This week's word is Aloha! All the way back in Week 1, we used Aloha to talk about radical hospitality and how each of us are welcomed here at camp. Now in Week 7, Camp Outrageous, the last week of the summer, Aloha is also a benediction. A benediction is a moment to name the blessing we have received and our intent to share it.
Our Scripture for this week is John 14:25-27. Jesus says, "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
This passage is both overwhelming and comforting. There is still so much to be learned. Our process of learning and growing and loving never ends. However, we do not go through this journey alone. We have the promise of something more, a guide and a friend who will be with us always, and nothing in heaven or on earth can separate us from the love of our God.
This week's passage is particularly meaningful not just for our campers, but also for our staff, as we will soon be saying goodbye and leaving Spring Heights. However, we are blessed to have ways to communicate and be present with each other, even if we cannot be physically together. The friends we make at Spring Heights are so special. On a personal note, it was amazing for me to come back to camp for a summer and work with people I knew when I was a camper, as well as people I would never have met if I had chosen not to work at camp.
As an Aloha community, gathered and blessed, we carry the heart of each other as we go with a promise that a warm welcome awaits upon our next meeting or upon our return. In our Aloha community, we all belong, no matter where we may travel - no matter where the Spirit might lead. The same Spirit that called and gathered us, the same Spirit that wove us together, now calls and leads us outward into the world to teach us all things and share love with all people.
I especially want to thank the writer of our curriculum this summer, Rev. Lisa McKee, who inspired this blog. Much of this blog has only been possible through her hard work and the quality of her writing. Our campers have received amazing, life-changing lessons because of Lisa. Thank you!
This week was Camp Outrageous, which is similar to Fourth Fest. Campers choose a club that meets for two hours every day that they care about. This year we had a Newspaper Club, Challenge Course Club, Horse Club, Crafts Club, Water Club, Drama Club, and Fitness Club. Campers also got to choose many of their daily activities, such as archery, crafts, sports and games, farm time, and log roll. We also made this camp outrageous with activities like tie-dye, formal dinner, and fireworks!
Our Newspaper Club published a newspaper every day of camp. Read all about it here!
May the God who brought us together send us out to bring peace to our families, friends, churches, communities, and our world. Amen!
Check out our end-of-week slideshow here!
This week’s word is Heiwa! Heiwa is a Japanese word not just for peace, but also for the balance and smoothness of life. Heiwa, peace through balance, is possible through loving God, neighbor, and yourself.
When Jesus is asked in Mark 12:28-31 which commandment is the greatest by a lawyer, his answer is, “The most important one is this: ’Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Jesus quotes the Shema, “Love the Lord your God,” a core scripture in Jesus’s tradition. He then connects the Shema to the love of self and neighbor. Like Ubuntu, this scripture invites us to explore who we are in relationship to each other.
In this passage, the lawyer seems to be challenging Jesus. Jesus does not attack the man’s motives. He does not seek to win in this situation, but he also does not retreat from the lawyer’s question. Jesus holds his own while inviting the lawyer to grow as he seeks his own understanding. In our competitive culture and world, we often fail to respect each other when we compete against one another and when we disagree with each other. Instead of puffing out our chests and calling out our antagonists, a better way is to defuse the tension and make room for another to achieve.
Loving your neighbor as yourself can be challenging in different ways. Those of us who struggle to see the image of God in others, but have respect for ourselves, may need to look at the neighbors around them with fresh eyes. Those of us who deeply love and respect their neighbors, but fail to see the same worth in themselves, may need to more fully recognize that they too are a beloved child of God. Heiwa, peace through balance, comes when we challenge ourselves to grow closer to the love God has for each and every one of us. We are created in the image of God and we are good.
Heiwa also reminds us that living a truly selfless life is different from self-sacrifice. Being selfless, so that you can go to heaven, is a selfish thought. Sacrificing, so that people appreciate your faith or celebrate your contributions, is not true sacrifice. We are called to receive the grace of God and share it, not die for it all over again. If we try to compete with each other in the giving of our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness, we are hurting our neighbor and ourselves.
At camp, it can be hard to not let competition get in the way of loving our fellow campers and staff. One way we learn to work together as a team and encourage each other as individuals is at our Challenge Course. The Challenge Course has two parts: the Lows and Highs. The Lows elements must be completed as a team. When we fail to listen to each other or follow each other’s advice, these obstacles may seem insurmountable. Our Highs elements, where we climb up our tower, find a balance between the team and the individual. Only one person climbs at a time, but the rest of the team supports the person in the air either on the belay team, helping to keep the climber safe, or as moral support through cheering. Finding balance as individuals and family groups through the Challenge Course is essential.
