It is surreal to walk on the property at Slumber Falls Camp. With our staff working remotely and groups following recommendations to stay home and slow the spread of the coronavirus, the camp has entered a period of rest and restoration. The grass is growing and the wildflowers and cacti are blooming. We have shut down many of the non-essential buildings that pull power to conserve resources. My family is the constant human presence at Slumber Falls Camp. Our two-year-old Benjamin misses school, but he has taken up some of the slack in helping me around on the property. He has gotten quite proficient at date stamping the mail that comes in daily while I sort the mail. He also enjoys carrying my keys as he thinks they possess some sort of magical power that he greatly desires.
This time has proven to be a time of hope and encouragement amid tragedies, uncertainties, and confusion. I have witnessed care and compassion from our neighbors and seen acts of kindness in the stores. I have watched churches embrace new ways of being the church and the positive effects that have come with it. People who were previously unable to attend church due to health, distance, or other life circumstances can reconnect with their local church or friend’s across the country through online worship services and discussions. And businesses are stepping up in stressing the importance of community, moderation, and resource sharing. New behaviors and practices are being adopted and implemented by individuals not in high-risk groups to care for those in higher-risk groups. This is a major paradigm shift in thinking from the “me” generation as they consider others and the greater good.
In many ways, the COVID-19 crisis has been a wakeup call and a mirror on our cultural values, beliefs, coping abilities, resiliency, and creative processes. The pre-COVID-19 naivety of “this will never happen in real life, only science fiction,” “we are too advanced from the plagues and pandemics of the past,” or that “we are immune to what is happening in the rest of the world.” Humans have proven to be very resilient over time, and we learn and adapt. I am curious and concerned about how this particular event will shape our behaviors and practices as we move forward.
In the past, unifying events (usually tragedies) such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the Challenger explosion, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and the terrorists’ attacks of September 11th, have created common touchstones across generations as a shared experience. Recent events are not an exception, but there is an added component that is of concern. In past events, we gathered together around the television, in masses in churches for prayer and guidance, and with family and friends to process together with hugs, tears, holding hands, and candlelight vigils. While we are gathering and interacting virtually to slow the spread of the coronavirus, we are missing out on the human connection and touch, and our children, who have limited life experience to know otherwise, are getting powerful lessons on the dangers that can arise from human interaction. It also can teach young people to stay away from someone with a cough. I was picking up some pool chemicals when an older gentleman started coughing, and my response was to hold my breath, move quickly, and distance myself from his vicinity. My thoughts were to avoid bringing a potentially dangerous virus home to my family. That reaction left a lasting impression on me. A few months back, I might have waited to see if he was going to be ok or if he needed help, but that was not my response. I find myself thinking a lot about how to mitigate my risk to my health and those of my family yet find the balance of living out my faith and convictions. I do not want to distance myself from those in need any more than I want to put my family or coworkers at risk.
As Christians, we are facing some tough choices on what kind of world we will shape living in a post-COVID-19 reality and a pre- “inset the next crisis here” that will come in some unknown time in the future. How we respond to this crisis will shape the future. Our abilities to prevent disease and eliminate 100% of risks are not on that level, so how will we faithfully move forward with intentionality, safety, and creativeness so that we remember what it means to be human, yet we engage the world with new awareness and a deeper understanding of wellness (physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, social, occupational, environmental, and intellectual wellness). Camps will be more crucial than ever in the holistic development of our children and youth. The power of positive camp experiences on young people creates tangible results and overall healthier and well-balanced adults. COVID-19 is putting many camps in jeopardy this summer, and some may not be able to weather this crisis.
Slumber Falls Camp has not been immune to this crisis. Without retreat groups for most of March, all of April, and it appears all of May, our abilities to function have been reduced. We are blessed to receive support from the CARES Act through the Paycheck Protection Program which covers staff costs and utilities. We have been creative with upcycling, approved dumpster diving at home building sites for scrap and unwanted building resources, and donations to help out with current projects. We are using this time to tackle projects that will improve the property and enhance our campers’ and guests’ experiences.
We are discovering small blessings and reassessing aspects of the camp we once thought of as hindrances are actually a blessing. Our smaller camp numbers, most cabins with 10 beds or less, and cleaning products and practices are real advantages in light of recent events. Mitigating health risks of potential, problematic pests brought in by groups, led us to increase our cleaning and treatment practices last year with the purchase of new cleaning products and costly equipment. Fun fact discovery: The bedbug heat equipment we purchased last year to treat potential pests (ticks, lice, bedbugs, etc.) can also be used to combat the coronavirus. The equipment can heat up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. The kill zone for most bacteria and viruses on food ranges from 145 to 165. We treat for pests at 180 for hours to ensure heat transfer through walls and other objects. We are looking into the feasibility of treating all cabins between our camps as part of our new health and safety protocols. What was a costly purchase last year to offer a higher level of service and comfort to our guests (most camps, lodges, and hotels do not have this capability), is proving to be a blessing in disguise as we look at offering and hosting camps, conferences, and retreats in the future.
The staff seems to be in good spirits from a distance, and we are excited about the possibilities of how we can use this time to strengthen our ministries and the facilities at Slumber Falls. If you want to be a part of this exciting ministry through volunteering to tackle projects from your home or socially responsible volunteering on-site (we can put you up in a cabin), then give me a call. If you can contribute to the camp financially or want to fund a special project, please let me know. Some camps are asking for those not needing their stimulus bonus to donate part of all of it to support their camp. Please consider becoming a Friend of the Camp. Slumber Falls Camp offers a space of acceptance, healing, growth, and transformation for people of all ages. SFC is a powerful tool that continues to serve the church and proclaim the gospel. We have a webpage under the Summer Camp tab that we use to communicate updates and next steps for the camp. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. This is a tough time, but we can make it through together and strengthen our ministry in the process. Slumber Falls Camp is looking forward to hosting camps and retreats where campers’ laughter fills the air, smiles beam from their faces, and life-long friendships undergird the sacredness of human connection and deepen our desire to experience the world in which God has created.
Blessings and Peace, Jeremy