John* was a fourth grader who was full of energy and enjoyed anything that included action. “I noticed that John was particularly interested in the outdoors and nature,” his pastor reported.  “John attended Sunday School and church every Sunday faithfully, but by himself.  He was the only person in his family to attend.  The church leadership soon believed that his family may have needed a break each week, and our church was that break.“

“John had some names among his peers: mean, enemy and bully.  The Sunday School teachers called him trying.   As a pastor who also works in the local school, I knew his school teachers considered him difficult, a disrupter and an aggressor.  In short, John did not know how to make friends and had none.  He did not know how to wait, respect others, or cooperate.  So when the church planned to send children to camp at Wanake, John’s name was high on the list.  We felt that the camp experience would give John the concentrated time to try new behaviors and practice skills.  I contacted his parents, who granted permission for the weeklong experience. The United Methodist Women supplied the funding.  I dropped John off at Camp Wanake one Sunday afternoon and prayed that the experience would make a difference.”

John loved camp!  His group lived in the cabins in the woods and set up a “home-in-the-woods” nearby with a campfire circle.  “Through working together to build our “home-in-the-woods and light a fire and cook over it,” John’s counselor shared, “John began to work together with others collecting firewood, sawing, and making food.  He also began to respect others by waiting his turn to light the fire, build a table, lead the hike, cook his food, and take the swim test.  While working with a partner to prepare their food, John practiced respect and patience.  It was through canoeing that John learned how to cooperate with his canoeing partner to navigate Lake Arnold and play canoe games with the whole group.  While the first day was rough (They mostly went in circles!), the second day John and his canoe partner won the game!  By the end of the week John had made a handful of friends, including his canoeing partner.  The two were inseparable.”

“When John returned home to church and school,” his pastor reported, “he had some new names!  His teachers reported that he was helpful, a good listener and cooperative.  Peers began to call John a friend.  We were amazed at new ways John was living and growing.  We even trained him to be an acolyte!  Something we had decided not to do before camp – too dangerous!  John still faithfully comes to Sunday School and church each week and now he helps his teacher in the classroom, serves as an acolyte, and even joined the children’s choir.  He learned at camp that he loves to sing!”

Your generosity provides opportunities for campers like John to explore new ways of behaving and cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit in their lives with counselors who receive three weeks of training focused on mentoring campers.  Thank you for your generosity.

*Name changed to protect the privacy of the camper.

John and Friend to print