The camp had bugs in the beds.
Was it the worst camp ever?
I’m not sure. Perhaps your story has mine beat.
Still, there were insects of all shapes and sizes crawling on the mattresses our students and leaders were to sleep on. It was all within a rustic lodge that we’d rented out for our summer retreat. For all of the amenities the camp promised, we had to deal with these uninvited guests at night.
To top it off, we also had no hot water all weekend.
Can I tell you how many different ways students can let you know that they aren’t happy with no hot water all weekend?
Thankfully, the Lord still moved in that weekend and several significant steps were taken.
I tried to keep this in mind when called the office that week after camp. I was told that a custodian would check the lodge out, and later heard that he didn’t find any bugs in the beds. For our perceived trouble, they offered us a 10% discount the next time we came back.
“The next time we came back?”
That was last year. Guess where we didn’t go back this year?
You may be wondering why we selected this camp, or perhaps why we stuck with it during those trials. Those are good questions, as the experience formed some lessons we learned the hard way:
- Personally visit any camp before you commit to it: This particular retreat originally involved working with another youth group who had scouted out the camp. That group later backed out due to a calendar conflict, but our group assumed that they had checked out the camp in person. It turns out they hadn’t and our shortsightedness cost us in the long run.
- Know what you are and are not dealing with: Bugs in a bed are not the same things as bed bugs. If it’s ever the latter, don’t even ask – load up and go home! Bed bugs are hard to eradicate and parents won’t appreciate that being the what kids bring home from camp. If the facility is regulated at all, it’s shut down material. But… if it’s a matter of bugs annoying you in a cabin like they would if you were outdoors, you can tangibly address them.
- Talk about the awkwardness with your leaders: We had to make a decision about whether or not the retreat could be salvaged even with all the logistics and frustrations. Between swiping down mattresses to minimize the bug issue and turning the cold water showers into a running joke all weekend, it felt like we could make the best out of the mess. Our leaders owned that decision together.
- Let parents know what’s happening: Our general policy is that kids don’t bring phones on trips but are to call home at night to check in using a leader’s phone. We made sure the parents knew the situation and our plan to make the most of it.
- Use the learning curve to think ahead: This year’s summer camp experience went over way better than the previous year, primarily because our team knew what to look for. As parents and students asked, “How are the beds this year,” we had pictures to show them.
How about you…
What was one of your “worst camp ever” experiences?
What did you learn from it?