SMAC Camp ‘11

There is no better time to be doing this than at 4:30am after my long slumber since 9pm. This year our church had a 5 day camp instead of the standard 3 days (or 2 days and a bit really). Likewise our 5-day camp was about 3 full days and two half days; it’s still quite a long camp. I think I’ll condense everything into one post so I’ll keep things brief.

 

This will be different from other posts I’ve ever put up for camp before this time round, the camp was made more for other people rather than for me. That is to say, I was more a contributor to this camp than a consumer. My primary objective for this camp as a youth leader was to look after the youth, get to know them better and to facilitate their learning of God’s Word. So this time round, I think I’ll recount camp from a leaders’ perspective even though it’s easier to do it from a participant’s point of view.

 

Contents

1. Thursday
2. Friday
3. Saturday
4. Sunday
5. Monday

Thursday

I was really exhausted and stressed coming into this camp on Thursday night. I had spent the full day at uni for class and campus ministry; spent the afternoon dealing with the seminar I had to prepare for camp. Our rear guard car (since we were the last ones to arrive on Thursday night) consisted of me, Jacky, Quentin and Athena; all of us were put under the same circumstances of needing to do something intellectually “rewarding” otherwise known as class (or tutoring/study). so we only managed to set off from our homes at 7:00pm-ish. Our first pit stop was Hong Kong de Cafe because we all needed to have dinner. Seemed quite unreasonable for camp to not provide dinner the first night, considering how everyone else was arriving there in the afternoon. We weren’t about to be shaken from having a decent meal. As a result we ended up getting to camp at 10pm, luckily there wasn’t any traffic along the way. Car trips are always a good time to have good conversation.

 

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150170478967362

 

Pretty much went straight to bed as soon as we got there. Sadly I was in the same room as my youth group boys, who were quite energetic for the first night of camp. We probably made the sad mistake of bringing our nerf guns to camp because our boys were messing around with them all night long, well until 12:30am at least. It wasn’t a pleasant first night, also considering how Jie snores. I’m a really light sleeper so it affects me greatly.

 

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Friday

The next morning, things were quite groggy for me. Getting only 4-5 hours for sleep the first night, coupled with roughly the same amount the night before really makes for a bad start to camp. Luckily there’s this thing called coffee for breakfast. I probably wouldn’t have made it past camp without that substance. Can’t remember what we had for breakfast or what we ate for most meals. I think we were really blessed to have Loretta’s parents there cooking for us over those 4-5 days. Few people really would give up their Easter long weekend to cook for a bunch of Asian kids, but we’re really glad that they could help. And as always, Asian parents never go wrong with food; so there was never any fear that the food would be bad or anything. I remember there was a large variety of food served over the days of camp, which is why I can’t remember them all.

 

For the three full days, the general routine of the day was this:

8:00am – Breakfast
9:00am – Morning session
11:00am – Morning tea
11:30am – Bible Study groups
1:00pm – Lunch
3:00pm – Group game
6:00pm – Dinner
7:30pm – Seminar
10:30pm – Lights out

 

Of course there would be some free time between everything thing; most of the free time was in the afternoon. The hard part of all of this is that our free time was spent preparing things for the rest of camp. There wasn’t really any time for me to relax at camp. Today’s free time alone was spent on preparing the seminar for night, I’ll get to that soon.

 

Morning Session

Our morning sessions were chaired by William, who did really well at adopting a charismatic attitude and tone to play out the theme of camp. He pretty well at shouting and making things as formal as he could; though he gradually relaxed to a normal church service tone as the week progressed. Music was done quite simply: one singer (Sharon) and one pianist (Phoebe), quite effective. It’s probably better to cut back on instruments than to put too much personnel into music. Won’t sound as amazing without other instruments but it’s still pretty effective.

 

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All the talks were done by our youth pastor, rather than a guest speaker. And this was kind of disappointing seeing as we always hear from our pastor every week on Sunday. However, it really was difficult finding another speaker who was willing to give up 5 days of their week to go to someone else’s church camp; they would have been giving up their Easter/Anzac long weekend and the chance to relax and spend time with their family. Our pastor gave a series of good talks over the week so we weren’t disappointed at all.

 

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Our topic for camp this year is justification. To save time I won’t really go over what it’s about but it was generally thinking about how justification, and justice, fit into God’s plan for salvation for mankind. All the leaders should have covered it at some point, probably during uni so it was more for the newer Christians to understand what it is about.

