Camp DeWolfe Blog
This past Tuesday, our chaplain of the week, Fr. Larry Byrne, his wife Susan, and I created a simple labyrinth in the back of St. Luke’s Chapel. Using candles, yarn, and duct tape, we designed a space for campers that evening to pray and reflect while walking and listening to music softly playing in the background. Several campers shared afterwards that it was a really special time for them, and counselors seemed to appreciate it equally!
Labyrinths are a great way to express this profound reality: we are all on a journey of faith. None of our journeys are identical; they are as unique as we are in the lives we lead and the experiences we have. For some, it may seem pretty easy to point to times where God was clearly at work, while others may struggle to think of those times. The goal in walking a labyrinth is to reach the center, which represents God’s presence, yet God is always with us, no matter how “off center” we may feel. So it comes down to, I think, a matter of awareness. How aware are we of the God who is always there with us and for us? The more aware we are, the closer we draw ourselves (or the Spirit draws us, perhaps more accurately) to that sacred center.
This summer at camp has given me, and many others too, an incredible opportunity to become more aware and centered in God’s presence. Camp strips away so many of the distractions that keep us from having a holy awareness- the busyness of work and school, the tyranny of technology, and so on. In place of those distractions, camp offers an abundance of time to have fun, enjoy the company of others, soak up the beauty of God’s Creation, worship and pray, and simply “be.”
Camp also provides a chance to really dig deep into our journeys and to hear about those of others. During morning Christian Formation this week, counselors gave the message, each one based on their own journey of faith. All of them were honest about life’s struggles and many, for example, spoke about the difficulty of losing a loved one. After the message, campers were invited to talk in their cabin groups about the counselor’s story and discuss how it connects to their own faith journeys. Campers shared about the “highs” and “lows” they have faced so far, and how they’ve experienced God leading them and showing them the Way. My hope amid all this is that campers (and staff) will leave camp with a fuller awareness of God’s presence in their lives, and a stronger faith that, no matter how challenging life may be, the Spirit goes with them to guide them ever closer to the center of all things, which is the heart of God. I end with these words from the song “Center” by Charlie Hall, which I offer as a prayer:
Oh Christ, be the center of our lives
Be the place we fix our eyes
Be the center of our lives
And You’re the center of the universe
Everything was made in You, Jesus
Breath of every living thing
Everyone was made for You
You hold everything together
You hold everything together
Just one last note: I have had a fantastic summer at Camp DeWolfe! I’ve been so blessed to be part of the awesome things God has done here! I only wish camp could last a little longer! Thanks be to God!!!
– Dan Bell
Christian Formation Director
This past Monday I met with the LITs for their weekly leadership training. I showed them a TED Talk by Drew Dudley called “Everyday Leadership.” In his talk Dudley says that many folks convince themselves they aren’t leaders because they’re not doing anything huge to change the world. But this is a misguided way of thinking about leadership, he explains. He gives the example of how, during college, he unknowingly had a big impact on another student’s life just by offering her a lollipop, alongside with some words of kindness and humor. What he did put this nervous freshman at ease and gave her the encouragement she needed to begin a new phase in her life. Dudley would have never known about this had not this student, four years later, told him how much what he did meant to her. He was shocked, especially since he had no recollection of the “lollipop moment!”
It can be “scary to think of ourselves as that powerful,” says Dudley. “It can be frightening to think that we can matter that much to other people, because as long as we make leadership something bigger than us, as long as we keep leadership something beyond us, as long as we make it about changing the world, we give ourselves an excuse not to expect it every day from ourselves and from each other.” This is an important message for all of us to hear, and it’s one that the LITs really appreciated hearing. It can be intimidating to be called a leader, and this is particularly true for teenagers, I think. Teens tend to think they’re different from everyone else but, ironically, they’re all about following one another (and their favorite celebrities and fashions and whatever else!). I hope the LITs left feeling more empowered and ready to be leaders at camp, back home, and wherever they find themselves in the future.
All of us have the chance to be everyday leaders. Whether it’s a smile, a thumbs up, a word of encouragement, or sitting with and listening to someone who’s having a rough day, we never know the sort of impact we can have on another person. Whenever we offer something positive to someone else, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time, we are being leaders. So may God’s Spirit open our hearts and minds to those around us, and lead us to many “lollipop moments” throughout our lives!
