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Prayer Makes a Difference

Posted by on August 16, 2019

Prayer Makes a Difference

Madeleine Schlenz, RN and Camp mom

Camp nursing is different from serving in a hospital: it’s a little bit of mothering, a lot of community health and a ton of smiles and reassurance. Whenever possible, I take time to pray with the kids who come to receive care, and this week I was reminded of the difference that makes.

Homesickness strikes early at camp. Within the first few days we see some kids struggle with being away from family. One that I met this summer will stick with me forever.

A young camper attending Camp Brookwoods from overseas came to visit the Loon on his first night. He was clearly fighting back the tears and just wanted to go home. We spent time with him, encouraged him and prayed with him. Then, he reluctantly went back to his cabin.

The next night he stopped by, less weepy but still wanting to spend time with us. When I asked him if I could pray for him, his demeanor changed and he quickly told me he would love that.

Three nights in, he melted my heart.

While other campers were getting ready for bed, he walked into the Loon (our medical facility) smiling, and just stood there. We asked him about his day. He smiled as he told us what he had done and about all the fun he had. Then we asked if he needed a good night hug. He shook his head, no.  We asked if he wanted some water or if he needed anything medical. Again, he shook his head, no. Puzzled, we asked what we could do for him.

He dropped his head, kicked his feet a bit, then looked up and shyly asked, “Could you pray for me? It really makes a difference.”

I about lost it. I ran to him, hugged him, and wanted to keep hugging him. The other medical staff joined me as we thanked God for this child and prayed for him, lifting him up to a Heavenly Father who is well aware of everything the boy felt and the struggle he was having.

Oh, to have the faith of a child; to simply come and ask for help through prayer! This boy didn’t have a concern with how he looked or what others would think to keep him away. He just came. He wasn’t caught up in his own pride or self-sufficiency. He was vulnerable. He took one small step toward us and we all rushed to meet his request.

Our staff that night consisted of two RNs and an MD, we had plenty of skill, we were confident in our ability to diagnose and treat physical issues, but God wanted us to remember the importance and the power of prayer, because, “It really makes a difference.”

The staff at the Loon is usually busy caring for the physical needs of campers. But this summer, God used a young boy from another country, to show us how much He cares for us, to lift our heads and hearts upward to a God who wants to be brought into everything we do, and to remind us of the value of childlike faith.

 

Madeline and her husband Jeff live in Annadale, VA and they had three campers at Brookwoods and Deer Run this summer, Benjamin, Christopher and Karisa. Before coming to Brookwoods and Deer Run she served on the medical team at Camp Sandy Cove in WV. Her favorite thing to do at camp is fellowshipping with the larger body of Christ and being reminded of God’s involvement in different parts of the world, as well as enjoying the super amazing slushies in the Camp Store. Visit her blog at TurnAside.org (it’s a work in progress :-).

Incoming Day 2019

Posted by on June 28, 2019

Incoming Day 2019

by Tim Nielsen, Director of Ministry Services

Yesterday was my first Incoming Day as a staff member at Camp Brookwoods and Deer Run. It was a busy day, full of excited (and sometimes nervous) campers and their parents. Staff were fully engaged in cleaning, greeting, conducting swim tests, preparing meals and so much more! Incoming Day is a BIG DEAL!

A Brookwoods camper moving into his cabins

I have spent the last 30 years directing another camp, and I have experienced over 200 Incoming Days. Each camp manages this experience differently. Here are some highlights from my first Brookwoods Incoming Day (as a camper) since 1979.

Worship and Church – Most of the parents missed this part, but I think it is fantastic. Even though the task list was long, the staff schedule included a time of worship and a time in God’s Word in the morning. This is evidence of camp’s commitment to Christ-centered spiritual transformation!

Alumni Luncheon – What a brilliant idea! This luncheon allowed alumni, campers and parents, to reconnect and reflect on their experiences at camp. It also allowed the leadership to share the future hopes and dreams of the ministry!

