Into the Unknown
This will all be long gone by summer
There’s no way you guys are having camp this summer.
You can have camp safely, but it will be so boring, no one will want to come.
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If you have camp this summer, it won’t be the New Life Camp experience
These are just a few of the things that I heard last spring amid the unknown that COVID-19 created. And I agreed with all of them on different days. Some days, I saw no way of having camp. Some days, I thought for sure we were going to have camp. Then the hardest days – when I thought, “We can have camp, but should we?”
God granted wisdom to our whole staff. We had just enough push from our counsel to say, let’s do this. Let’s lead the way. But we had plenty of advisers to give caution to make sure that our program was going to be as safe as it possibly could be.
Then came the planning. Without knowing what we would be allowed to do, we planned…
- Normal Camp
- Camp with no overnight option
- Virtual Camp
- Camp if we were allowed to start in the middle of the summer
- Camp if we started but then had to scale back midsummer
- And the hardest one – Camp if we were allowed, but had to keep campers in small groups
We planned them all in order to be ready, but of course the last was the hand we were dealt. Instead of a schedule, we made 16 schedules for 8 cabins and 8 day camp huddles to go through a week of camp without using the same space at the same time. We had to allow time to disinfect each area before and after each use. We leaned heavily on the American Camping Association for our guidelines for every activity and scenario. When hearing what other organizations are going through trying to figure out for themselves how to make state protocols work safely and efficiently, we are so thankful to be a part of the ACA!
Professionally, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. With the “all hands on deck” approach from the Full-Time Staff, we finished the schedules literally days before the first week of camp.
Then came the nagging “what-ifs”. What if we did all that work and trained our staff and we get shut down in the first week? What if we have a positive case – will we lose that cabin or a whole week of camp or multiple weeks of camp?
As you probably know, we never needed to worry.
- 2 weeks of staff training
- 8 weeks of overnight camp
- 9 weeks of Day Camp running at the same time
- 1,746 campers
- 165 staff
- 160 Leaders in Training
Not one positive case!
In fact, as you might expect with all the protocol, sickness of any kind was rare and isolated. It was a miracle. We took the threat seriously and spent this summer each day desperate for God to do another miracle. Here we are on the other side! Because we could not meet in large groups, the Bible was taught in the Tabernacle alone about 600 times! Campers were loved and accepted just like they have always been. Our summer staff was incredible jumping through each hoop without complaint. Campers made decisions to follow Jesus, and followers of Jesus strengthened their faith. I am so thankful to those who encouraged us to keep going. I am so thankful for those who cautioned us to slow down and rethink the safety of certain facets. God used the greater community of New Life Camp to form what was one of the most memorable summers we will ever have! During the chaos, confusion, and concern, God showed up just as he always has and always will. To Him be the glory!