By Dan Bell
Christian Formation Director
During our first Christian Formation time on Sunday night, I asked campers to sit in a giant circle and go around saying one thing they wanted everyone to know about them. The point was to show we come from a variety of backgrounds (something worth celebrating!), and, even with all our differences, we come as equals. It was a nice icebreaker to kick off Christian Formation, but it took on more significance the next night.
On Monday night, campers gathered to learn about the Holy Spirit as our Advocate (John 14:26). An advocate, we discussed, is someone who provides guidance, who comes alongside us, and speaks up for us when we’re in trouble. The Spirit does this for us, even interceding for us “with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). What an awesome and mysterious gift!
Likewise, God calls us to be advocates for one another by praying, coming alongside, and speaking up for each other. Today, more than ever, young people need to take on the role of advocate. In the United States, over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year, and 1 in 10 students drop out of school because of repeated bullying (find out more facts here). In chapel we watched a short film about how bullying can have a lasting impact on people. Afterwards, several campers told me they related very much to the video, having been victims themselves. Moreover, tragically, I’m certain there wasn’t a person in the room who at least has been a witness to bullying at some time or another.
Obviously, this is a major issue in our country and there’s no one way to solve it. Still, a crucial thing we can all do is to be advocates- to stand up for those being bullied, and to act in the truth that we are all equals, without exception. We are equally beloved of God, and equally worthy of respect and kindness. No one deserves to be treated as inferior- to be mocked and minimized for who they are, how they look, or for any other reason. Here at camp, everything we do revolves around these convictions. May the Spirit continue guiding and guarding us as we celebrate our differences, embrace our oneness in Christ, and live as advocates for those on the margins.
By Dan Bell
Christian Formation Director
So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:42-45 NRSV)
Yesterday I accompanied our second-year Leaders-in-Training to Stop and Shop in Miller Place. We were there to represent Island Harvest, the largest hunger relief organization on Long Island. It was their second time this week hosting a collection for those without enough access to food on Long Island. I was pleasantly surprised by how many people stopped and listened to our LITs as they handed them a leaflet and explained what we were up to. I felt encouraged as the big, empty cardboard boxes we had slowly began to fill with fresh fruits and vegetables. After finishing at the supermarket, we loaded up our van with everything we collected and drove to Island Harvest’s distribution center in Hauppauge to drop it off. In just two days, the LITs collected nearly 700 pounds of food! It’s amazing how much of an impact a handful of people can have!
So why were our second-year LITs asked to do this project? Of course, it was a great opportunity for them to serve people in need. But what does that have to do with developing leadership skills? From a Christian perspective, leaders are first and foremost servants. They are servants of God in and through their service to others. This is what Jesus not only teaches us but also exemplifies through His actions, for Christ “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” By standing outside of Stop and Shop for several hours over two days and asking folks to buy food for the hungry, our LITs were serving as examples to the community. Leaders enable others to do God’s work and bring out the best in people. By asking others to help those in need, the LITs gave dozens of people the chance to be leaders themselves- to take a few moments out of their busy lives to show compassion to folks that they’ll probably never meet. Just like we expect them to be role models at camp, the LITs are learning what it means to be role models wherever they find themselves, to be reflections of Christ’s humility and God’s love. Not a bad way to spend the summer!
-By Dan Bell
Christian Formation Director
Today I hung out with campers and counselors at the high ropes course. With harness, helmet, and- most importantly!- rope safely in place, I scaled the ladder and tree leading up to the suspended log I was supposed to walk across. I got onto the log without much of a struggle but just couldn’t bring myself to let go of the tree. I knew I was safe and that it was impossible for me to fall without my belaying friends at the bottom carefully lowering me to the ground. Nonetheless, I held on, irrationally, I guess. I stood frozen up there for a few minutes before finally moving a few inches and getting lowered down. I chickened out! I trusted all of the counselors and their ability to keep me and the campers safe. The problem was that I didn’t trust myself enough. I didn’t believe that I could walk across that log, even though I’ve done it before! I let fear win.
A bit later, as I watched the campers at the ropes course and cheered on the climbers, I heard one girl remind her brother, who was wobbling a little as he moved along on the “Tarzan” course, of their dad’s favorite Bible verse. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!,” she shouted up to him. It was such a beautiful act of encouragement! Afterwards, she went ahead and did the same course. While this camper was up there, moving along like a natural, I heard her say something to this effect: “I’m so scared, it’s unbelievable! But I’m doing it anyway!” Her words reminded me that I don’t need to let fear win. No matter how scared I feel, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. And that includes trusting God, and myself, enough to walk boldly forward, no matter where life takes me. God’s grace and love will be there to meet me every step of the way.
