Calling All Campers: Summer’s Here
By Neil Earle
The summer of 1971 – 50 years ago – I was a camp counselor along with about 300 campers, teachers and staff in a wonderfully-successful church-run operation outside tiny Orr, MN known as SEP: Summer Educational Program.
It was truly one of the best summers of my life. My co-counselor and I had 24 young teens to look after aged 12-17 and did they ever keep us hopping. Somehow, we survived two three-week sessions of swimming, canoeing, archery, water-skiing, sailing, riflery, volleyball, basketball and cook-outs, singalongs and wilderness trips.
What a time. It almost wears me out to think about it even now!
Still there was nothing like those weeks spent in the great outdoors of Minnesota. Just the fresh air did us all a world of good. There teens got to interact with each other and with adults who were primed ahead of time to care for them, encourage them and show love to them. Our brilliant and shrewd Camp Director, Dr. Kermit Nelson, a World War Two veteran with a keen eye for motivating youth, would tell us counselors: make sure no child goes to bed each night without a word of encouragement.
Throughout the myriad of activities a guiding philosophy ran through each summer that could be expressed in such themes as:
Summer Camps all over North American and the world succeed when they use fun and action-packed activities to drive home real lessons in teamwork, sticking up for each other and forgiving them quickly when they foul up – and who hasn’t at times?
Summer of 1971 was the hardest summer I’ve ever worked in some ways but…how sweet it is to be exhausted in a good cause. The lessons I learned there stood me in good stead all through 44 years of ministry and especially helped when I served again back as SEP Chaplain most summers from 1989-1995. In some ways, these were the best times of my life!
Our teens always appreciate adult attention thought they don’t care to show it sometimes. Don’t be fooled by that tough exterior. Everyone likes to be liked and be shown they are liked in concrete ways such as–sending them to a camp, even if it’s the Day Camp down the block.
If you can’t get them to an away-camp, challenge kids to take part in many of the summer activities that are available in this blessed corner of the world such as 5K walks and other outings. Spending plenty of time in the Great Outdoors is something God approves of. Someone told me recently, God loves his creation and so should we.
Ask your local church or youth group or YMCA if there’s still openings this summer for your child – even Day Camp can work wonders.
Get active. Get out of your rut. Start walking. Make new friends. You and your teens will always be glad you did!