Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Term 7, Camp Barnabas, 2013-Giggly Girls Week *grin*

I have been a volunteer out at Barnabas for Term 7, for 7 years now. I sit here and think, “Where did those seven years go?” *grin*

In those seven years I have been in some unique cabins. I have found that there are not two weeks that are the same out there. Each time I go there are new people to meet and serve. There are different combinations of people that come together to serve amazing individuals with various challenges. This past week was INCREDIBLE. I’m going to attempt to share what happened from my perspective, and I hope you enjoy reading the adventures we shared. As always though, this is almost more for me than for you. I find that if I don’t write (or type) these things out, I tend to forget each and every amazing moment and that’s something I don’t want to do because it was such an amazing week.

We always begin with Christian In Action (C.I.A.) arrival time. I was SO EXCITED to find out I could have the same bunk that I had during Term 1. They have remodeled the area below the dining hall and it is NICE. My bed was kind of like a tunnel because it was a corner bunk. I LOVED IT. *grin*

They have also started an adult volunteer ministry, so we were taken care of very well throughout the week with our own trainings and time to meet other adults. I loved it. *grin*

After unloading my stuff, I went to the tennis courts for the beginning of our training. I have been through this training A LOT, so I knew exactly what to expect. I always enjoy the “THE CAMPERS ARE COMING” celebration, in which we all go nuts when they say that phrase. It’s a lot of fun. *grin*

I met my staff for the week, and I didn’t know either of them. I was slightly bummed that I didn’t get to serve in Brittany’s cabin, but I knew that He had me where He wanted me, so that was fine. I met Julia and Elisabeth, my staffers for the week, and I was excited. I sort of met our CIA’s but several were running late, so I don’t remember whom I met when. *grin*

Rotations were the same, so there is little to share. For those who don’t know about this experience, we do training in short rotations that include the pool, health center, dining hall, chants and cheers, and volunteer check in with Sarah. It was a lot of walking, so I was a little worn out by the end of it, but it was good. ☺

After dinner, we had our first adult training meeting, which was cool. It was a meet-and-greet thing, which was fun. Then we were dismissed to go to our cabins for camper card time.

I was bummed that I missed the beginning of it, but I knew He had everything in control. Every week He matches up the right people to the right camper. (Each camper has her own CIA for the week.)

I knew I was in Ronni’s cabin before I arrived, so I was EXCITED for the week. I didn’t know who else was in it when I first arrived, but found out shortly after I arrived back at the cabin who we had. ☺

As it turned out, we had 3 campers I already knew, Lilly, Ronni, and Sara. I was SO EXCITED and yelled out, “We have Lilly _____!” (last name not shared because I don’t want to share more than her family would like..) I was SO EXCITED to have her again, as I didn’t see her last year AT ALL. ☺

Sara I hadn’t had in my cabin the past two years, but had had her the three years before that. Sara is a very complex little lady, and I knew she wasn’t not going to be an easy camper. At the same time, I knew He put her there, so I was up for the challenge. *grin*

I knew one of our CIA’s, Fran, from last year. She told me when I entered the room that she was Ronni’s CIA for the week. I was initially a little nervous about that, but I knew I would be there in case I needed to help. I am SO GLAD to report that she did a good job with her. Fran really matured in the past year, and I was so confident in Fran and our staff this year that I didn’t have that feeling of “I should be there for Ronni” all the time. (Tanner was great last year, and I felt that last year too.) So, if someone else needed me, I didn’t have that initial, “I need to be with Ronni” thought. I just jumped in with whomever, and honestly Ronni has matured A LOT in the past year so she had fewer moments of stress than previous years. I’m SO PROUD of both Ronni and Fran!

Sara hadn’t changed a bit though, which saddened me. Sara is now 15 (or that’s what she said, not sure if that’s accurate) but acts behaviorally like a toddler. I have plenty of Sara stories that I’ll share later because it's clear He has her in my life to teach me so much.

