This essay comes from long time camper, Raven Lucas. Raven started coming to camp years ago via recommendation of her cousin. She fell so in love with the sanctuary of acceptance, optimism, and love camp provides that she has been back every year since. Here is a little of what camp means to Raven:
Ode to Camp
As I walk into camp, being immediately greeted by many warm, welcoming, familiar faces; I pick up my pace. The words of the camp song repeat in my thoughts. I take in my surroundings with full adoration for the beauty they hold. I feel the hugs of well missed people and venture to find the senior cabin- my cabin- Kiowa. Instantly, memories of birds singing harmonically throughout the trees are brought to life. The shouts of joy rumbling the tables in the dining hall, while the counselors watched with animated eyes, rush through me like a gust of wind, wrapping around me with an aura of genuine love and affection.
I smile, seeing the faces of new campers bunking in the youngest cabins, eagerness manifested in their expression as they long to acquire the knowledge and feeling of joy that camp life bestows upon you. I hear the usual "hip-hip" or "heey campers!" from Jake the director, and know the true magic is about to happen. He gets that twinkle in his eye and a small mischievous smile as campers respond to his every chant and wish, then it's off to the races. I get dressed in whatever crazy gear he tells us to wear and quickly find myself caught up in a crazy game of strategy outside.
The wind whipping through my hair, and the sounds of laughter and shrieks fill the air and my legs run until they cry sore. I have paint in my hair and mud burning into my skin, coloring me darker than I am. Throughout the next hours I attend chapel, group activities, and create a bond with people from all across the world. I share stories of my life and opinions and they do, too; debates of silly topics or deep meaningful emotion. The nights consist of vespers on the floor, our bodies held close together in a circle as we voice our thoughts and pray hand in hand. In no time at all, camp comes to a close.
The scenery kisses me goodbye and I exhale on my bed as I long for camp to start all over again. Camp has taught me so many intricately beautiful lessons of life and how to love oneself and others. The words of the speakers and songs we go over in chapel move me like a weak tree swaying in a strong, soothing breeze. I taste the sweet flavor of new experiences and feel the wisdom grow through me as I strive to understand all that camp is and does. Camp makes me a better person, it teaches me valuable lessons that I wish everyone could know and cherish in their thoughts forever.
Surrounded by beautiful people with beautiful outlooks on life, camp was and is a place where I find pure joy and inner peace. It is a place where I can truly be myself without worrying about judgement or not fitting in. I know that there I am loved and cared about on a level that normal reality just doesn't offer me. I am always eager to attend and never ready to leave. It is my home, they are my family, and I'll never forget my sweet summer sanctuary.
The Camp Henry staff has been putting a lot of time, energy, and thought into creating a theme that could continue to reflect on last summer's theme- You Are More. We wanted a tangible idea in which every camper could easily relate to for the rest of their days. With that, we find this summer's theme a continuance of instilling confidence, strength, and identity into every camper's hearts.
With that being said, we are very excited to introduce to you Camp Henry's theme for summer 2015 (drumroll please...)-
The dictionary defines Thrive as an action to prosper, to be successful or grow and develop vigorously.
With this, there are many different ways to see something thrive. For example, when you think of a tree that is thriving, you might picture strong roots and branches that are simply flourishing with green leaves and bearing fruit. Or you might imagine a store that is thriving with all of its foot traffic through the doors, expanding locations and growing in revenue. The more I think about it, the more I want to see this word define the way I live my life.
Too often are we seeing ourselves living in the past or looking ahead for what's to come and not being fully present with what's happening right in front of us! We are so dialed in to this 'survival mode' of just 'getting through' a situation or experience in life instead of enjoying and thriving in it. We often find ourselves thinking:
If I can just get to this weekend...
If I can just get to summer vacation...
If I can just finish this school project...
If I can just get to graduation...
We get so caught up in the "if I can only get through THIS, then I can get to THAT."
I then ask myself, how many moments and opportunities in between are we missing out on with having this mindset? It all becomes an exhausting cycle that is not very fulfilling.
