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Camp Counselors, God?

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“Summer camp isn’t really for the campers.” It’s for the counselors. They are there by choice. They don’t have to worry about fitting in or making friends. But most importantly…they get paid.
At the surface, camp counselors appear to devote their summers to bossing campers around according to Seth Stevenson’s article, “Minor Gods.” They have the power – the power to do what they want, when they want. From the camper’s view point, counselors lounge outside and work on their suntans while repeatedly playing jokes on campers. Then, on their night off, they party, hard! Right?
Counselors aren’t about showing who’s boss. They arrive at camp to experience exactly what the camper’s experience. Campers can focus on one thing: enjoying themselves. Counselors, however, are responsible for the safety and well being of their campers. They are burdened with handling the “broken bones and the emotional traumas.” They are there to support the campers, handle situations, and settle anxieties.
Each summer, a group of students from my church participate in a program called Ox Lake’s International Villages. Ox Lake is a Lutheran bible camp in Amery, Wisconsin, where students experience and learn about religion around the world though international staff. Students partake in bible studies, field games, swimming, horseback riding, and campfires. They live in platform tents with no electricity. This means no air conditioning. No lights. No running water.
My first year at Ox Lake was the summer after seventh grade. We arrived at camp on Sunday afternoon; Monday night the unexpected happened. Tornados. Tornados were coming our way. The word spread rapidly. Fear instantly covered the campground. Where are we going to go? What are we going to do? It didn’t help that it was 11:30pm. A camp counselor dashed into our tent and said, “pack what you can carry and put everything else on the top bunk. By tomorrow there will be several inches of water in here. Hurry up and head to the vans!” If people weren’t panicked before, they were terrified now.
It took a while to get everyone into the vans. I looked around as they were finishing head checks to see people crying. You could tell that not only the campers were stressed out, but the counselors too. Some of these counselors have worked here for years. Later we learned this has never happened before.
After a twenty minute van ride, we arrived at Camp Wapo (the main camp site). We unloaded the vans and headed towards the basement of the building. All 60 of us crammed into one room where we huddled on the concrete floor. By the time the counselors calmed everyone down, it was one am.
The storms came and left. Our fears subsided and we soon realized our counselors protected us. In the seemingly panic of that night, our councilors knew what to do. Well prepared, confident, a beacon of hope for those who were loosing faith.
Yes camp counselors are “minor gods.” They have the power. But they use their power to help campers get the most out of their camping experience and keep us safe.





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