The rest of the campers I didn’t know, but I was excited to have some new campers in my life. *grin* I didn’t know the CIA’s or staff at all, so I was excited for the upcoming week.

Following camper cards, we had praise and worship at IP. Ty also spoke, and I LOVE to hear him speak. He gave an amazing talk about his high school experience with a special needs gal in his high school that I will never forget. It was awesome.

Following IP, we went to the WellHouse porch for family time. There, we each shared our testimonies, and it was SWEET. I also liked it because it was clear our staff were going to respect our need for sleep throughout the week. You know me and sleep, we’re dating. *grin*

Training continued the next day, and I really didn’t talk to our cabin that day. It’s hard to explain, but it that’s normal. I NEVER felt left out, it’s just unique because I’m the Cabin Mom, not a teen, so that was fine. Next thing I knew, it was camper arrival time.

I assisted with new camper arrival, and enjoyed that experience. I was with a new family with two boys, and one had autism. I enjoy that experience, as these people are about to give their children to us for 5.5 days. ☺

I went to the cabin after that, and Ronni, Lilly, and Sara had already arrived. We also had a new camper, Mary, who wasn’t originally on our roster, so there wasn’t a CIA for her. I tried to spend most of my time with her, but I also talked to various parents to help the CIA’s for the week. I liked Mary from the start, by the way. I KNEW it was going to be fun having her in our cabin. ☺ (We were in G2, by the way, which I LOVED because I had never been in it, and it wasn’t as long of a walk as G9 was during Term 1.) *grin*

Mary had a new CIA, who had previously been assigned to be a barnstormer. I knew that if they moved her up to be a CIA, she could do it. Her name is Mandy. And, honestly, she did an AMAZING job. Mandy did a great job with Mary and brought SO MUCH joy to our cabin. God created an amazing young lady when he crafted her. I pray she's in my cabin again, so I can get to know her even better. *grin*

I walked around introducing myself, and it was such a blessing to talk to Ronni and Lilly’s parents again, as we are all friends at this point. I feel a part of each of those families, and consider it an honor that they share their daughters with us for a week.

I went over to Sara’s Mom, who I had met before (obviously, she had been in my cabin previously) and asked about daily routines such as bedtime and wake up. Her Mom said that Sara just does it all on her own at home. My thought bubble above my head (that’s invisible) had words that I didn’t share out loud because I used my filter. I knew that this week was a ministry to that Mom (and Aunt who came too!) as well as to Sara, so I let it go. I'm praying for that Mom, because she has her hands full! *grin*

I love walking around and meeting everyone on Camper Arrival Day. I was excited about EACH camper, CIA, and Staffer that we had for the week. I knew it was going to be fun, and I was right. *grin*

Sara proved to require a lot of assistance from the very beginning. She was glad to have me again, so that was positive, however, she was still defiant from the beginning.

We went to the tennis courts before dinner, and I don’t remember much of that. (That’s why I want to blog about this week, before I forget the other things.) We also did dinner, and I don’t remember much of that.

I do remember that I spent that evening at the playground with Anna and Sara, their CIA’s, and Julia. Both Anna and Sara LOVE the swings, so it was neat. We missed the party, but that was okay. It proved to be a good time for all of us.

After that was wrap-up, which is a favorite part of my day at camp. Wrap-Up is a short praise and worship time with a short sermon. We always end it with GO TO BED! *grin*

We got back to the cabin, and Sara was in a really defiant mode. She was hitting, spitting, and kicking. Somehow I cornered her in the back closet and I spent some time with her, explaining that she would not hurt my friends like that. People came back from time to time, to check on me, but I wasn’t ever alone with her. I really set an expectation with her about calming down before I would let her join the group. It took a lot of time, but she was calm before she went in the bathroom to clean up. I felt exhausted after that, as I had been spit on, kicked, and hit a lot in that short amount of time. However, it proved to calm things down temporarily. I also learned in that short amount of time that being silent made Sara frustrated because her manipulation didn’t work on me. She would hit me, and then go sit and cry. She is a master at doing things just for attention. I didn’t talk much during that time, as I learned it calmed her down when I said nothing.