-By Dan Bell
Christian Formation Director
At camp we have a tradition of ending each day with “How, Pow, Wow.” This is a time for campers and counselors to gather in their cabins and reflect on the day. For “How,” they talk about how they saw God in the past day. For “Pow,” they share a low point of the day. “Wow” is, not surprisingly, their high point. I always love it when a camper’s “How” and “Wow” are the same (especially if it’s something that happened during Christian Formation!). When a camper’s best part of the day is also the same as when she or he has experienced God, then I know I’m on track. But even if their How’s and Wow’s don’t match, “How, Pow, Wow” is a great way to pause and take stock of our lives each day. This is especially important given our fast-paced world, a world that doesn’t encourage us to reflect and consider what our lives each day consist of. After all, we’re human beings, not “human doings,” as our chaplain this week, Fr. Kirtley Yearwood, reminded staff this week, so we need to allow ourselves to stop, just be, and reflect.
This past Tuesday night in the chapel, we learned about the story of Pentecost found in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit was given to the Church, sweeping down on the apostles with wind and tongues of fire. They spoke in the languages of those around them, people from various places and cultures, and all were amazed. To celebrate the Church’s birthday, and to give campers a tiny taste of feeling amazed, Fr. Kirtley and I brought out a cake with trick candles. A bunch of campers tried blowing out the candles, which then began to relight themselves! It was fun to see the look on their faces as they saw the flames reappear! Even the counselors were caught off guard and one told me he felt wonder as he watched on. I’m glad he shared that with me because it reminded me how important it is to feel wonder as we live life in the Spirit.
What a gift to feel wonder, to be “wowed” by things in everyday existence! We don’t need to travel back to the Day of Pentecost to receive this gift. If we let ourselves, we can slow down and appreciate the miracles that surround us each and every day. We can be awed by the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, by the sight of a fawn with her mama deer, by the smile of a stranger passing us on the sidewalk, and so on. There is glory bursting forth from every seam of Creation! We just need to open our eyes and become aware of it. As we practice slowing down and reflecting- being more and doing less- God’s Spirit is with us. As we nurture our sense of wonder, the Spirit will wow us and help us to grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and all the other fruits that are ours as followers of Christ. So take some time today to be amazed, to embrace wonder, and to live in the Spirit. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up finishing your day with more How’s and Wow’s than you’ve ever had before.
By Dan Bell
Christian Formation Director
Jesus told the disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). These words are ones that campers will get to hear and reflect on during the start of our Christian Formation program next week. Just before saying this, Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit would come to give guidance and direction once He left this earth. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Having God’s peace is a fruit of the Spirit that grows in us as we follow Christ. It is a powerful sign of Jesus’ presence in and among us.
There’s a silly song we’ll be singing in chapel called “The Fruit of the Spirit’s Not a Coconut,” or a pineapple, lemon, watermelon, etc.! Likewise, the peace that the Spirit of Christ grows in us isn’t the kind of peace we find in the world. As Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove write, “Peace is not just the absence of conflict…A counterfeit peace exists when people are pacified or distracted or so beat up and tired of fighting that all seems calm. But true peace does not exist until there is justice, restoration, and forgiveness” (Common Prayer Pocket Edition, Zondervan, 2012 p. 58). In other words, when it comes to real peace, peace that is the fruit of the Spirit, it doesn’t just look like tolerance or merely getting along with people. It’s deeper than that. It’s about taking the risk of loving people for who they are, not for who we would have them be. It’s about working towards full inclusion and equality. It’s about celebrating differences, overcoming prejudice, and doing all we can to be reconciled to one another as we’ve been reconciled to God.
At Camp DeWolfe, we strive to create an authentically peace-filled community, one in which all of God’s children, from the littlest to the tallest, are welcomed, valued, and loved. We’ve been building community like this over the past week as staff have gathered for training to help ensure that campers have a blast while staying safe and being celebrated for who they are. Amid it all, staff have been learning about one another, celebrating and reconciling differences, and discovering what God’s peace is all about.
Embracing this sort of peace isn’t easy. It requires us to become “everyday revolutionaries” (the name of one of our staff small groups that are meeting throughout the summer). With radical commitment and Spirit-filled courage, we need to reject all of the counterfeit kinds of peace we find in this world, the false messages that tell us we can achieve peace through power, prestige and possessions. We must instead accept the Spirit’s gift of real, lasting peace that is built on the sure foundation of God’s justice and love.