During this summer, we want to encourage all campers and guests to not only discover their true selves and love the skin they're in by digging into God's word; but also think about how we can extend those experiences past camp and thrive in everything we do! We were not meant to struggle to make it through the week, the day, or the next hour. We were not meant to be held back by anxiety, worry, and fear; we are meant to live out the life we have and live it abundantly by knowing God and making Him known!
It is easy to identify something that is thriving and we hope that after your time spent at camp, you will see yourself thriving and not just surviving.
Thinking about coming to camp? While that sounds like a great idea, I want to make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. I've been at Camp Henry for over 10 years now, and there are a few things they don't tell you in the brochure. Here are a list of 10 reasons you should not come to camp. If you can overlook these, camp is probably the perfect place for you!
1.It's quite possibly the ugliest place on Earth. Don't believe me? Just look at the sunsets- not even worth a second glance.
2. You’re encouraged to get as dirty as possible, paint your face, jump in the mud, and slip n’ slide down the slippery slopes. Sounds boring and gross if you ask me.
3. You’re forced to interact with strange people from all across the world and listen to them share their stories and traditions. Oh my days- who loves a British accent, anyway? Come on- you’re a mess if you do.
4. You spend the entire week participating in extremely boring activities such as climbing the Tator Tot, riding horses, rock climbing, zip-lining, and tubing on the Big Banana. Don’t put me down for that.
5. It’s hard to make life-long friends when everyone at camp is so welcoming, accepting, encouraging and loving all the time… how rude.
6. You have to go an entire week without electronics. Who wants to unplug, unwind, and spend time in community when they could be scrolling Facebook for the 300th time in one day? I won’t have time to post videos of people doing cool things if I’m stuck at camp doing nothing, so no thanks.
7. The people there wear ridiculous costumes, chant for no reason at all, and walk around complimenting you all day. Who wants to be a part of such a negative environment?
8. Once a week you have to camp outside and cook dinner over a fire. Who wants to sleep in a hammock, lay under the stars, or sit around a campfire with their cabin mates? Not me. And don’t even get me started on the beef stew- it’s so terrible I can’t stop eating it.
9. You spend the whole week challenging yourself, trying new things, and growing as a person. No thanks, sounds like way too much work.
10. You have to go to chapel every day, watch super boring skits, hear how amazing you are, and learn how great God’s love for you is. What a shame- just count me out right now.
Basically, camp is a really boring place where nobody would want to go. It's a shame I've been there for ten years now!
This post comes from another long time camper and current summer camp counselor, 'Burly' Ben Waterhouse. We asked Ben what it means to be ones 'camp self' and how it has made such a lasting impact on his life.
"When thinking about camp, so many memories comes to mind. I often see myself raving not only about the awesome activities we get to do like riding the big banana, or jumping in the mud pit, but also the vespers, chapels and cabin group connections that have shaped me in more ways than one.
One of my most prominent memories was during Friday night chapel when Kenny Hotaling asked me to speak about my faith journey and how camp has helped guide me. The biggest highlight was witnessing how camp extends love to truly every individual; just as Christ does. At camp we are surrounded by people who are constantly encouraging us and pouring positive energy into our lives. I knew from the first minute of stepping foot onto camp that my life would never be the same. I was shown God's love in so many different ways throughout my years as a camper.
Now in my time of being a staff member and being a few years older and wiser, I have found that it is much easier to show my faith from when I was a younger camper. It is very easy actually. Regardless of where you are, if you act just like you do while you are at camp, then you will be showing your Christian values. I have always thought that the words you speak are the most important aspects of representing oneself, but what's more important are your actions. Your actions will show what your heart reflects better than what you say. I try to live out my Christian faith in my everyday life by being who I am at camp all the time.
In my daily life I try to keep the mindset of being the biggest kid. I think one of the greatest parts of being a kid at heart is to live to my fullest potential and realize that if I glide through life just enough to get by, it won't be as fulfilling. As kids we go all out in every game we play and everything we do; not necessarily because we want to win but because of the simple fact that we are playing amongst our friends- which is all the joy we need. I love being a kid at heart because I can see the simple things and enjoy them.
