Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ligonier Camp, Summer of 2009

I have two posts unfinished, I confess, and I might never finish them. But I recently realized that I have not written much at all about my second summer as a Camp Counselor at Ligonier Camp & Conference Center, in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. For those of you who missed it, I wrote a few posts about my first summer there, and reading them will tell you what Camp is like, generally, which might help you understand the rest of this. On the other hand, I can not guarantee that they are the most interesting posts. Also, if I don't write soon, I may forget.

Near the end of May, I graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science from UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County). A few days later, I went off to camp with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and studied the first few chapters of Genesis for a week. It was excellent. A little before this, I had to fill out some paperwork for a job I was offered and accepted, and when I got back from camp with IV, this still had to be finished. Also, I needed time to recuperate from a fairly awful semester (My GPA went down a bit more than I wanted) and camp. So I called up Camp and told them that I needed a few days, I would be getting to training two days late. I didn't like doing that, but I didn't feel too awful about; I'd been through counselor training before.

The first person I met this year who I hadn't known before, was Allan Edwards. He was this year's Men's Director, he's been around Camp for years (but not much last year), and the first thing he did was say "Tim Milligan's here!" (which is how Lauren and Dana introduced me) and gave me a big hug. Later he actually said "So, I'm Allan" and we did the actual meeting each other thing. My Dad said "From the hug, I thought you knew him.." I soon went off to put my stuff in one of the cabins where guys were staying during training, and almost immediately ran into a pack of Counselors, our paths colliding as they went from some training session up to belay training, where I was to follow them shortly. This wasn't really something I was looking forward to, as I failed my belay test last year, and so started a trend. A few days later, I passed the belay test, something I had to do only twice all summer; I can't say I enjoyed any of it.

Camp was not the same this year as last year. There was a new dining hall, a new zipline, new activities sometimes, etc. We had bulldozers and dumptrucks all summer, and the dining hall didn't get approved by the State until a few days before Campers arrived. There was a Target Sports co-counselor, and yet I got to teach Archery a lot; it was later revealed that Steve was good at archery and knew little aobut guns before taking the job, yet there he was at the riflery range every day. Some of the people I got along best with last year weren't there this year. Many people from last year were there this year. Many people there this year weren't there last year, many of them having never been to Ligonier before at all. I confess, I had my misgivings about some of the folks on staff; I thought "Really? That person is going to work here at a counselor? I am not too sure." but, what a surprise, I was wrong to think that way. It was a quality group of people serving God by loving kids at Camp this summer. Or maybe it was a group of terrible people depending on God. That, I think, is a lot more true.

My first year at Camp, I often felt a bit on the outside, never quite connecting as well as I wanted to with others, never quite understanding how things worked because I was new, etc. I still didn't connect as well as I wanted to, because I am not really the best at being open and honest and loving, etc, but this year did feel different. I distinctly remember being told by folks that they were really glad I came back this year, and that took me by surprise; I didn't really know why and I don't think I do now. One day, I was told that although this was supposedly only my second summer at Ligonier, they felt "like that isn't true" and I had been there for a long time. As much as this was certainly confusing and strange to me, it was also plenty encouraging.

Camp Staff is divided into Units, which sort of roughly corresponds to the ages of the kids you work with, maybe. I was once again in Unit 2, right where I wanted to be, which meant ages 10-13 again, which was fine by me, though that didn't quite work out; more on that later. Unit 2 Guys this year had, if I do say so myself, a rather distinct personality. We'd meet together twice a week to hang out and do some Bible study with Allan, and one day we got to talking about the Pixar film "The Incredibles." From that point on, "The Incredibles" was discussed at every Discount (Discipleship/Accountability) in exactly the same fashion every time:
  • "You mean like that family of Superheroes?"
  • "Yeah! The Incredibles! They're just like the Brady Bunch, but with superpowers!"
  • "Yeah! Except the incredible part is that they manage to stay together as a nuclear family in a modern world of high divorce rates!"
  • "And then Syndrome is all like 'I'm Syndrome!' and Frozone's like 'Where is my supa-suit!?' and then"
  • "And the baby, he's like 'I'm a baby, I can't decide what power I have' so he has ALL of them"
  • "And then that kid is like "Wooooow, that was INCREDIBLE!"
Every time. At the end of the summer, Allan fulfilled our dreams and we watched "The Incredibles" and oh it was good. There is nothing like anticipation to make a good thing even better.

I admit that a lot of the rest of this will end up being about the 2nd half of Camp. I loved the first half, really I did, but it was mostly uneventful. Except that one week I had a kid with Autism in my cabin, and an extra counselor was assigned to take care of Charles. It was difficult to know what to do sometimes, like when we turned around and found Charles naked, but it was also really Good. And Peter was back in my cabin for the 2nd year in a row, and this time he cried a lot less when not-winning, and he and I had a really interesting and I hope Good talk about all the trouble he's been having in school this year, and how Jesus wants him to react to that, and how that's not easy at all. And Riley and I combined our tribes into a super-tribe and had a really good campout.

