In April the atmosphere at Camp tingled with anticipation of the upcoming busy season, and it’s hard to believe we’re now almost two months in, June halfway gone. An awesome Outdoor Ed season in the books, summer camps are here! As you may have seen on Facebook, leadership staff arrived about three weeks ago, the rest of summer staff the week before last, and this past week we welcomed high school campers. Watching the Camp family grow and getting to know the new members is exciting and inspiring. We’re incredibly fortunate to be working alongside these amazing people, and wanted to share a little about them with all of you who may not have a chance to meet them. If you do bring your camper/s to Friedenswald or attend as a camper yourself, we’d encourage you to take the time to talk with them a little. We couldn’t make summer camps happen without them.
Our leadership team is already doing an awesome job of making sure things run smoothly this season. Elsie Koop Liechty will be leading activities, Lydia Chappell Deckert heading up the waterfront, and Jill Steinmetz and Abigail Greaser leading worship. All four have a history with Camp, as both campers and staff. Individually and as a team they bring many talents and interests, including fluency in Spanish and American Sign Language, running (even in the pouring rain), creativity (ask them about printmaking, watercolor, and graphic design), experience with other cultures, and an impressive capacity to lead, adapt, and inspire. You can ask Elsie about her memories from India or Cambodia, Jill about her plans for moving to Honduras in August, and Lydia about her years in Colombia while her family served with MCC.
We’re also excited to have two MCC International Volunteer Exchange Program participants on staff for the summer. IVEP is a year-long program for young, Christian adults that annually places 60 volunteers from 25 countries in a range of service positions worldwide. The focus is typically on peacemaking and cross-cultural understanding, and participants may be placed anywhere from schools to farms to retirement communities (read more about the program here). Wai Phonesamay is here from Laos; ask him about his memories growing vegetables on the riverbank and swimming in the river with his grandparents. Zury Lemus is here from Honduras, and over the past ten months has worked in ten different states and two countries. Both are looking forward to the growth that Camp will bring for them this summer.
There are 16 other summer staff members, plus additional volunteers, and each of them will contribute in their own unique way to Camp’s ministry. We have staff from Goshen College, Bluffton University, Eastern Mennonite University, University of Iowa, Allegheny College, and several recent graduates; we have folks studying math, chemistry, music, TESOL, biochemistry, writing, graphic design, theater, communications, physics, peace building, computer science, Spanish, social work, and music education. There are runners, frisbee-players, disc-golf fans, many lovers of music, one self-identified hummus-eater, a professional pianist and juggler, artists and crafters, spikeballers, guitar players, ukulele players, photographers, a quidditch player (ask Payton how the game works without flying broomsticks), and multiple animal lovers.
Some bring ambitious personal goals for the summer in addition to striving to make a positive impact on Camp guests: Elizabeth Nisly wants to run all the way around the lake, Lydia (Chappell Deckert) is determined to touch the diving board from the water – a feat some say is impossible now that the dock is a little higher – and Luke Rush wants to score 18 in disc golf. And … if each member of our summer staff were magically transformed into a pinata, they would offer an eclectic array of surprises upon being broken open: sunshine, candy, money, and teddy bears, among other things sure to bring joy to the pinata party guests.
This determination to spread joy and love to others is one of the most impressive, and most unifying, qualities of our summer staff. Many of the summer staff decided to join us at Camp for the season because they grew up attending a camp – several of them Camp Friedenswald – and have camp memories that they hold dear; a common goal among staffers is to ensure that others have the same memory-making opportunities. The beach and lake have been especially meaningful places of fellowship and peace, as have Inspiration Point and campfire. In every case fond memories center around connection – with others, with one’s self, with the natural world, and with God. All are looking forward to making Camp a wonderful place for the approximately 500 campers that will participate in summer programs, and to the relationships that are sure to develop and deepen as everyone shares the Summer Camp experience. We consider ourselves blessed to work alongside such an incredible group over the next several weeks.