Deer Run campers on Incoming Day

New Parent Orientation – Dropping your child off at camp for the first time can be a little scary. This gathering allowed new camp parents to personally connect with the Executive Director, Bob Strodel. The question and answer time was educational for the parents and the Executive Director as well!

Excellent Parking Management – How do you fit 181 vehicles in 80 parking spaces? You need attentive staff managing this process! I thought that this was managed so well!

Campers headed to MRO in Maine – We also loaded and shipped out three vans full of campers headed north to Moose River Outpost. It is such a rich blessing to be serving campers on that amazing property.

Great snacks and multiple check-in locations! – Checking in 281 campers takes time. I loved that this was conducted at three different locations in camp. Each of these locations had beautiful trays of cookies and fruit, as well as refreshing drinks! Waiting in line is always better with delicious snacks!

There is always someone ready to play Ga-Ga

A great dinner followed by a HIGH ENERGY Opening Rally! – The first meal of the summer was hot and delicious. We had Thanksgiving Dinner with hand-dipped ice cream for dessert! The Food Service staff knows how to deliver quality! After dinner the kids learned some camp songs, the camp staff were introduced, and the spiritual direction of the session was set! It was an awesome way to welcome the kids and start off the session!

There were a million other details that made the day great! Most importantly, thanks to the Lord for the perfect weather, that really enhanced the experience!

In 2019, Tim joined Christian Camps and Conferences, Inc., but he is not new to Christian Camping. For the last 30 years he directed camps in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. As a child, Tim attended camp every summer at Camp Sandy Cove and for a few summers in the 1970s, he attended Brookwoods. Tim attended Houghton College and completed a Masters Degree in Christian Education at Columbia International University in South Carolina. Tim’s wife, Adina, is also passionate about camp. They have two young daughters, Tilba and Dagny, who are happily carrying on the Staff Kid tradition. tim@christiancamps.net

Kid-Sick or Kid-Free-Jubilee?

Posted by on June 14, 2019

Kid-Sick or Kid-Free-Jubilee?

Tips from a First-Time Sleepaway Camp Parent…

who also happens to be a child and family psychologist

Andrea Gurney, PhD, Deer Run Alumna, Camp Mom

 

Okay, parents of campers—let’s be honest, for some of us, the mere thought of dropping our kids off on the shores of Winnipesaukee causes our stomach to drop and our eyes to water. We are going to miss our kids so much! For others, we cannot wait to have some down time and our “to-do” list is growing by the day. Perhaps for many of us, we find ourselves somewhere in between—excited for some kid-free time but worried that we will be the ones crying on Incoming Day as we wave goodbye.

Wherever you fall, let me start by saying this: it’s okay! It is completely expected and “normal” to experience a myriad of emotions upon separation from our children (whether it’s the first time or the tenth time you’ve been separated!); it’s known as “kidsickness.” Here are five tips and reminders to help you (and therefore your soon-to-be camper!) relish the camp experience:

One: Remember the Benefits. There are numerous reasons we send our kids to camp: a positive Christian experience and strengthening of faith, establishing new friendships, learning new skills, experiencing the outdoors. Think through why your family chose to send your child to camp. Remembering the specific reasons will remind you of the gift you are giving your child by sending them to Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost!

Going a little deeper – be assured that:

  • Getting kids outside of their comfort zone leads to growth.
  • Sending children to camp gives them the oh-so-important message you can do this; it empowers them and helps them develop tenacity and grit.
  • When kids are away from home, they learn decision-making and problem-solving skills, which in turn increases their competence and self-confidence.
  • Living, playing, and working together encourages teamwork and increases collaboration and negotiation skills.
  • Being unplugged and outdoors not only promotes appreciation and stewardship of God’s creation, but also allows children to delay gratification, reflect, slow down, and fully embrace human connections (which is what we are created to do)! Taking a break from technology also improves sleep.

