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Camp Problems

Camp problems.

I’m talking bugs coming into the bed… and no hot water all weekend.

Not the usual stuff you might deal with on a weekend away with students. Normal camp problems usually involve wondering “Is this a tan, or just dirt?” and “How do I tactfully tell that one kid eating his 219th ‘Slim Jim’ that he really needs to take a shower?”

Perhaps that’s why water balloon wars and paintball are such popular sports at camp. It’s the day all the leaders get to attack their campers who have been clogging toilets and snoring all week.


We stayed in a great looking lodge that was rustic, yet had a professional kitchen and a beautiful meeting area. It was near several hiking trails, an outdoor chapel and scenery that would take your breath away.The amazing spiritual experience my group just had was almost distracted by the logistical side of our trip… almost. That’s what I want to share a quick word with you about.

Unfortunately, the pool had green lake water in it… the air conditioning didn’t work… the two fans we found in storage barely gave relief to the unbearable heat… all the mattresses looked worn out and old. And yes… there were actual bugs in the bed (not bed bugs, mind you) and no hot water all weekend.

I’m sure you’ve had or will have an awkward experience like this, too. On one hand, you want to encourage everyone to maintain a “non-diva” perspective and endure it because “it’s camp.” On the other hand, some situations require you heading straight down to the office and demanding they come change everything around for you right away.

In our scenario, the office staff wasn’t around as we encountered the issues. Likewise, not every student struggled like others did. One of my sons, for example, got more bug bites at night than his brother did. Some students felt the green water was fine because it came from the lake, and at least this way they could experience that without going into the actual lake.

hikeThe real highlight of the trip was what God did. Some real bonding happened, from students finding their identity in Christ to others who made friends that will change the trajectory of how they spend their summer. We went on an amazing hike together that made the newbies feel like they belonged and the veterans understand what really matters. Our general gatherings and smaller connection groups helped everyone to find their voice.

Put all this together, and here’s the principle with some takeaways:

  • Foresight will never equal hindsight… but you can narrow the gap. Had we known what we would endure, we would have brought our own fans for the heat and plastic bedding wraps to discourage  the bugs from hanging out on the dirty mattresses. Where we dropped the ball was in not visiting the camp in advance (which we did try to do, but couldn’t line up our schedule for). Likewise, we could have talked with others who’d stayed there. My leadership team needs to own that.
    • Question: When have you skipped a detail in advance that could have better shaped your experience?
  • You won’t always be able to get the help you want… but some things that are not your fault are your responsibility to fix. There will be times that the office is simply closed and you have to make things work as you are able to. Other times you must pull everyone together and go elsewhere until you can get in touch with management.
      • Question: At what point do you think you should “go” versus “grin and bear it?” Have you ever left a situation like this?
  • camptweetProbe for problems without spotlighting problems… but don’t be afraid to have fearless conversation as needed. When we realized the students were hot, we went searching for fans because we knew it would be a problem for everyone. When only a few kids were wrestling with bugs, we didn’t make that an all-group topic but rather helped them individually. Some situations create psychosomatic ripples – which is perhaps why I couldn’t sleep my last night in my own bunk and had to go out to the van to let my own mind rest at ease that bugs really weren’t crawling on me after all.
      • Question: What do you think is worth talking about with the whole group versus waiting to see if someone else will bring it up?

The epilogue? I did call the office and they sent an exterminator in to check on the bug problem. Likewise, they’re looking into the hot water issue as a follow-up. They ultimately issued us a partial refund, too, with their sincerest apologies.

What do you think?

I’ve given you  a few thoughts and questions to respond to. How would you have handled this? Have any similar stories you’re willing to share?

Thank you for loving students!

– Tony

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Camp Problems

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