I’m sorry this post is so late – blame it on busyness and exhaustion. I spent from Friday night to Sunday night at Boys’ Brigade Camp, with my days lasting from 6.30am to 10.30pm, and I’m still recovering.
But I drove home from Camp with such a glow in my heart and a renewed enthusiasm for the work we do at BB. Yes, it had been hard work with a few frustrations along the way but there had been so many moments of joy, fun, hope, and encouragement that they sparkled in my mind like diamonds in the rain.
I won’t forget the Challenge Course for a long time. After a convoluted route there, pretending to be ninjas and ‘hiding’ as trees/bushes/letterboxes from any adults we encountered, we reached a series of assault course type obstacles in the woods with extra mud (the activity leader brought buckets of water to ensure there was plenty!). Nor will Pete*, who didn’t want to spoil his Hollister hoodie so borrowed my fleece to wear instead – my bright cerise pink fleece, the one he spent the rest of the weekend trying to persuade me to photoshop a different colour in the pictures I took.
I won’t forget either the sense of achievement on the boys’ faces when they succeeded in an activity, many of which involved negotiating a very high object (a climbing wall, a tower, a pole) and then trusting a rope of some kind to come down (e.g. a zip wire). On Saturday Jake* quietly refused to go on the giant swing because he didn’t like it last year but was so proud of himself on Sunday for jumping off the very top of the trapeze and the power fan for the first time.
Not all the boys managed all the activities 100%. Fear of heights (or fear of hitting the ground hard, as my husband would describe it) overcame some of them. The others had to learn patience as a boy froze on one of the pieces of equipment. They started to learn which words encouraged and which ones didn’t. But there was always at least one to reassure that boy when he came back down again feeling the odd one out for not doing everything the others had. I have a picture in my mind of two of them sheltered from the rain, hugging for several minutes until they felt better.
Then there was the joy of seeing BB staff’s skills, old and new, in action. AJ used his previous experience as a children’s party entertainer to tell the story of the Feeding of the 5000 with his magic bag’s endless supply of chocolate coins. That certainly held the boys’ attention! Tom led a Bible Study and prayer on the story of Jesus Calming the Storm, the first time he’d ever done something like this – but it won’t be his last.
And I can’t miss out Eric – the PGL leader assigned to us for the whole weekend. This 19 year old never flagged, despite the long hours he worked. He asked to join our Bible studies as he was a Christian himself and joined in himself at our final group prayer, giving the boys another example of what BB calls ‘true Christian manliness’. He combined energetic enthusiasm with quiet authority in a way I’ve seen few lads of his age do. This was a man doing a job that totally matched his gifts.
A weekend like this always gives us staff a chance to see another side and get to know the boys better. One quiet boy hardly stopped talking. A ‘sensible’ one turned out to be quite the mischief maker. I learned how important extended family was to one lad who I know has had a difficult upbringing. I was entertained by another’s card tricks at Seniors Night on Saturday. So at our final Bible study, as we took it in turns to pray (silently or out loud), I looked around the circle and felt a much stronger bond and concern for these boys than before, having had an insight into their worlds outside BB, and that consequently my prayers would be so much more accurate and heartfelt.
I told parents in a follow up email yesterday that it’s a real privilege to take the boys on Camp. But it’s more than that: it’s a real blessing.
(* names changed)