Camp for a Week, Friends for Life!

State of the Union…er…Camp

I hope you are having a wonderful day.  This past weekend was full of many blessings, reunions, and strengthening friendships. Many of our camp family descended upon Slumber Falls Camp for a Work Camp weekend. The weather was beautiful with partially clouded blue skies and a high of 76 degrees and not a mosquito in sight or bite.  We accomplished a number of tasks around the property from grounds keeping, rebuilding the archery range backdrop, downed tree removal from the winter storm, cleaning and organizing projects, and some electrical work on the new trail light system.  The worship on Sunday centered around the Matthew 7:24-27 passage regarding the wise and foolish builders.  During one part of the service, volunteers shared their stories and connections to the camp and how Slumber Falls has shaped not only them, but their families as whole.  The stories touched on connecting to ancestors and creation, spiritual growth, family bonding, and the powerful impact of our summer camping program.

During the dinner meal on Saturday, other stories were shared as well about changes in the camp over the past five years.  Living on the property can create a lens of the projects not done, finished, or started, and it can feel like a never-ending cycle.  As people shared, I was reminded of how far we have come.  During my first year, the swimming pool renovations were completed, the Shower House was renovated, Dun Wunderin’ Cabin was removed, John’s Cabin was started, parking lot and drive was resurfaced covering the large potholes that campers could hide in.  Fiber optic internet lines were installed that replaced our shared 1.5mb copper line.

The following year saw John’s Cabin and the Barndominium completed, the office received carpet and fresh paint on the interior and exterior walls, $150,000 donation of tempurpedic mattresses, fossil flats fire circle benches constructed, and Disc Golf Course added.

In 2019 we were blessed with a donation of a skid steer to help move heavy rocks and grade the ground.  That donation came at the same time the state changed requirements for licensing.  We were able to construct an archery range before the camping season.  We also installed an artistic stained concrete, modern Celtic prayer labyrinth, sidewalks on the main camp side, began renovations on an A2A Cabin (Accessible to All Cabin) for our campers, upgrades to our horseshoe pits and volleyball court, and new flower beds to attract native butterflies.  Kelsey and Bizer lodge received new A/C units. We also expanded the wash house to increase our laundry capacity. We also received a small parcel of land adjacent to the camp as a donation from one of our neighbors.

Everyone was looking forward to 2020 and the camp was getting noticed.  We began releveling the river field, cleaning up the hiking trails, expanding the Cedar Grove Activity Area (outside, no tech games), constructed the welcome flower bed near entrance, and a number of deep cleaning projects inside and outside of cabins.  Twill Do Cabin structural renovations completed. The pandemic opened up opportunities for cabin renovations and upgrades.  Emma, Erwin, and Heigh-Ho had their floors sanded and resealed as well as fresh interior paint.  Curtains were installed in Bizer lodge. We replaced the well pump on our main well and installed the water softer system and building on well #2. We replaced and upgraded a major water line to PVC on the main camp side. CORCLs were added to our pool and river amenities.

We were super excited about 2021 and being near the end of the pandemic (or so we thought).  The winter storm forced some early renovations on the entire interior of Vicki’s Haven and Kelsey Lodge. The boys shower house ceiling and plumbing was repaired. The Heigh Ho bathroom also was replumbed with new fixtures, toilets and a water heater. Trail light repairs began to upgrade them to code.  More repairs were made to our water system main lines.  Curtains were updated and framed signage helped clean up the cabins.  The Adopt-a-Cabin program has helped transform many of these spaces so that they are welcoming to our groups and provide a nice background to powerful transformations.  Our internet speed was upgraded and we replaced the internal communication network with new access points.  An overflow parking lot was constructed at Bizer at the same time we resurfaced the Bizer Field and added soccer goals.

While the list I gave related primarily to facilities, the camp has also made headway on environmental initiatives, policy creation, updates that focus on camper wellness and development, expanded leadership training programs, new staff training requirements for volunteers, developmentally appropriate policies, and the addition of new camps like Geek Week, Color Splash, and Day Camps.  Our camping program has gone through a number of lenses to ensure that we are offering the best camps possible at Slumber Falls and that there is consistency, learning objectives, incredible fun, and spirit filled weeks.  Relationships are still the heart of our ministry. Health and safety continue to meet exceptional levels, and we are the only camp that I know of in Texas that has an active plan for identifying bed bugs (cute bed bug sniffing dogs) and our own heat treat equipment for treatment. Our strategic plan that was adopted in 2019 by the Board of Directors has helped us adapt, pivot, and transform.

For the first time in decades (and maybe ever), we have a stable young adult group that stays active with the camp year-round.  They help volunteer around the camp, serve as promoters at camp fairs, and connect with others through social media.  Our summer leadership program for young adults (SALT- Summer Adult Leadership Team) continues to be an incredible experience and receives more incredible applicants that we have positions.  Camp Power, our summer staff that helps in the kitchen and the grounds, create a fun experience for campers and staff in the dining hall and spaces on the property.  We are continuing to network, share our ministry, and invite others to join us as we create opportunities for people to connect to God, discover their beauty, and transform the world.

The camp staff is experiencing a new incarnation as people retire, shift positions, and new positions are created.  We are focusing on administrative “housekeeping” projects this year, staff training and onboarding resources, and new programs and procedures for effectiveness and efficiency.  We are excited to see what God has in store for us as we continue to listen to God’s ever speaking voice.  I am preparing for sabbatical this fall, and I am energized at the possibilities of learning how other groups, site, and entities engage and play in God’s creation.  I hope to bring fresh ideas back to Slumber Falls Camp that will continue to enhance our incredible ministry.

As I look back on this super long article, I am humbled by the volunteer, visionaries, donors, and many prayers and words of encouragement that have brought us to this place.  I feel God’s call strong for outdoor ministry, Slumber Falls Camp, and transforming lives to be reflections of God’s light and love in the world.  I hope to see you this year, hear your dreams for the camp, and vision together our next exciting phase of our journey together.