The Summer Camp Effect
It’s the summer after fifth grade, and at 10 years old, I head off to “Cowboy Camp” at Pine Springs Ranch in California. I’ve never been away from home and I’m so excited that I choose to stay in a wagon, an old western kind of wagon with no bathroom. I’m roughing it. My horse’s name is Minga. She is a paint horse and I love learning all things horse related. I’m nervous and excited all at the same time, but the sounds of nature, the fresh air, my awesome counselor and the rest of my “wagon mates” give me so much comfort and joy. I don’t really miss home, and my sister is also at camp, so I see her throughout the day. The animated summer camp staff are full of energy, singing fun songs, doing skits and teaching us about Jesus. I never forget this awesome memory.
In the early 2000s, I’m attending college at Southwestern Adventist University and the opportunity arises to work at a summer camp. Immediately excited, I jump at the chance and work at Camp Kulaqua in Florida for two years, and then at Nameless Valley Ranch in Texas for two years. Both experiences are so different but very rewarding. I grow as a person, not just in maturity, realizing that I have these kids under my care, but also spiritually as I can see that they all come from different walks of life and have lots of questions and doubts. They absorb everything and often seek guidance. It gives me a whole different perspective on the importance of summer camp. I witness so many kids give their lives to Christ in baptism. There are all sorts of activities for the kids to choose from and special moments where you, as a cabin, can come together and bond. Working at summer camp is something I cherish forever.
This summer, I’m a mother of two super energetic boys, ages 10 and 7. I come across a flyer for Lake Whitney Ranch Summer Camp promoting a combo week for Cub Camp and Jr. Camp. Although the boys have never been away from home, aside from sleepovers with family, I think it is perfect for them since they can go on the same week. I am a bit nervous about the younger one because of his age and his preference to be around others, but after discussing it as a family we are all very excited at the prospect. We decide they will bunk in separate cabins so they can each have their own experience. They are both comforted with the fact that they are able to see each other, and their cousin, at meal times and worship at the firebowl. They make new friends and run into familiar faces. They have amazing counselors who are fun, spiritual, empathetic and responsible—everything a parent would hope for. When we pick them up, there are so many stories, chants, songs and experiences to tell that they almost burst at the seams. It makes my momma heart so happy to see that they have become a little more independent, learned more about Jesus’ amazing love and said they want to go back next summer.
Summer camp has been a part of these three stages in my life. I lived it, worked it and encouraged my own children to experience it. I praise God for the opportunity and sacrifices that were made in order for me to have this experience. It is a privilege to pass this gift on to my children. I hope they will attend for years to come and pray that one day they may have the opportunity to work as staff and be a light to those around them. May it be a tradition that reciprocates throughout the generations and impacts the kingdom of Heaven. Summer Camp for life!
By Krystal Alba.
Alba lives in Alvarado, Texas, with her husband, Nathaniel, and their two sons, Kian and Elian.