Sara still refused to go to bed, and I don’t know how well anyone slept that night, but I could go back to my room and leave it to the staffers to assist her throughout the night. *grin*

I remember Julia asking me at one point if she should call for leadership. My response was that if she felt that was needed, that’s fine, but this is the Sara Experience. Sara was doing what Sara had always done. Leadership had never held her to a higher standard, and I was of the impression that they are in charge, I’m just there for those rough moments. (And there were several in the next couple days.)

That night as I was doing my nightly “Mom” rounds, hugging girls good-night and talking about the next day, I went to hug Lilly and she bit me on the cheek twice. It was so random I was thinking, “Um, I just wanted a hug”. She did apologize, and I found out later that when Lilly hugs, she gets really aggressive. I didn’t remember that at all about her. In fact, I remembered the opposite, that she was sweet and gentle. The rest of the week she did much better with me, so it was okay. I had a lot of laughter with Lilly. She is precious, and I have probably 20 pictures of the two of us. *grin*

That night at family time, I gave out bracelets that had Phil 3:14 on it, which says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That proved to be a GREAT gift, as I prayed that in my head A LOT in those moments with Sara.

The next day we had canoes, fishing, archery, and rifles. I have never had all of those activities in one day, and I sweated a lot. We had archery and rifles in the morning, which I didn’t attend because I was that the playground at that time. (We were at the playground A LOT. ☺ ) I enjoyed the playground even though I was sweating a lot. The campers were always happy on the swings, so that was fun. I remember that Sara did fairly well, as the playground is a preferred activity for her. ☺

When it was time to leave, we told Sara it was time to go to dinner. She said, “NO!” I followed with, “Sara, stay here, don’t go to the dining hall.” She then walked to the dining hall. I felt bad manipulating her like that, but it was something that avoided the LONG drama that accompanied getting her somewhere.

Dinner, party, and Wrap-Up that night are kind of a blur. I remember helping a lot with Sara. I also remember dancing with Ronni at Wrap up, briefly. Looking back, I spent time with Sara and didn’t really get to know everyone until the night of Day 3. Sara just requires a lot. *grin*

Anyway, the more I am trying to write this out, I am not sure on what happened when in the beginning of the week. I hate to admit this, but I remember spending more time with Sara than anyone just because she required so much. I also remember being REALLY proud of Ronni because she didn’t always get sucked into Sara’s drama. Don’t get me wrong, she had her moments, but if I was by her, she did REALLY well.

I remember one moment when Sara was trying to get her to grab a stuffed animal that she had, and Ronni wouldn’t do it. So then Sara tried to apologize to her for previously being mean to her. Ronni didn’t want to be around Sara, and I simply told Sara that sometimes the other person isn’t ready when SARA apologizes. She didn’t like that, and would continue to try to apologize, and I stated the same thing. Ronni just looked at her. Sara spit in her face a couple times and Ronni kept making good choices, and I made a BIG deal about that. It drove Sara nuts, but it didn’t matter to me. Ronni would have reacted in previous years, and in that moment, she did GREAT.

Sara never did make friends in our cabin because of her behavior. No one was mean to her, but it was clear that the other campers were afraid of her. I felt bad for ALL of them, especially Sara.

