Camp DeWolfe Blog
My interest in going to camp for the summer started off when a friend from home had told me all about their experience which I had looked into further and started considering applying for. While I was away from home on an exchange student programme in Gothenburg, Sweden, I aimed to do my application while I was studying there, in hope that I would be accepted for a place. Five months went by and I was still unable to complete an application and I found myself asking God whether going to camp was the right thing for my summer. Throughout my years in university, I had my eyes set on a career in the legal profession so continued to wonder whether going to camp, rather than gaining more legal experience or securing a training contract at a law firm, was the wisest decision in my first summer as a law graduate.
Arriving back in the UK in January 2014 with an incomplete camp application, I wasn’t fully settled down at home after being away for five months. However, a month later, I decided to attend the final Camp America Recruitment Fair and what happened that day still surprises me. I tried to finish off my camp application earlier that morning so that I would have something to show to camp employers at the fair, although this meant I was a few hours late. I remember sitting on the train to Westminster preparing my heart for a change of plan away from a summer of filling out applications for my career to a summer in the States. Within the last few years, I’ve held onto Jeremiah 29:11 in the Bible where God promises that He has ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, but plans to give you hope and a future’. I still hold onto this promise to this day and can confidently say He has never failed me. That day at the recruitment fair proved this yet again as it taught me that God always has the best for me. Even after being one of the last people to get to the fair while other camps were packing up, I showed particular interest in the first stall I saw for Camp DeWolfe, and fifteen minutes later and a rather informal (but awesome) chat with Matt and Emma, I managed to secure a place at a camp where I have come to call a second home with a new found family.
It’s amazing what can happen when you fully learn how to get out of your comfort zone and trust God’s leading because even if all the staff had never met before and come from many different cultures and backgrounds, nine weeks pass by and I now call each and every one of them my Camp DeWolfe family. I admit that I have not been fully active with my personal devotions but God has continued to show himself through the many people I have met, both staff and the kids. Throughout my time here at Camp DeWolfe, I have learned that God has put these amazing individuals down my path for me to learn and grow in many different ways that I wouldn’t have expected for this summer. Being a counsellor at Camp DeWolfe has provided for many memories and learning curves that I will always treasure and the feeling of having a new family who have supported me in countless ways can never be replaced. I will forever be thankful for all the people I have come to know and love over the past few months and for the opportunity to contribute to the success of Camp DeWolfe – a place where families and life changing moments are made.
-By Nahum Eustaquio
Summer Camp Counselor and Lifeguard
I’ve been told throughout my life that God has a plan for me and that I should take every opportunity given to me by God. God chose me to work at Camp DeWolfe, to share his message, show his love and I believe to make me a better and more developed person. I am now a different person from when I arrived, before I came I lacked confidence and wasn’t willing to make a fool out of myself. I doubted myself, lacked confidence in myself as a leader, in my skilled area and worried about connecting with the children on a personal level which is where you can actually make a difference. Looking back to when I signed up for Camp DeWolfe I believed I was just coming here because it sounded like a great thing to do, whereas God had a whole other plan.
These past two months have really helped me distinguish who I really am and who society wants me to be. Here at camp everyone is so different and wonderfully unique that no one is forced to be a certain way because its cooler or judged because you’re different. This allowed me to open up about my life and let people closer to me than ever before. I grew in confidence when I felt comfortable with the team I had around me and I noticed the progress I had made in the last session of camp. In the first session of camp I struggled being authoritative and in one particular archery class I had to call for my unit leader to help me. I felt I couldn’t teach the archery class on my own and needed a more respected leader to keep them in line. Even though I had the ability to run this class, I doubted my leadership skills and that held me back when the children needed a leader. However, I learned from this, and I can now run a class with ease and I’m not afraid to lead a group of children on my own anymore. My archery lessons got better each day, I came up with a new way of teaching which suited me and introduced new games and ideas to make the lesson more fun. It’s funny that a moment of struggle could actually lead to a better outcome.