When I was in first grade, I went on a canoe trip with my father and a bunch of others guys from church (well, Christian Service Brigade, technically), and our canoe flipped in rapids and I held on and ended up trapped underneath it briefly. This discouraged me from much participating in boating activities for years, and my aversion continues to this day. But this summer, I had to go White-Water Rafting, because I actually had campers old enough. I did not wear my glasses, because otherwise you lose them, and I was in a boat with Riley, another counselor and also half-blind, a kid who was half-blind, a raft captain kid who couldn't give correct directions on time, a kid who started out by not paddling hard enough, and a kid who alternated by not paddling hard enough and paddling two hard just to mess with us. I fell in once and it was terrifying. Then, we ate lunch on land, we started to get our act together as a raft, and I had fun. But two weeks later when I had the chance to go again, I let Steve, my co-counselor for the week, go instead.

Last year, I was glad that my oldest camper was 13; I always found myself a bit more awkward with older kids, not as good as being their counselor. Session 4 of Camp, I had a cabin full of 13 and 14 year olds, the kind that want life to be a wrestling match. This why I went rafting, this is why I did the Vomit Comet, my kids were old enough, and this is also why I went paintballing this year. Paintballing hurts like crazy, and is not fun until you figure out how to aim well, which didn't happen until the 2nd time I went. I still didn't like it a whole, whole lot. The week after I had those kids for two weeks, there was a program at Camp called The Next Step, where 16-18 year olds came and had lectures and discussions about Christianity and philosophy in the morning, and did all manner of things in the afternoon. Tyler got sick the day they were to arrive, and suddenly I found myself with even older campers, ones who were going paintballing, rafting, and even on the zipline. I didn't go rafting again, but I did the others. Also, I found myself, along with Abby, in the position of helping run a program that had never happened before, dealing with outside staff (that is to say, those not as familiar with Ligonier), and that was incredibly difficult.

The week after I had the really old kids, I got sick for a few days, and then I was a rover for a few days. Rovers take over counselors' tribes on their days off, just for a day, and then the rover is off to a different tribe. I thought this would be awful and hard, but it turned out to be a whole lot of fun. Then, after that, I had what are called "Lil Ligs", kids ages 6-8 who come to Camp for two nights. I was pretty afraid of this idea, and other than one kid throwing up at 2am on the 2nd night, and two brothers being homesick the first night, it went really well. The other counselor in the cabin that week, a guy named Chris, was great with the homesick kids, while I took other kids to the toilet. The next night, I was great at cleaning up barf while Chris took the kid to the nurse. I discovered that little kids are lots of fun to throw around in the pool, but I still don't think I'm all that good with little kids.

During Session 5, a plague swept through Camp. It was some sort of flu or something, and it generally caused you to barf and feel awful for 12 to 36 hours. I caught it just as my really old kids were leaving, and so instead of having a day off, I had a night of puking for 5 hours. Thankfully, though, I wasn't alone. That night, we had two cabins full of sick kids and counselors, with two CITs (Counselors In Training, high schoolers who love camp and do the dirty work for not enough money) who had already had the illness working most of the night exchanging trashbags of vomit for empty ones. I gave up on sleeping in a dark room full of puke-smell and sick campers and sat out on deck all night with Brian and Jeff, even sleeping a little bit, but also puking, as I said, for 5 hours. I don't know if I've ever puked so much before, and I hope I never do again; I wasn't even in the worst group of patients. In the morning, Ben and Josh read Bible stories to the kids, and then later I read the first quarter of "The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe" to everyone. After the few remaining sick kids were moved out, we scrubbed those cabins with bleach. A few days later, before Lil Ligs, we did it again. And one Lil Lig still got sick!

It might seem like I did a lot of things that I didn't like this summer. It's true! But it was Good for me. God showed me that serving him isn't doing what I like. He also showed me that the the things I think will be terrible, sometimes, are not all that bad. I am thankful. By the end of it, I was exhausted, and it was good. I learned that remembering that Christ is your master is pretty important. He also showed his mercy in that I never once had to do any silly dances all summer long. Other highlights of the summer include walking through fields for part of the journey to Town, something I did several times, singing "The Mariner's Revenge (abridged/cleanedup)" with Ben at Dessert Theater, and seeing all the cool animals that Ben, our Nature Co-Counselor found. I corresponded regularly with my friend Matthew all summer and I also sent letters to several other people, including one hand-written copy of the Book of James. I suspect that my letter writing took the place of journaling in many instances, but I'm okay with that. It was a good summer. I think I learned that hard work can be very fulfilling. I think I've written enough about Camp for now.

Here are some photos

And one more, taken during a walk back from Town, this time with friends

1 comment:

Young Woo Kim said...

the camp was aaaaaaaaaaamazing and i want to thank the person who took the pictures. me and my little brother was in one of them and it reminded me of a lot of good memories back there.... i LOVED the camp...
from, Young Woo Kim.
p.s. my counseler Ellie McCoy, do you remember me? you know, the Asian girl? with the string in her hair?