A few highlights from our last few days:
John Mark Scruggs, our camp minister for the summer, brought us an encouraging and gospel centered church service in the morning. John Mark and his wife Caroline, and their 3 young kids, are in residence with us all summer. They reside in Chattanooga where he serves as a campus minister with Reformed University Ministries on the campus of UT-Chattanooga. His primary job here is to be a resource for our staff. They are giving of themselves so we provide someone who can invest in them. He does this through teaching Bible studies and one on one meetings during their off times.
Sunday lunch continues to be a much loved Alpine tradition of baked chicken, green beans, rice and gravy, yeast rolls and Moosetracks ice cream for dessert. Richard Cox gave us our first "scoreboard update" of the term, announcing the point totals for each tribe up to that point. The Mohawks edged out a narrow win in Week 1, with much competition remaining. One little boy, on his Sunday postcard home, simply wrote, "We did it! Mohawks won!!!".
On Sunday afternoon cabins enjoyed a little "family time" together, choosing to go on hikes or play a game as a cabin group. And Richard topped off the afternoon by serving ice cold, freshly sliced watermelon on the athletic field before showers.
Monday morning brought a post breakfast departure for our 2nd year chiefs. In 4 hiking groups, together with their counselors and professional guides from our friends at Higher Ground, they are spending 3 nights and 4 days on the legendary Appalachian Trail. The guides spent Sunday afternoon packing the boys and reviewing essential wilderness skills. I've made this trip, once as a camper, and several times as a staff member. God's creation is on full display. It's challenging at times, and that's what makes it a pinnacle experience. It's a great feeling of accomplishment. But perhaps longer lasting, is the interdependence it teaches boys - part independence but with the help and encouragement and laughter of friends.
Around here, normal activities resumed. Well,except for our 1st Year chiefs (rising 9th graders). Yesterday afternoon, half loaded a bus for a tubing trip on the gently flowing waters of Little River south of us and just below Little River Canyon. The other half made their way uptop to a vacant field just past horseback. Andrew Jakab, our head of Target Sports, awaited with shotguns and clay targets. Under his careful instruction, these boys got a chance to try their hand at skeet shooting. Many commented that it's much harder than it looks! A few impressed the crowd with their expertise from shooting at home.
Our meals are definitely worth reporting today! French toast, bacon, and the fruit and yogurt bar provided the fuel we needed to start our day. As I walked from my office to the dining hall for lunch, boys began yelling to me, "it's chicken fingers, it's chicken fingers". Butter beans and mashed potatoes and the salad bar complimented the entree, along with Alpine famous Shazaam chicken sauce. Tonight it's Taco Tuesday! We'll pass through a buffet offering the usual ground beef, rice, beans, salsa, grated cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips.
We've had some rain over the past 24 hours but most has been at night. It's sprinkled off and on a bit today but nothing that's kept us out of our regular schedule. The warmth and humidity has returned a bit compared to our fall like first week. But even then, it's still cooler than even down the Mountain and definitely most any larger city in the Southeast.
I’m reading a book right now called “The Second Mountain” by David Brooks, New York Times columnist and one of my favorite writers. Brooks argues that the past several generations in America have advanced a very individualistic culture, pursuing freedom from all commitments at all costs. His notion of a “second mountain” is figuring out that true joy exists when lived in service and sacrifice in the context of a community or committed relationship. Brooks: “individualism says, Celebrate independence, but the second mountain hero says, I will celebrate interdependence. I will celebrate the chance to become dependent on those I care for and for them to become dependent on me. Individualism celebrates autonomy;the second mountain celebrates relation.”
At home these sorts of second mountain lessons are certainly imparted to boys by virture of involvement in a family, in school, in sports, in church. But it’s not 24/7 like camp. And to live with someone by choice, essentially (in other words not your family, for whom you don’t really have a choice), requires a great deal of sacrifice. We can’t all get our way all the time. Other boys drive us crazy - and we learn, with the help of our counselors, to bear with that boy. And hopefully go a step further and begin to see that it’s not always only the fault of someone else. We have to look inside and see our shortcomings and how we can change too. That’s what it means to be a good friend and to live in community together. It’s give and take. It’s finding out that sometimes we can derive as much joy by cheering on our friend to victory as having to always be the one in the winner’s circle. It’s using our strengths for the good of the cabin, like pitching in to help a friend make his bed who may not be as “neat”. It’s also being willing to admit weakness and accept help from that same friend (or counselor) even if it might feel a bit vulnerable.
These are things that guys, especially, aren’t always real good at. Camp helps. Thanks for giving your boys this gift. And good night for now,