Something else I remember about Sara is when we were at the Silver Lining for an activity time. See, Sara LOVES the bingo wheel. It’s a little toy. Well, Sara and Ronni were sitting by me and Sara was playing with it. I believe Ronni was “fixing” my hair while Sara played with it. *grin* Well, Sara walked off and Ronni picked up the toy. Sara was off playing with someone else, but then she saw that Ronni had it and and came back over and wanted me to make Ronni give it back. I said no, she had already had her turn. I did point out that there was another one not far from us that she could have. Of course, Sara didn’t want that one because Ronni had the one she wanted. I told her no several times, and then she went from CIA to CIA trying to get someone to make Ronni give it back. Fran came over to try to get Ronni to give it up, and I explained what was going on, and then Fran backed off. Sara was not happy, but somehow moved on because it was clear to Sara I wasn’t going to give in. Sara learned I wasn’t going to let her do that.

Not too long later, I saw a person from leadership come in and take Julia out. Before that though, I noticed she pointed to Sara for Ty to know which one she was. What we found out that night was that they had decided to send Sara home. When I first found out, I was bummed because I felt we were getting somewhere with her. (Now that I think about it, I left out that they had to literally carry her out of the pool area twice. And I literally helped keep campers stay safe the night before while Leadership members carried her to the back deck of the cabin when Sara was emotionally out of control.) At the same time, when we first arrived back at the cabin without Sara, it was FUN. We laughed a lot, and life was not nearly as dramatic since Sara was gone. Once I saw the change, I was glad that Leadership had made that decision. We became a family and I really got to know people after that because the focus was no longer with Sara. *grin*

There were some cool things that happened after Sara left:

We had story time with Hopie, which was hilarious as the cabin pretended they were scared as Hopie told her story. Hopie would say the last word of a sentence, such as "dinosaur", and the CIA's would say it back to her and scream. It was amazingly cool!

Something else that happened that I want to remember is that my staffer, Julia, did The Screamer. The Screamer is at the end of the high ropes course and is a GIANT swing. She did a GREAT job, and I was so proud of her because she’s afraid of heights but she did it anyway. I was proud of her as if she was my own daughter. It was VERY cool. ☺

The cabin did the ropes course, which was expecially cool because Lilly & Ronni hadn’t done it before. I’m not sure about Sara because she wasn’t in my cabin the past two years. All of our girls that wanted to do it, did an EXCELLENT job. I was proud of all of them, especially Ronni because she was crying at one point, but still went up a little more. It was very cool.

I got to know Anna, one of our campers, because she kept calling me over to her bunk. We would make faces at each other, make noises, and even make farting sounds. I LOVED to make her laugh. I also enjoyed one night at Wrap-Up when I discovered she would do the E.T. finger point with me. It became our thing. I ADORED her. She didn’t always want to go places throughout camp, but gosh she was a lot of fun. *grin*

I also enjoyed Grace, Taylor, and Annika. I felt horrible on Day #5 when Taylor informed me that it’s Annika with a hard A sound, not a soft A sound. I felt HORRIBLE but apparently Annika was fine with it. With those three campers, music was their thing. I would use my iPhone and play Camp Barnabas Appropriate (CBA) songs. Of course, the majority of my music is Christian but I do have a few secular ones that they loved. It was a lot of fun!

Mary and I talked very little, but we did quite a few thumbs ups that made her smile. She is precious and I was SO GLAD that they put her in our cabin. She was a person of few words around me, but when she spoke a made a point of listening to her.

Lilly was cool too. She was stubborn at times, but I adore her. We did the water slides quite a few times at the pool. I loved it! She is so much fun! She put her head on my shoulder from time to time and I would just grin. She remains one of my favorites of all time!

Ronni…Ronni…Ronni. She continues to be my favorite camper of all time. I know, I know, I should love them all equally. And I do. HOWEVER, we all have a favorite movie or song, right? Ronni remains my all-time favorite camper. She made me laugh more than anyone, and even in the moments when I had to distract her to get her to do what she needed to do, I loved every second with her. We had MANY picture shoots, and she loved that. We did the slide once together, which I also loved. She would sometimes tell me to sit by her at meals, which was also fun. She has also matured a lot and I kept saying to our cabin, “She has come so far, you have no idea.” She even sang my name in a song while she showered and I was sitting outside the shower with other campers waiting to have a free shower. It was priceless.

