Camp DeWolfe Blog
Working at Camp Dewolfe has been the most rewarding experience. I never expected a summer to change my outlook on life so much; I feel I have become more mature, more content in my faith and confident in my abilities.
I remember being so nervous the few days leading up to coming to camp. It seemed such a long time to commit myself to staying at camp, away from home. However as soon as I pulled up to Benson house and saw the stunning view of the sound behind, I knew I had made the right decision. I was made to feel so welcome, and I instantly gelled with all the staff. I have spent 24/7 with these colleges, I’ve shared hilarious moments with them, shared my deepest thoughts, made many memories, they have become friends I will always treasure.
While at camp I have had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful campers. I have enjoyed participating in evening games with them, teaching them new skills and learning about their views on their faith. At Camp DeWolfe I have learnt so much about God. I feel like I have learnt to appreciate gods creations. I can see God in all of the campers and staff here at Camp. I believe Camp DeWolfe has really strengthened my faith, it’s made me feel a more positive and strong person. I have really enjoyed this summer, I feel very blessed that God brought me to meet so many amazing people.
-By Megan Jones
I arrived at camp not quite knowing what to expect, joining a program I had not previously done and preparing to lead two brand new activity areas at Camp DeWolfe. Staff training helped me to settle in quickly though and through the team building exercises and various courses undertaken by staff a strong and purposeful community was formed ready for the campers to join! Explorer camp began and was a wonderful start to the camp season, the preparations for my fishing activity began to bear fruit at last and I had a cabin full of excited children, I quickly realized that patience was going to be a key attribute over the next few weeks.
Following Explorer camp, Discovery began as did my second and third activity areas, wilderness and rocketry. I quickly realized that explorer was a taster of the fun to come and loved leading my extra classes. Telling stories and sharing my experience of the wilderness with campers was wonderful and they all loved building and launching their rockets. After two weeks of camp everyone was shattered but the three week adventure camp was on the horizon and before long we were thrown back in again! Adventure camp proved to be just as challenging as the previous two and just as much fun, the extra third week also really enabled us to form closer bonds with campers.
Throughout the three camps I have been privileged to work in the community that shone bright and was always commented on by visitors, campers quickly felt at home and made the most of their time here with the incredible staff. As well as sharing my experiences with the campers it was wonderful to see them develop in activity areas, especially fishing where they weren’t quite sure what to expect at first but by the end of the week campers were pros and loved to fish! Another highlight for me was being shadowed by LIT’s in my activity areas, they worked hard, showed respect and never complained, it was fantastic to see the way they grew and developed over the five weeks they spent at camp and really showed themselves to be young leaders.
Finally, the most special thing I will take away from camp is the bonds I formed with staff members and campers, sharing our lives with one another, working together and supporting each other really bought the camp community together and I am very sad to be leaving Camp DeWolfe 2015.
-By Jonty Townson
During the Summer of 2015, I was blessed to be apart of a Christian Camp. Through Camp DeWolfe I learned so many things; not only about camp, but also about myself. I now know that I can take charge and be a leader. In my life previous to being a camp counselor, I never stepped forward to do things simply because I was afraid of being the center of attention. Now, I am always eager to lead and set a good example; not only for campers, but also for my fellow colleagues who need the motivation. I have learned how to experience God through nature, which I have never deemed possible for the simple fact that I am never around nature, and I was a bit afraid of it too. God’s creations are something special. Developing a closer relationship with God while being in the midst of all his creations is overwhelming and simply heartfelt.
This summer, I was a climbing instructor and it is something I can take away forever. As well as being the one of the most enjoyable activities at camp, I got to see campers crack their shell. I witnessed campers of all ages come to the challenge course and take responsibility in so many different ways. Starting with volunteering in simple games, to challenging games, teaching others how to put their harnesses and helmets on, going over safety rules, and those that uplifted others any time they were nervous to climb. Seeing young kids raise each other’s spirits, even for people they didn’t know or just met made me the happiest counselor alive. I saw God through all campers in their own ways. So many lifelong friendships were made this summer and I am the luckiest person to have witnessed it. I myself have met so many incredible, loving, people and I couldn’t be happier. This is one of the most impacting, hardest, yet rewarding summers of my life. My faith has been sealed this summer and I believe I am a different person than I was 8 weeks ago walking into this place.
I am beyond thankful for summer 2015 at Camp DeWolfe.
By Miriam Ekeson
Camp Counselor from St Gabriel’s Church in Hollis Queens
As I prepare for my final batch of campers to pack their bags and return home tomorrow, I think back to their first days at camp, as I do at the end of every session. I remember them bounding into the cabin, claiming the much sought-after top bunks, unloading their clothes, and beginning to make camp their home, whether for the first time or the fifth. I got to watch as strangers became acquaintances and then friends, the quietest campers break slowly out of their shells, and be a part of the bond that can only happen when you put nine young women in a cabin together for a few weeks. I never cease to be amazed by the growth I am witness to over a camp session. In my drama classes, I got to see kids who would barely speak the first lesson have the rest of the class in stitches of laughter by the end from their performances. As a lifeguard, I saw kids who could barely doggy paddle swim confident laps across the pool. In cabin devos, I saw my girls’ relationship with God grow deeper as they learned more about their faith and understand what it means to live life trying to be like Christ. These moments make up for every bit of exhaustion, fatigue, and frustration I feel over the course of a camp session.
But as camp draws to a close, I not only think of my campers’ growth, but of my own. I remember the days before the campers arrived, when I wondered to myself, do I know what I’m doing? What if I don’t know what to say or do? I remember seeing my very first camper sprinting with her suitcase to the cabin, and thinking oh boy, here we go. But I immediately discovered that my fears were for naught. I had no reason to worry about being unprepared. Though working with children is challenging, I found that I knew more than I thought I did about interacting with them, and maintaining authority while being a friendly figure. I went from a quiet counselor to one who was able to lead a session on pirate lingo during Discovery camp’s pirate-themed weekend. I went from nervously twirling my whistle by the pool to one of the most confident lifeguards. I discovered a nearly limitless supply of energy to maintain enthusiasm and positive energy among the campers even when I myself was tired. Midway through Adventure, I was even awarded Counselor of the Week, something I certainly could not have earned at the beginning of camp. I could not be more grateful for the growth this summer has given me, and am excited for what my future with Camp DeWolfe holds!
By Kayleigh Stewart
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