Camp for a Week, Friends for Life!

Lessons from Being the Best “Sinner”!

Yesterday, my 3-year-old son told me that I was the best sinner as he was climbing to the top of a mulch pile! My heart stood still.  What were they teaching him over at Friedens UCC’s Early Learning Academy over in Geronimo, Texas! What was I doing that would give him that impression?  Before allowing my mind to snowball in thought, I asked him what he said.  His reply, “you are the best sinner!”  I said, “sinner?”  He said, “Yes!” as he continued playing on the mulch pile.  “Can you give me an example of why I am the best sinner?”, I ask. His response was when you sing “Puff the Magic Dragon and funny songs.”  You mean, “Singer, not sinner.”  “Yes,” as his eyes beamed brightly back at me. 

In his eyes, I might be the best singer, but my heart dropped when I thought my son saw me as the best sinner.  While I am far from perfect, according to family and friends 😉, I do strive to improve myself and those around me. I believe that our families and communities are shaped by who we are. Through my studies in Latin American history, the bird’s eye view of cultures and nations can be seen as trends, events, and the choices over decades by their citizens.  People and the language that they used in conversations, literature, and propaganda were key to their success or failure as a community or nation.  Those that were short sighted with a narrow view, often led to the worst outcomes. Those that built up unity, living and working together, and general respect tended to have more positive outlooks on the world, relationships, and civic pride. The unique underlying currents present within each of their nations played a role, but the response of the people was theirs and was grounded in something deeper and spoke to the core of their beliefs.  This is an interesting subject and one that we should teach our children as point and counterpoints to how we should live and function within a society.

The takeaway is that we all have agency to shape the course of our lives and those around us. Having the tools that help guide us, goals to achieve, models for inspiration, and clear values will help us become more effective.  This also requires honest self-evaluation and refusing to rationalize our actions or self-pardon when we would not allow that from another.  When problems arise, it is easy to place blame on others before seeing how we could have affected the situation assuming others would not change.  I try to figure out how I could have changed a situation when problems arise or less than desirable outcomes emerge. 

I have found value in this practice or reflective exercise over my ministry.  It reminds me that we are not as good of communicators that we believe ourselves to be, and that others interpret our communication through their lenses which could be very different from our own.  This could explain why miscommunications occur, but it should also call us to learn and grow to be better communicators with the expectation that the other will not change.  Sometimes this practice is very difficult and challenges my creativity.  I never expect another to share my values or the importance of learning others stories, viewpoints, or passions in life.  I think that is why I love environments like church camp, college ministries, and communities that don’t just want to learn, but want to engage their faith and see how their journey will unfold.

I want my son to also discover a passion for people, cultures, and the complexities of humanity.  We often see the differences highlighted by media sensationalism, the age of reality shows for gaining entertainment from drama or human suffering, or the group think effect that occurs on social media that cause other to feel angered, isolated, or voiceless. I believe in the sacredness in humanity and the calling to help others see, feel, and experience the richness in creation.  There are so many ways we can challenge ourselves and reflect on who we are.  It does not take a toddler to call you the best sinner for us to reflect on who we are and how others perceive us.

Summer camps are incredible opportunities for children and youth to discover how to have rich and meaningful relationships, discover what it means to embody the gospel message, and learn to live in a world where differences exist. Concepts of unconditional love, grace, forgiveness, wholeness, life, joy, generosity, kindness, and service are just a few of the concepts that transform our campers.  In turn, as those concepts deepen over the years, lives and relationships are enhanced.  I enjoy hearing the stories of former campers at Slumber Falls and how their camping experience shaped who they are today, why they are still involved in the church, or why they decided to become a pastor.

Slumber Falls Camp is rich in tradition and history, yet we also are continuing to listen to where God is calling us.  We are camper centric and model our camps on camper wellness. We have living policies that grow and shape as we learn.  And our returning counselors and staff also are developing their skills and learning how to be more effective role models.  Small camp sizes and genuine relationships are still key to our ministry.  This summer will be another great summer.

If you are interested in being a part of this ministry as a camp counselor, summer staff member, volunteer, please contact the office to learn about our programs or share with us your passions in how they could enhance our ministry.  We have discounted early bird rates, discounts, incentives, and some scholarship money to help offset the cost of camp.  If finances are a concern, please contact the office to see how we can help.  We will not turn down any camper who wants or could benefit from a week of church camp. 

2 Comments

  1. Thank you, Jeremy, for your thoughtful reflections. Children can be our best teachers. I think you are “the best_________” (fill in the blank)! UCC and the campers are lucky to have you. We miss our retreats at Slumber Falls. In joy, Zet

    • Jeremy Albers (Author)

      Zet,

      Thank you for you kind words. Children and youth are great teachers because of their wonderful perspectives. This camp is truly a blessing to experience as camps and retreats unfold. We miss seeing you and your group, and I hope everyone is doing well.

      Peace,
      Jeremy

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