 

Bible Study Groups

After our morning sessions we moved into our Bible Study groups. Although I only had about half my usual group there at camp, we have a lot of good constructive discussion, as long as they learn stuff it’s all good. The good thing is that the nerf guns which were the bane of my sleep last night, turned out to be very useful. We used the nerf gun to play Russian Roulette. For those who aren’t familiar with it, we loaded the gun with one foam bullet, and spun it on a table. The person that it points at picks the gun up and shoots himself. If he “dies” then in this context we make them share something they learnt from the talk. So I guess for all you youth leaders out there, consider using this as a way to get your kids to share.

 

Our group stuck to the pre-written studies most of the time, but they also had their own personal questions about the talk, so there were many times where I decided we investigate the question they asked, rather than do the pre-written study. I tend to do that a lot haha, but then our boys had their questions answered and clarified which is more important than teaching them what we’re supposed to teach them.

 

I think my group become more open to answering questions with more complex answers and responses, which showed they were thinking. They started getting used to the way each other thinks so for once we actually had good flowing discussion where everyone was building on each others’ ideas; that was really encouraging to see. Of course some of them still trail off topic here and there, but that’s natural, they’re only year 10-11. I’m proud of the things they asked and the conclusions they were able to reach.

 

Games

Our camp organisers had some interesting group games for everyone to play each day. Just one big game each day. We played in the same teams each day and it gave us a chance to get to know other people better. For the first day we played a giant version of monopoly deal. The interesting changes where that the property cards were changed into people, so everyone had a card of themselves, with a photo that was taken prior to camp, which was placed on a different coloured background, just like the different colours properties. in the original game. All action cards that allowed the stealing of properties involved an extra challenge (physical or mental) before the stealing could take place, which was fair. There is one whacked up video of such a challenge here:

 

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150170963897362

 

The objective of the game was to collect three sets of three (nine cards in total), cose to what the original game’s goal was. The game moved quite slowly but it was pretty fun. I had fun “activating trap cards”. Couldn’t find anything better so just watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Wyn1nH8XZ4

 

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To sort of hide this next little section amidst everything else, I think I should also address the behind-the-scenes when it comes to coming up with ideas for these games. I reckon the hardest part in designing games for anything is “balancing issues”. These include rules that not only run the game but also prevent people from finding loop holes in the games; and then you also have scoring issues if the game has a winner and a loser. It really sucks to have good group games spoiled at the end with a simple “But that’s not fair! They cheated!” or something like that, I know I’m a culprit of that haha. But then again, coming up with completely original games is hard enough as is; to make the game perfect in terms of rules and stuff would just take too much effort. Clearly the game above took a lot of effort just from first glance at all the cards and such. It just wouldn’t be worth it spending more effort “balancing” the game; for a Christian camp, that effort would’ve been better spent on improving the important parts of camp (eg: the Bible Studies). But that’s my impression as a leader, and my excuse to not put 110% into games for youth group haha.

 

Night Session

Every night we had a different activity at night. The first two nights were seminars and the last night was a performance night. Anyway, I was really anxious about Friday night’s seminar, mainly because me and Nat were the ones going to run it, and we weren’t exactly ready or finished in time. Well we did, but it was a bit rushed and too much stuff was going round my head with uni and all. Our seminar was on trying to encourage our youth group kids to have more godly conversations at church because they just seem to have a culture of chatting about random stuff and not really using the time wisely to build each other up in Christ.

 

Writing the seminar was extremely difficult for me; I’m not sure how things were on my co-leader’s end. The main problem for me was that I was writing on a topic I wasn’t familiar or sure about. For example, if you’re not a Christian and you don’t believe in Christianity, then obviously it will be hard for you to talk about Christianity. So for our topic of changing the culture of conversation at our church, I was really clueless as to how we would actually achieve it. I literally made up a lot of stuff; I mean, I vaguely had an idea on what I wanted to encourage the youth in but I wasn’t sure of how to best present it. I eventually came up with something I called the “4 C’s of Conversation”, I think I’ll blog it up some time later. Essentially I thought that our conversation should be guided by four criteria (starting with C):

1. Caring
2. Constructive
3. Centered Around the Other Person
4. Continuous

Why are there four? Because I was only able to come up with four. Anyway apart from just that section, we had a few key passages to look at, such as Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 13. We also had a lot of brainstorming sessions which seemed pretty good cos all our kids contributed a lot. And at the end we had some role plays done by the other leaders so the kids could see what was good or bad about each conversation. As something extra, yes Brandon I know I said I would try to base this seminar off of yours, but somehow things turned out like this. One thing led to another and I’m really glad we managed to pull off the seminar, it had me worrying heaps. I think I really do need to sit down and write up more articles for future seminars and what not.