As the weeks went by I was continuously growing in confidence, I was taking part in skits and singing with the worship band in chapel, leading silly songs and leading volleyball. I never thought I’d feel so comfortable and at home here. I find myself thinking that if God had planned these months at Camp DeWolfe and they were this amazing, I can’t wait to see what else God has planned for me. God has created a second family for me full of amazing lifetime friends, and I really hope that the children have been impacted at Camp DeWolfe like the experience has impacted me.
-By Bethany Pitt, (Summer Camp Counselor)
In February of this year, I began my journey to Camp DeWolfe, a journey that can only be described as the best I have ever embarked upon. Admittedly, I was very nervous coming to camp, so much so that even fellow counselors noticed it at Heathrow Airport. I suppose I was nervous for various reasons, but mainly because I was unsure that summer camp was right for me or even coming to the US was a good move especially when I have a lot on at home such as university. However, I am confident when I say that coming to Camp DeWolfe this summer was the best decision I ever made!!
Immediately when I came to camp I knew it was for me. Living in London is certainly different from being out here! The natural setting looking out to the Long Island Sound is something I’ll never forget and something I hope to return to next summer. The natural setting is something that we are very proud of at Camp DeWolfe and for many of the young campers it is what they talk about at night.
I genuinely am adamant that the work that is done at Camp DeWolfe is brilliant. This was evident from speaking to some of the parents who got in touch with us weeks after their child had gone back home, saying that their child misses camp so much and can’t wait until next summer as well as seeing some campers who have returned 5,6,7 and even 8 summers!!
This camp genuinely makes an impact on the lives of those who come here, whether it is campers or even the staff who are blessed to work in such an environment such as this.
This summer was brilliant. I learned a lot about myself and my calling in life which I am adamant is to work with children!!
Next summer I plan to come back!!
-By Anthony O’Reilly
(Summer Camp Counselor, Motorboat Driver and Rocketry Instructor)
Deciding to return to Camp DeWolfe this summer was not a hard decision; the experience I had during summer 2013 was completely amazing and I was at a good position in my life to be able to spend another fulfilling summer as a camp counselor. I was unsure of what it would be like, returning and experiencing camp again with new people, but I was excited to be back; camp in general has always been the place I have felt closest to God in my life, ever since I first went to camp in England when I was fourteen.
I saw God in all aspects of camp this summer – campers being open to new experiences and emotions, overcoming fears at the challenge course, and everyone at camp becoming a family. I also experienced God in our chapel time, one evening especially, when we brought chapel down to the Long Island Sound. The setting was beautiful, just before sunset, and after worship around the campfire (in a circle big and round) we thought about and wrote on a rock something that needed healing, which we then threw into the sea, releasing our burdens to God. It felt very freeing.
This was one of the highlights of my summer and many of my other highs were also spent by the Long Island Sound; I had so much fun going sailing for the first time with two of my campers (even though we capsized and turtled the sailboat!) and spending cabin night doing a beach scavenger hunt with two of the girls cabins was great too. We really are so blessed to have such an incredible setting here at camp and it’s one of the things I will miss most when I am back in the UK.
I believe that coming back to Camp DeWolfe was a choice given to me by God, and I am really glad I decided to return this summer. I learned so much from working with the people I met last year, which I think helped me become a better counselor and leader this year. The people I have met have impacted me in many ways and I know I have a family here at camp which will last a lifetime.
-By Bethan Rowsby
(Returning Camp Counselor and Climbing Instructor)
Co-leading Christian Formation at Camp DeWolfe this summer was an unexpected gift full of growth, new friendships, beautiful scenery, and spending time in God’s presence. I loved planning the worship services: getting to preach and orchestrate activities that integrated what we were learning in concrete and creative ways. In the evenings I rotated between girl’s cabins for devotions, where I entered an intimate space of sharing and informal “prayers of examine”–recounting our daily highs, lows, and how we saw God.