In the history of the Church, examples abound of “everyday revolutionaries,” people who shared God’s peace in word and deed. One such saint was Francis of Assisi, after whom the camp’s new outdoor chapel was named. Although probably not penned by St. Francis himself, this famous prayer attributed to him seems like a fitting way to close:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Under the power and guidance of the Spirit, may we be instruments of God’s peace- at camp, at home, at school, at work- wherever we find ourselves today, tomorrow, and always. Amen.
-Dan Bell, Christian Formation Director
I know it’s hard to believe, but summer has begun and is in full swing! Even though some may complain about the swarm of flies, the extreme heat or the sudden increase in holiday fares, summer is without a doubt the best time of year!
I view summer as a time of adventure and catching up with all of my nearest and dearest. Additionally, I believe that summer is the ultimate reward for surviving the often difficult Autumn and Winter months. Traditionally, the lead up towards the summer months are extremely hectic, with the many crucial end of year assignments taking place, in addition to the conclusion of many sports competitions (even though my beloved Boston Celtics are not usually involved in the playoff picture by the time summer comes around!).
Personally, the previous couple of months have been frantic, to say the least, as a result of moving house, applying for my masters degree and the laborious tasks that being a trainee teacher entails. Couple this with the preparations of returning to camp as an overseas counselor and budgeting and planning finances as a student, it would be no exaggeration to say that these last few months have been some of the most challenging of my life!
In the Bible, God makes numerous promises (over 3000) and although He does not promise a trouble free life, He does promise that those who persevere through the inevitable times of suffering will be rewarded (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). This is linked to my personal favourite section of the Bible in Daniel 3:1-30, whereby three men against all odds succeed in a time of great adversity, due to their unwavering faith in God. Whilst my faith may not be as strong the three men in Daniel 3:1-31, I believe that the amount of faith that I did have, as well as the endless support I received from those around me, were integral in me being able to overcome the many challenges that I faced in the not too distant past.
They say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”; therefore I eagerly await the day, whereby I return to camp and enjoy my reward as a new day dawns…
By René Gardner-Leonce
Returning Summer Camp Counselor and Adventure Challenge Instructor
What’s your name? – Nicholas Augustine
What’s your age? – 19 years old
Where are you from? – Oyster Bay, NY
What university do you attend? – Hunter College, NY – Majoring in International Relations/Journalism
What’s your favorite state? New York
What’s your favorite camp activity and why? – Anything in the water! Swimming is so much fun and I love the smell of the beach!
What are you most looking forward to about next summer and why? – I’m so excited to meet all the campers, and help them have a great, memorable summer!
What’s your favorite camp core value? – Natural Setting – I think being at the camp is so relaxing, and it’s so wonderfully different from NYC!
What’s your dream job? – International Consultant
1. What’s your name?
2.What’s your age?
3.Where are you from?
4.What university/school do you attend? What major?
Adelphi University / Sports marketing/Management
5.What’s your favorite Country/state?
Mexico – As I Love the climate , the food , the people And ALL the outdoor activities that one can do / Vermont , I love to snowboard and Love the winter sports that people can do there . Besides Vermont has some of the most beautiful mountain camp grounds
6.What’s your favorite camp activity and why?
I love all the camp activities that take place outdoors !! In the woods/ fields or in/ on the water ! There is so much to do outdoors from hiking,, running, swimming, canoeing and SO many different games that can be played . I really DO enjoy all the activities that take place outdoors .
7.What are you most looking forward to about next summer and why?
I look forward to working back at Camp DeWolfe ,because I know I’m going to have an awesome time. I also look forward to going on vacations with my family as I enjoy exploring different parts of the world and making new discoveries.
8.What’s your favorite camp core value (community, Christian Formation, Developing Leaders or Natural Setting) and Why?
Being that I myself have attended 2 retreats at Camp DeWolfe through my church , one of my favorite reasons among many is the BEAUTIFUL Natural setting !! Its truly a place where one can revel in Gods creations and become one and be in awe with Nature . People can discover talents or things about yourself that you didn’t know, and at times push yourself to the limits . It enables you to really look inside yourself in a peaceful setting , its a place where I feel truly free and it makes me feel alive ….
9.What’s your dream job/vocation/calling for life?
My dream job would be being a toy designer ! I would LOVE to spend my days thinking up and designing new toys for kids to play with !! I think it would be a really cool job to have ,plus I get to play with them too !! I feel my calling in life is to make as many people laugh , have fun and be happy !! Life is powerful and we should all enjoy being here !