 

I retired on Thursday night after the seminar; well, after another 1.5 hours of watching random anime. There was no snoring that night, which was good for me.

 

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Saturday

Saturday came and went in pretty much the same manner as Friday. The routine was the same, but the conversations were different. Obviously people start to get closer as camp progresses, and you finally see how much they’ve grown at the end of camp. And so, the truly encouraging things from camp are best left till the end of camp. In meantime, here’s what I did in the morning:

 

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150170453327362

 

Memory is starting to get fuzzy now but I remember that our Bible Study group went pretty well again. The boys really enjoyed the Russian Roulette idea of getting people to share what they learnt. For once they all actually stayed awake and concentrated through a 1.5 hour Bible Study; they normally find it hard to do that back at church on a Sunday morning for a 30 minute study.

 

I sadly spent most of this day watching anime in the afternoon for free time. Oh right, the game. This afternoon’s game was a rendition of “Capture the Flag”, combined with some rules from “Fresher”. If you’re familiar with how each game works you’ll sort of get a good picture of how this version was run. It was pretty fun, in terms of the teamwork and the chaos. Everyone got physically tired of course. Again there were “balancing issues” but the game was quite memorable. Don’t really have any good relevant pictures for the game, but seeing as there hasn’t been a photo for more than a thousand words, I think we need at least one photo to balance it out:

 

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As I was saying, I spent the afternoon watching anime. But to try and make good use of the time, I watched anime with a number of the youth. A lot of them are into some form of anime, but I reckon we all need to learn to keep anime in perspective. It’s more than a cartoon as many people would think; it’s an art form that does reveal some rather sensitive emotions and desires that mankind has. So while I can’t say the couple of hours was used in the best way, getting the chance to talk with the youth about what they liked and disliked in anime allows us to work out how people think. Okay fine, I’m just making excuses to watch anime; but it wasn’t as unproductive as watching a movie and not talking. We were all making insightful comments throughout the things we watched. I thought the Clannad movie would’ve been good for the youth who have never watched anything of the sort, but it was a sad disappointment. And of course it’s unreasonable to make them spend (not waste) like hours upon hours of watching the anime series instead. Oh well.

 

At night the second seminar was kind of like the first. And while it seemed a bit redundant there’s always something to be learned. I missed out on the first hour or so, took a break after dinner to recompose myself; lacking energy really takes a toll on everyone’s ability to suppress their negativities, like frustration and stress. Had to do the same thing on Thursday night too, after presenting our seminar. Sat by the lake’s edge for an hour and a bit to just relax and let my thoughts flow. It was nice watching the moon glisten on the surface of the lake and just letting the cool night air blow past. I think I’ve done this every time we had camp at Point Wolstoncroft; just snuck away at night to sit by the edge of the lake, without a care in the world. Yeah, people were looking for me, but so what? Haha. The world doesn’t stop for anyone taking a break, I certainly don’t expect it to stop for me ever.

 

To compensate for a short section on this day, I think I’ll add in a funny “blog post” that one of our youth daringly typed up on my laptop. The context is that she wanted to use my laptop to “blog” though she clearly normally doesn’t. I’ll censor relevant bits that breach privacy, and this is what she ended up with:

 

Hey 😀

This is Bianca *****!! Today I am going to introduce myself as I said before. I’m year 10 at ***** High School. Only cool people go to this school =)

I am now on Jason Tam’s laptop. The mouse is very sensitive. He just asked me if I can touch type. Phoebe is laughing really loud at Jason’s comments. Calvin is shooting a toy gun and Sean is building a rifle?!?!

I am listening to rocketeer on full blast but I can still hear Jason and Phoebe *sigh*

They are arguing about Korean music.

There is a group to my right that is playing a card game. There is Kylie, Natalie, Joy, Kevin x2, Jess, Danny and Jason Yap. Then the next table on the right is Kenny. On my left is some boys playing a board game with miniature statures.

Now I am clueless what to write! Let me ask Jacky. He told me to write about Jason. But he is too boring to write about! 😀

I asked Jacky again. He is thinking and told me write about the lake. I am never going to ask him for advice because he has no imagination. He nearly killed me with foam bullets!!! Time to plan for revenge =)

A chess set is being set up on the table

Jacky once again nearly killed me!!

Phoebe is now making Jacky smell the texta which is supposed to me cherry flavoured.

IM SO BORED !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jason likes men. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA agreed =) This is no surprise.

Now I g2g because it’s time for fun and games!! I will be back to blog again.