The kids continually amazed me with their insights, absorption of material, and resilience. They came from all over New York, each with their own unique life story. One day in chapel we read Psalm 23 and talked about how God walks with us in both the peaks and valleys. That evening we made timelines of our lives, with “Alpha” and “Omega” written at the beginning and end to help us visually see how our stories are enfolded in the greater story of God. Some kids drew curves or jagged lines to signify how they experienced particular seasons, others drew illustrations or alternated colors. As I walked through the room, the kids busy at work in groups on the floor of the chapel, I was struck by how much they had already been through. Kids had lost parents, family members, and friends. Some had already gone through significant illnesses. They had witnessed divorces, marriages, and remarriages. A handful had been bullied. Several were impacted by suicide. They marked important events like finishing a grade in school, being confirmed or baptized, being part of a special performance, or the birth of a sibling. When we gathered together to process our work, they shared their stories with pride, tears, loss, residual confusion, gratitude, and celebration. The first leg of their journeys already included the trappings of a lifetime.
As I conclude my summer on the East Coast, I am struck by what a formative role this experience has played in my own journey. It pushed me to take all the things I’ve accumulated–the things I am proud of, still cause confusion, evoke gratitude, prick deep-seated loss, and release joyful celebration–and let it be used to tell a greater story. One where we can name our peaks and valleys everyday, and with the same breath name how God was present.
-By Christina Miller
Christian Formation Leader 2014
Last night we took advantage of our amazing location and headed down to the Sound to have chapel on the beach. We sat in a big circle around a bonfire (fortunately for us one of our LIT leaders, Andrew, is a former boy scout), brought guitars and drums, and spent time worshipping. The lights in Connecticut were just starting to emerge as night fell, reminding me of a summer I spent on the Sea of Galilee and the way Tarsus sparkled at night across the water’s short distance.
We began with a story about Jesus on that very Sea of Galilee, not unlike our quiet stretch of shore on Long Island, being commissioned to heal two different women. One had suffered from a hemorrhage for 12 years, and the other was a 12-year-old girl who Jesus raised back to life. Both women were in very different situations in life, yet both had tangible needs for Jesus’ healing. I reflected that we often carry things with us that God wants to heal, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual. For some of us we have carried pain for a long time, like the hemorrhaging woman bleeding internally and unable to find a cure. But we worship a resurrected Christ, and just like Jesus raised a young girl from the dead, God wants to bring life to every aspect of our beings.
I then instructed everyone to disperse along the beach, find a rock, and write something on it that needs healing. It could be someone’s name, an illness, a painful life event, or a feeling. Then I instructed everyone to take their rocks and throw them in the water, releasing our burdens to God’s care.
We scattered along the water’s edge, busy evaluating rocks of different shapes, textures, and sizes. I found several with smooth white surfaces and wrote the names of things I was carrying inside myself. I watched each stone sink under the weight of the ocean, enveloped into something larger and more mysterious.
As we gathered back around the fire we shared the things we had written. One camper named her sick grandmother, another his sibling going away to college, another a sense of guilt at her parent’s divorce. We listened quietly to one another’s burdens, the embers burning low and warm around cool shell-laden sand. Then one camper reflected that throwing his rock felt like a weight being lifted off his shoulders. Another said watching it go in the water gave her a sense that God was taking care of the things she had written. Another said it felt cleansing. And another said it provoked sadness, because she loved the people she had named and didn’t want to let go of them.
We thanked God for being present in all our cares and burdens, and entrusted God to safeguard and carry the things we had surrendered. Then we packed up our instruments and shuffled campers up the steep stairs leading back to camp. I trailed behind with a boys’ cabin, who was theatrically sharing the remnants of last night’s ghost story, complete with ominous whispers and screams. “We should do this every night,” William said coming alongside me, “To really enjoy where we are.” Then catching sight of the chapel’s broad window just above us, facing onto the still moonlit water, he added, “Well, the chapel’s really nice too. I guess we should just do both.” I smiled with a deep sense of gratitude and contentment, unburdened of the grievances I carried, made expansive for the abundance of life stirring around me.