Note: this is true for all of us!!

 

Two: Stay in the Present. As parents, it’s natural to want to protect our children. We want to keep them from harm and make sure nothing goes awry. We might even believe that somehow, if we worry just enough, we can control things and make them go right. However, this often leads us down a path of anxiety as we begin to parent out of fear. So when you find yourself thinking of “what if” scenarios, ground yourself in the present, evaluate whether your concern is based on fact or fear, and think about realistic and reasonable courses of action.

 

Three: Focus on the Positive. Optimistic thinking is a resiliency skill that we develop in face of hardship or stress. Although it won’t change the situation—in other words, it won’t bring your child back home from camp tomorrow—it gives us perspective and changes our attitude.

 

Four: Keep in Touch. Although there will be no care packages this summer at Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost, rest hour will always be a highlight of the day, with the million dollar question being, “Did I get mail?”  There is no better time and place for good, old-fashioned letter writing. (This is a great skill to teach your kids, not just the lost art of writing a letter, but addressing an envelope!) And if you can’t wait for your news to get to Camp in three days, you can subscribe to Bunk Notes and send your camper letters, puzzles and pictures from home.

 

Five: Practice Self-Care. While your kids are away at camp, this is the perfect opportunity to take time for yourself! Be mindful to not fill all your time with additional tasks, but rather enjoy activities that you wouldn’t otherwise do with kids in tow (e.g., a long or strenuous hike or bike ride, spa day, eating out at an adventurous restaurant, sleeping in, a weekend getaway, etc!).

As summer approaches and you and your child make your packing list for camp, tuck these reminders away in your head and heart, breathe deeply, and trust that the Maker of heaven and earth goes before us, behind us, and beside us.

Andrea Gurney, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at Westmont College, and author of Reimagining Your Love Story: Biblical and Psychological Practices for Healthy Relationships. An East Coast camp girl at heart, and Deer Run staff alumna, she currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband, two daughters, and playful goldendoodle. Connect with her at AndreaGurney.com or Instagram @andrea_gurney for practical tips and insights on life!

What’s in Your Suitcase?

Posted by on June 7, 2019

What’s in Your Suitcase?

Five Tips to Help Prepare Your Child for Camp

by Andrea Gurney, PhD, Deer Run Alumna, Camp Mom

 

As the days get longer and our children become antsier it means only one thing—summer is approaching and camp is around the corner! Blobbing, Inspiration Point cookouts, hiking, new friends, silly songs, and cabin devos await our children. Excitement can also be accompanied by nervousness—whether it’s articulated or not. So as you get out the backpacks and duffle bags, I’d like to offer some packing tips to help your child have a successful camp experience.

 

One: Get organized together! In this case, organization equates to three things: Make a checklist. Or really, just refer to the great one that is in Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and MRO’s handbook. Think through, with your camper, what might need to be purchased or borrowed in order to cross off all the essentials. Feeling equipped and prepared will boost your camper’s confidence.

If items need to be purchased, go shopping together. This can be a sweet time of bonding and enable your kiddo to get excited as they visualize a bit of their day-to-day experience and all the fun ahead.

Pack alongside them (not for them!), empowering them to choose specifics, and talking with them about actually using the items they are packing! For example, when you are both going through toiletries, talk about the idea of putting sunscreen on each morning before they leave the cabin, flossing their teeth every night, etc. When children are a part of the decision-making process, they feel empowered and are more likely to have a positive experience!

 

Two: Talk through expectations. I love New York Times bestselling author Susan Cain’s story about her first sleep away camp experience. Raised in a book-reading family of introverts, she packed a suitcase full of books, eagerly anticipating the silent reading time that would take place with her cabinmates. Imagine her surprise when cabin time meant memorizing rambunctious chants rather than reading!