My encouragement for everyone is to not lose their inner kid and to remember how they act at camp and to bring it out wherever they go. We can all spread our Christian values by extending camp's grace to the rest of the world. Embrace that inner child that we all have! Go have a spontaneous game of basketball, or eat your food with just your hands, or break into song! Whatever it is, remember the joys of being a child of God and know that He is with us through all of it. That is how I learned that my "camp self" is not only my best self but also my true self."
-"Burly" Ben Waterhouse
(If that's not enough to convince you there are still 6 more reasons!)
2. You can participate in adventurous activities like horseback riding, rock climbing, zip lining and riding on the big banana!
3. You get to do zany things that are out of the norm like stomp in a muddy puddle, wear a crazy wig, dress up like a pirate, and paint your face.
4. You get paid to eat s’mores, play with fire, go star tipping, sing and dance, throw your peers in the lake, conquer the wooden spoon challenge, watch the sun set, and eat pizza with chocolate milk.
5. You will meet some pretty amazing people and I can safely say that camp friendships are one of a kind that last a lifetime.
6. The memories you make at camp cannot compare to anything else.
7. And the best part- you get to be somebody's hero, make a lasting impression on a child's life and show every camper that they are important, valued and loved.
One thing I can guarantee is that you will start the summer off not knowing what to expect, but 10 weeks later, you will wish it never had to end.
To find out more about becoming a staff member at Camp Henry,
This essay comes from long time camper, Amy Androw. Amy has been a part of camp for many years and just spent her last summer as a camper here on the shores. While applying to colleges, Amy used this as her essay topic to exemplify the true impact that camp has on an individual and how it will remain a part of her for the rest of her days.
Sublime to the Ridiculous
"Every summer, my parents joke that I go from the sublime to the ridiculous. But I think it's the other way around. From September to June, I attend a high school in Winnetka, Illinois. It is located in a privileged suburb, attracts top students, is highly competitive, has an extensive college counseling department, and facilitates social, academic, and athletic pressure. During June through August, however, I go to a small summer camp in Newaygo, Michigan. It is in a rural area, rich in history & tradition, inclusive to all and even extends a scholarship program to low income families. Their focus is not entirely on educational programming but is intentional about providing a positive life changing experience to ALL who come. It is located on a beautiful lake and exudes tranquility.
After nine months at my high school, Camp Henry is a place to refresh, renew, and recharge. The pace is slow, the air is fresh, the lake is clean (relatively), and the counselors believe that every camper deserves kindness, respect, support, and warmth. Essentially, it is the exact opposite mind-set that I view my school to possess.
Camp Henry is a Christian-based environment, to which I am half Jewish. But there is no conflict between the values of camp and my personal values. From the director on down, the philosophy, and therefore behavior, takes the best part of Christianity— kind acts, warm connections, encouraging words, and selfless gestures— and leaves the prejudices behind. There are wild activities, night time pranks, and the occasional challenges, but Camp Henry is committed to providing a comforting and loving haven for all the campers. I have attended this camp since I was eight-years-old, several years for a six-week period. I have backpacked in Alaska, slept on the beaches of Lake Superior, helped cook beef stew over a campfire, cleaned the bathrooms, made dozens of friendship bracelets, and in general lived with compassion and without fear of judgement in a way that would be utterly foreign to my high school atmosphere. Sometimes it is hard to reconcile those hard-driving, overly anxious, and overachieving pressures with the relaxed and gentle people at Camp Henry. In fact, I think my classmates would be surprised that I derive so much pleasure from such a simple place.
I realize that Camp Henry is a little piece of paradise where everyone is more generous, friendly, and complimentary than people in the real world. But I have learned how to take some of that goodness back to reality with me, and try to keep it alive under any circumstances. As much as Camp Henry and my high school differ, they also provide a balance in my life. I use kindness and selflessness in the way I interact with people, yet still use the knowledge and ambition I have derived from school. Nonetheless, as I look at the cycle of my life during the year, I am absolutely convinced that in June I go from the ridiculous to the sublime."
Amy has spent the last 10 summers on the shores and hopes to keep a strong connection with the camp family. Amy is currently a senior at New Tier High School in Chicago, Illinois and plans to later attend college for political science.