-By Christina Miller, Christian Formation Leader
Several years ago a close friend of mine gathered people together to eat a Passover meal. He came from a Jewish-Italian family and wanted to share this tradition that played a significant part in communicating his religious history. He spent the day carefully selecting and cooking dishes and arranging them on the table in an act of labor and love. When it came time to eat, I remember loving how it involved so many fascists of learning: the strong flavors and aromas, textures, and history and prayers accompanied by tactile objects. It helped me engage in the story of the Israelites being led out of captivity in Egypt in a new way, and let me taste their hard earned freedom through remembering and celebrating alongside those I cared about.
When I came across a biblical story revolving around the Passover for one of my teachings this week, I decided it was the perfect opportunity for the campers to be invited to their very own Passover meal.
I began by telling about the time Jesus accompanied his parents to travel from their hometown in Nazareth to the temple in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. After eight days of ceremonies, good food, and reconnecting with family and friends, they set out to return home. But to his parents’ shock, after a full day of traveling, they realized they had forgotten twelve-year-old Jesus! Many hands shot up when I asked if anyone had ever gotten lost in the grocery store (it’s helpful to know even the holy family had the occasional parenting mishap). But upon returning to the temple, Mary and Joseph found Jesus busy going about his Father’s business: sitting among religious teachers, teaching adults who were amazed by his knowledge and understanding.
We often only think of Jesus as a grown-up traveling from town to town performing miracles and speaking to crowds, but Jesus was already actively engaging his call when he was only twelve-years-old. He came from a long line of young people God called and used, including kings, prophets, and pastors like Samuel, Jeremiah, David, and Timothy. In the same way, each of our campers have important things to say and ways God can use them even while they are young.
With this Passover story fresh in their minds, I invited them to break up into groups and have picnics on the chapel floor. We began by saying a prayer over our cups of grape juice to acknowledge God’s provision, “Blessed are you, our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.” Then dipped celery sticks in bowls of salt water, something that is out of the ordinary and provokes questions. Then we broke our loaves of bread in half, reminding us of how hard the Israelites worked as slaves in Egypt. We ate horseradish and cilantro to taste the bitterness of slavery, which was accompanied by some bitter cries and laments in the group! Then combined it with the bread and (to everyone’s relief) chocolate, creating a consistency like the mortar used to make bricks. The unleavened bread represented how quickly the Israelites left Egypt, not having time to let their bread rise, and the chocolate symbolized the sweetness of their final escape.
This activity had the campers talking well into devotions that evening, some horrified that I had introduced them to such terrible tasting food as horseradish. I sat on the floor of the younger girl’s cabin delighted, looking at their sour moaning faces, realizing in a small way they had tasted the story of God delivering people out of insurmountable hardship into a new life, and knowing these would be the voices who will keep recounting the measures of God’s faithfulness.
-Written By Christina Miller, The Christian Formation Leader at Camp DeWolfe
A couple nights ago I was excited to introduce our campers to one of my favorite spiritual practices: prayer journaling. I told them that they could talk to God through writing about their days, feelings, things they needed, and concerns about loved ones. In fact, they could write about anything, knowing that it is a sacred and respectful place between themselves and God. They selected a colorful piece of paper, wrapped it around white pages, and stapled the sheets together. Then they decorated the outsides of their books with their names and designs, and spent a little time talking to God.
When we all gathered together after the activity, I asked the campers to share what they had written. Some wrote words of gratitude, others told God about what they had done that day at camp, one boy voiced a complaint, and some wrote about their new friendships. Then Simeon shot up his long gangly arm and asked, “How do we know what God says back?”
This posed a very valid question, when you talk to someone normally they have something to say in response! I reflected that it is important to also listen to God and asked some of the ways they heard God speak. They quickly answered that they heard God through nature, other people, having their requests answered, or feeling better after they prayed.
Simeon looked a little perplexed, as if all this talking was fine but distracting from the obvious solution. “So why don’t we listen right now?” he asked pragmatically. We agreed that this was a good idea, so we closed our eyes, quieted ourselves, and listened.