It behooves us to talk with our kids about their expectations of camp. By doing so, we can gently correct any misguided assumptions and help them articulate concerns or set goals. Additionally, when we make time to talk with our children about their expectations, we better equip and prepare them psychologically as well as help to prevent disappointment, frustration and anger as a result of unmet hopes and expectations.

 

Three: Anticipatory Guidancedo it! Anticipatory guidance may not be a term with which you are familiar, but essentially, it’s all about the mental prep work we can do ahead of an actual situation, so that when time comes, we are more mentally and emotionally prepared for the event. For example, sporadically and casually talking to your campers about the potentially challenging “what if” situations:

  • What if you don’t get any of the activities you hoped for?
  • What if your counselor isn’t your favorite person?
  • What if your bunk make repeatedly teases you?
  • What if you get sick?

Having these conversations beforehand will not only better prepare your child for camp, but it will also normalize their feelings when they occur and increase their coping strategies.

Quick tip: when talking through the “what if’s, let your child take the lead in answering the questions. Then, after validating their emotions and ideas, offer additional problem solving strategies and talk through those. Additionally, remind your child of ways they have navigated difficult situations in the past as this not only communicates your belief in them but boosts their own confidence.

 

Four: Prepare for Homesickness. Speaking of anticipatory guidance, homesickness is a great subject to briefly talk through with your child. Many kids feel a twinge of homesickness at some point during their camp experience so when you are talking through the “what if’s” be sure to bring up this one if your child does not. And normalize, normalize, normalize—meaning let them know it is completely normal and expected to have these feelings. Don’t jump to reassurance or “fix it” mode right away; this is actually dismissive of their feelings! In other words, do not respond with “Oh, you’ll be just fine” or “You’re going to love every minute of camp.” Validate their emotions, empathize with them, and then remind them that homesick feelings are temporary and talk through what they can do if they feel homesick (i.e. engage in positive self talk such as “I am safe even though I am someplace different”; find a trusted counselor to talk with; write a letter home; pray).

 

Five: Keep the lines of communication open! We want to create cultures of communication in our homes where our kids know they can talk with us about anything, including their worries and fears. One of the best ways to do this is to listen, listen, and listen some more. Our brains literally settle down when we feel understood! So in the days leading up to camp, make sure to slow down and spend time listening to your camper; simply paraphrasing what you hear them saying is a powerful tool and will lead to deeper conversation and dialogue.

 

Lastly, as a psychologist who has worked with children, adolescents, couples, and families for more than two decades—I can’t help but also include a couple of quick “don’ts” to be mindful of:

  1. Don’t keep talking about how much you are going to miss them.
  1. Avoid a long, tearful goodbye on Incoming Day. Offer smiles and boosts of confidence instead of your tears and strong emotions.
  1. Don’t send letters that speak about how lonely you are, how quiet the house is, or (on the other end) how you are going to Disneyland without them.
  1. Don’t offer an escape plan; in other words, do not promise you’ll come and pick them up if things are hard. That actually undermines your child and sends the message that you don’t believe they are capable of working through challenges and overcoming hard things.

So there you have it…some do’s and don’ts as we pack alongside our children and prepare them for the journey ahead. Stay tuned for next week’s post when I’ll talk about how we can manage our own potential “kidsickness!”

Andrea Gurney, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at Westmont College, and author of Reimagining Your Love Story: Biblical and Psychological Practices for Healthy Relationships. An East Coast camp girl at heart, and Deer Run staff alumna, she currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband, two daughters, and playful goldendoodle. Connect with her at AndreaGurney.com or Instagram @andrea_gurney for practical tips and insights on life!

Pre-Camp Prep

Posted by on May 10, 2019

Pre-Camp Prep

by Lisa Forkner, Camp Mom & Deer Run Alumna

 

With Mother’s Day upon us and Father’s Day around the corner, it’s a good time to recognize the amazing efforts that camp parents make each year in order for their campers to get to camp and have a great experience. We celebrate you, parents! At Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River we know that it takes an enormous amount of time, resources, and planning before you drive through the gates for Incoming Day.

