Hills. The college junior hopes someday to have children of his own at LLYC, but shorter-term goals include attending medical school and becoming a vascular surgeon.

“I was blessed to grow up in a Christian household, but it wasn’t until I started to go to camp that everything began to fall into place and it all made sense,” Dayton said. “I would bet that no other camp meets people where they are as well as LLYC does.”

A chat with Kelsie McKenzie, Singing Hills senior counselor

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Name: Kelsie McKenzie
Age: 20
Education: Currently a college sophomore at Texas A&M University
Major: Elementary education

“I just love the atmosphere at LLYC,” Kelsie, a Kerrville native, said. “Everyone knows that the goal is to love on kids.”

Kelsie returns in 2012 for her fourth summer at LLYC. At age 16, she joined work crew and spent the summer setting up meals and cleaning up after hundreds of campers. She notes that work crew is a proving ground for prospective counselors. Work crew members “prove their work ethic, prove that they love kids, prove that they’re thankful, and prove that they do good work, even when no one is watching them.”

Kelsie’s knowledge of childhood development and her passion for kids shines through when she talks about LLYC and her eventual career as an elementary school teacher. Kelsie said that when she’s assigned a cabin full of kids, she feels a loyalty and protectiveness toward the girls “as though they were my own daughters.”

“I have been so blessed by the sweetness of the kids,” she said. “They are wise, hungry for learning more about the Gospel, and so curious. It’s a blessing to see what childlike faith looks like.”

We’re grateful to have a staff comprised of “cream-of-the-crop” counselors, including Kelsie.

A Long and Dusty Road

Monday, June 11th, 2012

It’s another sun-burning blood-boiling morning at Singing Hills.  But this morning is different from all others as kids gather up for the most anticipated hike of the session.  Today is Blue Hole day.

Counselors round up their campers and count heads before heading off to the sweetest swimming hole on the Foundation property.  They descend to the river in a long procession, draping towels on their shoulders or heads to ward off the sun and carrying water bottles of all shapes and sizes.

Once across, they turn up the road that winds below canyon walls and through open fields, following the river upstream.  This is a prime opportunity for counselors to talk one-on-one with their campers about how their week is going, what they like or don’t like so far, and a host of other topics.  One counselor encourages his camper’s interest in books.

“When you get to college,” he says sagely, “you’ll get much more money for being smart than athletic.”

Up the road, another counselor is teaching three girls how to whistle using a blade of grass.  He puts the grass up to his lips and blows hard, only to have it fall apart in his hands.  The girls laugh.

Yes, this hike may be hot and difficult, but it’s well worth it to both campers and their counselors.  The promise of Blue Hole’s cool water and the fun to be had along the way make for one of the best camp experiences to be found anywhere.

Preparation

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Early morning on Opening Day of the First Session is always a subdued kind of quiet.  Even with campers coming, some of them already en route, the bustle and hectic preparation has yet to set in.  Only one sound drifts through Echo Valley.  It’s the sound of the staff worship team practicing their songs. The three of them are huddled together in the booth of Frog Sullivan Pavilion with music sheets and a pair of Bibles scattered around them.  Soon counselors along with central and support staff will gather for their most important preparation of the day.  They will gather to worship, pray, and together hand over the day and the upcoming session to God.

There are a hundred more things to be fixed, tidied up, and made presentable before this afternoon.  But this simple devotion by the worship team to go beyond their job description represents what we all do here.  The staff of LLYC knows that no matter how competent or how prepared we are; we will always need to put God first.  He is the reason we are here.  He is the reason this camp even exists nestled in a remote canyon stretch of the Frio River.  So in the quiet before the flurry of a two-week whirlwind ride we listen for and worship the one who makes it all happen.