Hi 😀 I’m back!!!

Sorry I had to go again 😀 had the awesomest night of my life!!!

We had a campfire and each group performed a 10 minute long performance. IT was amazing!! Army group did a musical but Pirates ended up winning. They won it fair and square =) CONGRATZ PIRATES!!!

Then we roasted marshmallows and made sandwiches with chocolate coated digestive biscuits

 

Yeah it’s really random and was heaps funny to laugh at. Honestly, I reckon only little girls have the writing style where they suddenly change into ALL CAPITALS FOR THE FUN OF IT! Ironic statement I know, but so is the one about me liking men. At the end of the day, blogging (or writing in journals) is a good thing because it shows how well your thought flow in your mind. The more articulate your words, the more able you are in translating your thoughts into words, and the more freely your thoughts flow in your mind. Will see if we can get her to start or something haha. I know I said to some of you that it would be funny if I tried a rendition on what her typical blog might look like (eg: boy problems) but it would be too mean so I won’t. Instead I’ll see if I can convince her to actually start a real blog.

 

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Sunday

Second last day and the energy levels are starting to drop dangerously. I guess with a longer camp, this is what naturally results. Once again coffee played a fundamental role in keeping me alert for the rest of the day. Again I’ll skip the daily routines and just highlight anything that was different or encouraging. Our Bible Study group did something different today, because I said so. No, I’m kidding. The boys had questions from the talk so we spent the whole time addressing them and discussing about them. That meant we had to jeopardise the Bible Study but had some very fruitful discussion. We went over homosexuality again and whether homosexuals can be saved or not. Moved onto smokers, which was random, but I helped them make it more general (that is, smokers is one example of a larger group of people known as “addicts”, and the real sin behind all of that is addiction, which leads to idolatry). And finally we talked about living as new Christians practically encompassed, like our priorities and out attitude to money and stuff.

 

In the afternoon we had a trivia game, not much can go wrong there. Afterwards we all had to work on a group act for the evening. I think a lot of groups were stressing over a 15 minute act, considering how we were given less than a day to do it. Me and Julz spent most of Saturday night and Sunday afternoon writing up lyrics for our act, which was to be a musical involving ninjas haha. Our two main songs were the “Hallelujah” one from the Shrek movie, and “Breaking Free” from High School Musical. Me and Julz wrote the lyrics for the latter one. Here they are:

 

God’s Grace is Free

Written by Jason Tam and Juliana Chen

 

We’re praying, praising
There’s not a sinner on earth that He can’t reach
We’re believing, that God’s grace is free

You know that God can see us
In a way that’s different from creation’s start
Creating space between us
Till we’re separate hearts

But our faith, it credits us
With righteousness

God’s grace is free
We’re praying, praising
There’s not a sinner on earth that He can’t reach
We’re believing, that God’s grace is free

Can you feel His suffering?
Like a lamb sacrificed to make us whole
Reconciled by his dying
Jesus paid our toll

Rising till it lifts Christ up
So everyone can see

God’s grace is free
We’re praying, praising
There’s not a sinner on earth that He can’t reach
We’re believing, that God’s grace is free
We’re preaching, serving
To live renewed lives to be what God wants us to be
Now’s the time, cos God’s grace is free

More than hope
More than faith
This is truth
This is fate
And His kingdom we see it coming

All for you
All for me
Not by works, or by deeds
Faith in Christ, sets us free

We’re praying, praising
There’s not a sinner on earth that He can’t reach
We’re believing, that God’s grace is free
We’re preaching, serving
To live renewed lives to be what God wants us to be
Now’s the time, cos God’s grace is free

You know that God declares us
Justified so now we’re no longer apart

 

We didn’t really get time to prepare it as a duet by that’s okay.

 

At night all the groups presented their acts. Most groups had singing, most of them are well known songs where the lyrics easily fit into a Christian theme. The uni students would all have had experiences from having to do acts for camps such as MYC. Every group had a very unique act, and as much as I would like to recount them all, I can’t remember them that clearly, I’ll try to grab the footage from other people. One mentionable team was the Navy team (our camp had an army theme remember), and their act was completely made up on the spot. It involved a lot of actions that accentuated the lower half of the body. For example, imagine what “washing the boat” might look like if it was done emphatically. All their actions were funny and none of their act made sense, which was why it was really funny, it was just full of random. Marcus went far enough to make a joke about “sea-men”; and considering that only their team could’ve made such a joke, I more or less applaud them for making it. As for our team’s act, I pretty much put to use as many funny Naruto connotations as I could; our team was the Ninjas.