The Forkner Family

Though it’s been a while since my kids were campers, I remember well those last few days before camp: the flurry of necessary errands, the piles of clothing to be labeled, the sometimes-anxious camper hearts looking for assurance that they will do fine at camp. As a seasoned camp parent, I would love to offer a few thoughts about how we navigated these pre-camp waters and did our best to set our children up for a great camp experience.

First, the packing list. Our camp packing list system worked wonders for us. Two-week session? Had a list for that. Four-week? List for that. LDP? Yup, list. We spent careful time thinking ahead about what the kids really needed to have with them at camp, then added a few extra things they would like to have. Those lists evolved year-to-year. When the kids were young, I packed for them; later on, they insisted on packing from the lists themselves, giving them a sense of ownership in the process and making my job a lot easier.

The Wapiti cabin, 1980

So, what to include, besides the obvious clothing and gear? A crazy hat for Brookwoods’ breakfast cookouts. Indestructible foam rubber shoes for those wet days and trips down to the beach. Definitely a toothbrush. An inexpensive digital camera to capture all those new experiences. Photos from home for hanging around their bunks. Maybe create “Mad-Lib” style fill-in-the-blank stationery for your younger campers to make letter-writing easier and more likely. They can then fill in words to describe their days, their cabins, their activities, etc., at camp. (Include self-addressed stamped envelopes for the littlest campers.) One of our most innovative packing ideas: a large roll of non-slip foam shelf liner to lay between the camper’s mattress and sleeping bag… no more sliding off the bunk in the middle of the night! (How great is that?) Fishing gear. Baseball glove. Toothbrush. Maybe a light blanket for rest hour. A nylon hammock for your older camper to string up on an overnight hike? And, finally, a copy of the packing list for them to use as they eventually pack to return back home. And did I say toothbrush?

While it’s great to gather your camper’s necessary supplies, it is even more important to prepare his or her heart for the camp experience. As parents, be assured that sending your child to camp—especially to a Christian camp like Brookwoods, Deer Run, or Moose River Outpost—is one of the very best things you can do for them. Do you know why?

At camp, away from home and from technology and school pressures, kids unplug and grow in creativity, confidence, self-understanding, and independence. And at our camps, through meaningful Christ-centered relationships in the midst of God’s awe-inspiring creation, they experience spiritual transformation as they live and play within our nurturing Christian community. (Again, how great is THAT?) Yes, it was hard each Incoming Day as we said goodbye to our kids and drove back out of the camp’s gates, but we always knew that leaving them in camp’s care was one of the very best things we had ever done for them.

So, as you prepare your child for camp and begin to think about that packing list, consider sending them off with these extra-special provisions:

  • Tell them how camp is an exciting, amazing, beautiful place.
  • Tell them about the new friends and counselors they will come to love while they are there.
  • If they are anxious, remind them that they are strong and brave, and that you know they “can do it”.
  • Repeat how you can’t wait to see how they grow from their time at camp, especially in their understanding of God’s love for them.
  • And then ask them, again, if they remembered to pack that toothbrush!

Thanks, parents, for all you have done and will do so that your campers can come away to camp this summer. Can’t wait to see you on Incoming Day!

Lisa (Bennett) Forkner serves on the Christian Camps and Conferences, Inc. Board of Directors and, with her husband Kent, have three young adult children, all of whom attended Brookwoods and Deer Run as campers, LDP’s, and staff members. Lisa herself was a camper, CIT (LDP), and counselor, first attending Deer Run as a Whitetail in 1978. Favorite camp memories are Miss Deer Run contests, cabin nights on the waterfront, and the Chibougamau canoe trip. Her passions include spiritual formation, Christian higher education, drawing and painting, cooking, spending time with the family dog Jethro, and anything related to being at camp! fork.family@gmail.com