It was a particularly windy night in Wading River. We sat in stillness—a roomful of 7 to12 year olds, counselors, and staff—with the howling wind sweeping against the chapel and stirring up the trees outside. After a few minutes I asked what everyone had heard.
Zoe, one of our youngest and returning campers, said God thanked her for what she had written in her journal. Two boys said they asked God something personal and God answered them “no” through hearing the wind outside. Sophia said God told her God was capable of doing everything she had written in her book.
As each person shared I was reminded of a valuable truth. God is always with us and speaking to us whether it is in the ferocious hurricane winds, pages of our journal, or in a still small voice. Sometimes it just takes asking, “Why not listen right now?” to recognize God in the present moment.
As we approach the half way mark in our time at camp, may we find ways to listen—right now—and discover the many things God has to say. And may we be surprised, directed, and delighted by what we hear.
I started chocking up before camp even began. During check-ins I was assigned the nurse’s station, where I greeted families and called them in one-by-one to make sure they were healthy and ready for their summer activities. One camper, Noah, came up to me with a bright smile on his face. I asked him what he was excited about this year and he said enthusiastically, “Everything.” Then in a thoughtful voice he added, “I just feel so safe here.” I was completely caught off guard, a feeling I’ve had continually this week as our first round of kids amaze me with their hearts and awareness of God.
In chapel we have explored the different roles of Jesus. We talked about Jesus as God with us, Jesus as teacher, Jesus as friend, and Jesus as Savior. In our first session I asked the kids if God is always with us and was met with an emphatic chorus of “YES!” “Is there anytime God isn’t with us? What about when you’re sleeping?” I challenged them. “NO! He never leaves us!” they shouted back at me. Nalyssa raised her hand and said, “God is always with us because the Bible says he will never leave us or forsake us.” It was such a clear concept to our 7 to 11 year old campers, and a profound reminder of God’s nearness to me as I get older and am prone to forget.
Last night we talked about what it means to serve each other as friends. We talked about the ways Jesus served his friends, and how Jesus offers us things that no other friendship can. Some of the kids said Jesus gives them unconditional love, forgiveness, never leaves, and doesn’t judge us. Then we went to the back of the room to take turns washing each other’s feet. There was a loud cry of protest when this activity was presented! I wasn’t sure if some of the kids would even leave their seats! But when the activity began, I was amazed to see kids and counselors kneeling in front of each other and carefully scrubbing away the dirt accumulated from their day. Ava pushed back her messy blonde hair and asked me to sit down. She evaluated the bottoms of my sandy, grass stained feet, assessed my rough calluses, and then meticulously washed between each of my toes with a bar of soap. I have never enjoyed the feeling of clean feet so much. That night when I joined a girl’s cabin for devotions, Tyne closed us in prayer saying, “Thank you God for one of the funniest experiences I’ve had tonight in chapel.”
This week has been full of new friendships, risk-taking, valiant competition, learning new skills, a few tears and cases of homesickness, and lots of silly giggling. I have enjoyed seeing campers’ artwork, gaining confidence in swimming, working together in games and races, bonding with their counselors, and sharing thoughts and stories with each other. As our time together comes to a close tomorrow, I hope each of our campers will take all of their experiences home with them—the challenging, fun, profound, and funniest—knowing that God is going with them. But then again, maybe they should be telling me that.
What a great opening day at Camp DeWolfe where we welcomed our 2014 Explorer Camp Campers and their families! All the kids were filled with excitement as counselors greeted them to their cabins. It was off to the swimming pool when they said their goodbyes to their parents and a great meal made by the Dining Hall Team to warm their stomachs for a full night of fun and rest. Campfire marshmallow roasting and night time prayer and devotions all settled them in for a bright and fun day of greeting our Day Campers today! The whole Camp DeWolfe community wants to welcome all children and thank the families and communities that have brought them here! It’s going to be a great summer!
“And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.” (Isaiah 54:13)