 

What I really liked about this activity was the way every team bonded when it came to organising the act. We had some quiet people in our team but gradually they opened up and weren’t shy in giving us their opinions. The activity really helped us build up teamwork. It was encouraging to see everyone open up to the whole congregation when they were giving the performance, especially the ones who were bold enough to dance in front of everyone. One of my boys really opened himself up that night, in more than one way too haha. That is, he was really bold in terms of dancing, which caught me completely in shock because he was never like that before. And then later on in the evening he made the mistake of taking off his jacket and ended up topless for a brief moment haha.

 

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Epitome

 

This last section deserves its own section. I said before that the true fruits at camp only start to show towards the end and surely, Sunday night must’ve been the most touching and encouraging night for me. When the night performances ended, and the odd rave party afterwards ended, we all retired to the lodges, not to sleep, but to stay up for conversations. Stuff the lights out thing at 10:30pm, let’s have some serious bonding conversation time. For myself, I literally stayed up all night talking; and I really mean that literally. Starting at about 10pm I chatted with one person for about an hour or so. That was pretty cool because I’ve never really had a serious conversation with them before so it was really cool being given the opportunity to do so. Learning stuff about the other person’s life really is productive because as I had said in my seminar, it allows us to understand the context of the other person, what their feelings are, and how they think and respond to different things we talk about.

 

For all the conversations that happened on that night (which also dragged on to the next day), I would not have traded anything for those moments. But that’s because they are my highlight for camp this year. And yeah, even though none of the actual organised parts of camp were most memorable, that’s how things are in all relationships, you can’t pick and choose and set which moments will be most important. They just come unexpectedly and knock away everything else.

 

Anyway, after that first conversation, people began to retire to bed seeing as it was the last night of camp. But for the same reason, people also stayed up for hours more. I continued to have conversations with a few other guys as the night went on. We just say outside the cabins and chatted quietly about all sorts of issues. Of course it wouldn’t really be a private D&M if I shared what was actually said. Anyway the next conversation went on for…6 hours? I am seriously not kidding, I was actually talking to someone else for a continuous 6 hours. Some people chimed in here and there in first couple of hours but eventually everyone retired to bed around 3am. So this conversation roughly happened from 11pm-5am. Again I assure you, I am not kidding.

 

At 5am we decided to take a break and have some noodles. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who were up at that time. Another person from the other lodge was awake the whole time, so we invited them over to share noodles, though they did not eat. In total there were three of us who stayed up. My 6 hour convo buddy retired at 6am, so me and mystery person #3 carried on and chatted for another 2 hours as we tried to watch the sun rise. Of course it was a cloudy morning so there was no sunrise to see, so we just stood by the lake and chatted. Even a whole night of D&M conversations takes its toll on someone like me. By the end of 9 hours of consecutive hours of talking, this last conversation nearly had me at tears because of what we talked about. Again I won’t share who it was or what we talked about but I definitely learnt something new about that person as well. It wasn’t something bright and it really did mean that it was my responsibility as their leader to follow them up about it. The ones who received lengthy e-mails from me will know who they are.

 

But yeah, who would’ve thought that the most productive time at camp would’ve been the one where we give up all our sleep for. I don’t regret trading away my sleep for all those conversations; I’ve definitely given up my sleep for the last night of camp for less useful things at other camps. This was the most well spent way of giving up sleep. And from a leader’s perspective, this is sort of what our goal has been all along; just being able to get to know our kids better, to listen to their life stories and to encourage them to persevere as Christians through their worries. It really makes me cry tears of joy knowing that we spent so much time for youth group every week and feeling like we didn’t “achieve” anything, but for that one moment at camp, all our time and efforts finally pay off, and we make some relational progress in growing our kids in Christ.

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Monday

Well technically, everything I mentioned above happened on Monday. And that’s always the problem with an endless night at camp; do you classify these things as having happened on Sunday night, or really early Monday morning? Anyhow the day came nonetheless, and as you can see from the photo, it wasn’t going to be the brightest of all days. That’s alright.

 

I think this post has gone on long enough; nothing exceptional happened today. But even though everyone didn’t get much sleep, and the fact that many people started getting sick, today was still a productive day. We had lunch, packed our stuff and left…for Hong Kong de Cafe again haha. There is much to reminisce about camp most definitely, whether as a participant or as a leader; but for now in all my exhaustion I am glad that camp is over because considering all the relationships that were built over camp, camp was not the end of them so there is nothing to be sad about, and nothing to “miss” about camp. Rather, our new stronger relationships with one another have only just begun…

 

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