The night of Cross Carry, I had a little drama occur. I went to the restroom, then stopped to take a picture of a camper and a CIA that were in my cabin last year. After that, I was headed back to where my cabin was located, and I was shoved VERY hard from behind. It was a male camper who was walking and moving a lot. It was just a matter of “wrong place, wrong time”. In the midst of that, my cell phone went into the air and landed elsewhere. (I was immediately helped up by various people.) My knees were skinned and bleeding a little, but I was fine. I guess I was a little shaken because when I sat down with my group I shed a few tears. Ronni came over and made me smile saying I was okay, etc. It was SO CUTE. By the way, initially my phone didn’t totally work. I could go into applications, but my “home” button didn’t work. Well, when I got home Sunday, I took off the cover of the phone (It was a plastic cover) and THE HOME BUTTON WORKED. ☺ I was SO EXCITED. I was initially bummed when the home button didn’t work, and was going to go to AT&T to see what I needed to do, BUT NOW IT WORKS!!! *grin*

The last night of camp, Family Time always goes later than usual. While I’m exhausted the next day, I ALWAYS love it! It was a different kind of Family Time, with a new activity that I had never done before. We had each person in the circle encourage the person sitting to their left. It was a touching evening, in which I heard A LOT of really nice things said about the members of the circle. Every single statement was so true that I loved to see what the girls came up with. I remember laughing a lot that night too, which was cool.

Julia complimented me, and stated something I hadn’t thought of until she said it. She said that I had connected with every camper. That made me smile. She also shared that on CIA arrival day, after we had met, several staff members went up to her and said that she had the best cabin Mom for term 7. That also made me smile. *grin*

The morning of parent arrival was fun, as we took TONS of pictures. That seems to be a tradition out there, even though it is an unspoken one. *grin* I looked around at the people He had called me to be with for the week, and I realized how I loved every one of them as if they were my own daughters. Camp does that to a group of people, on night #1 you don’t know anyone, and by the end you kind of hate for it to end. (Although I did enjoy my own bed Sunday Night.) *giggle*

We all exchanged information to stay in touch. Typically, I don’t get to stay in touch with the campers from Term 7 because they are so young, but every CIA was a joy that week. I do hope to follow those ladies throughout their lives, because God has such amazing things for every one of them in the days and years to come.

One last thing, I realized as I drove off, was that I laughed more during that week than I ever have out there. I remember after one of Sara’s intense moments, the CIA’s started walking around the cabin like sea lions and kangaroos. I LOVED that moment because it was the first time we had REALLY laughed because Sara required so much. It was a moment I won’t ever forget. *grin*

I have also pondered Sara a lot since I’ve been back. I really did care about her, and still do. It was sad that Sara left, but it was the best decision ever, because our cabin had been SO MUCH about Sara. With her gone, we had excursion cancelled (due to rain) and enjoyed our own camp out in the cabin. We also did activities with our focus on ALL THE OTHER CAMPERS. *grin*

I do hope Sara returns next year, so that she can have another chance. I’ve seen campers leave like that in the middle of the week, and then they come back the next year and do so much better. I’m praying that over Sara for the next year. *grin*

Finally, a Term 7 post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Ilana. Ilana was one of my staffers last year, and she’s now on Leadership. She helped us continually with Sara, and held her to a standard I had never seen out at camp by someone in a Leadership Position. She showed Jesus’ love to that little girl, and I will never forget what she did for our cabin. She was/is an amazing woman of the Lord.

This very well may be my longest post ever. However, it was also one of the most memorable weeks I’ve had at camp, and I don’t want to forget one moment of it. It wasn’t always easy, but it was what He had in store for us. Every camper, CIA, and Staffer was hand-picked by Him. The adventures we had that week are some of the best I’ve ever had.

Thank You, God.


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