This week, we had several specialty camps. Spring Heights Ninja Warrior spent a lot of time training, as well as climbing and traversing our Highs. Gaga for God competed with each other through their many rounds of Gaga, but came together as a group to learn about God. We also had some amazing Younger Youth and Older Youth camps this week. Burlington Family Services brought youth from their Beckley and Daniels campuses, and we enjoyed hosting them and their staff.
We also had Dayspring camp at Clendenin, WV this week! Our camp grew from 15 kids at the start of the week to 23 campers. We loved playing Gaga and Nine-square, so much that the kids didn't want to stop! We also tie-dyed shirts and learned how to do archery and lawn games. For water day, we played muddy Gaga and covered the counselors in soap and water. Dayspring Clendenin took a field trip to Spring Heights itself to walk the trails, ride our horses, and play in the pool. In between all these activities, we also made sure to spend time with Jesus too.
Dayspring Clendenin would like to thank Pastor Don Stilgenbauer for helping us with a lot of logistics and hard work. Thanks to Clendenin UMC for hosting Dayspring, as well as providing amazing kitchen staff to feed all our campers and staff. We are very grateful to Butch for going out of his way to spread the word about Dayspring and growing our camp. Kanawha County Schools provided transportation to Spring Heights, and we appreciate the school district and bus driver for their assistance. Finally, thanks to the Myers family for housing our staff through this week and providing meals for them. Dayspring would not be possible without your help!
May we bring peace, balance, and love wherever we go as we learn to love our neighbors as ourselves. Heiwa!
Check out our end-of-week slideshow here!
This week’s word is Agape! In Greek, there are several different words for love. Agape represents unconditional love. Agape is not peace, but it is a love that allows peace through compassion, grace, and reconciliation. Agape helps us to understand God’s radical, unconditional love made known to us through Jesus Christ. God offers us love, without exception.
Agape is reflected in John 13:1-17. In this passage, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, even Judas Iscariot, who Jesus knew would betray him. Jesus shows us what Agape looks like: a love that humbles oneself; a love that offers kindness in the face of betrayal; a love that goes beyond. Not only that, but Jesus goes against our understanding of power by washing the feet of those with less power.
Foot washing can be a powerful and personal experience. Those of us on staff know how tired, tanned, and rough your feet can get with all the walking and grime you accumulate at camp. The disciples, with all their traveling, would have had some rough feet too. To let your feet be washed clean by someone else, especially someone you admire or respect, breaks down barriers and roles that separate you from another person. Pastor Steve Gedon was our guest pastor this week, and with a bottle of Nu Finish, he taught us how Christ wipes all our sins away with a love that can never fade or get scratched up.
We share Agape love in many ways at camp. The image of Agape at the top of the page was made with a braid, similar to some of the friendship bracelets we make at camp to celebrate our love and friendship with each other. Friendship bracelets take time and attention to make, as well as thought into the colors and design that the person receiving would like. Even if we only see our camp friends once a year, we can take our friendship bracelets home with us to remember being together.
This week, we had both Classic camp and specialty camps. Our second week of Night Owls was a hoot! We also had our Wranglers camp, which is similar to Hold Your Horses, but for Older Youth at a more advanced level. Our Wranglers had a great time learning to tack their horse, go on trail rides, and play games on horseback. Finally, our Girl Power camp was overflowing with Girl Power! Our small army of girls had a slumber party every night, decorated their meeting room, and had special activities like dance parties, facials, make-up, painting their nails, and eating mug cakes.
Agape calls us to reflect the love freely given to us by God when we serve others. May our campers feel God's presence working in their lives, and pass on the love they have experienced at camp to those around them.
Check out our end-of-week slideshow here!
This week’s word is Shalom! Shalom is a Jewish word that means peace. The Jewish community uses Shalom as a traditional greeting and sending out, showing us that peace is something offered and received. Shalom is similar to Aloha from Week 1, as it is both a spirit and a commitment. We are called to live in a way that allows the sharing and receiving of Shalom.
Shalom, or rather the absence of Shalom, is found in Genesis 27:1-26. In this story, Jacob, with the help of his mother Rebekah, steals his older twin brother Esau’s birthright and blessing from their father Isaac. This story is the culmination of a conflict that had been brewing since before the brothers were born. The manipulation and power dynamics of the family are shown through this passage, along with underlying layers of hurt, betrayal, and anger. No one in the family extends peace or lives into Shalom in this passage. Even in conflicts that seem irreconcilable, we are called to work for reconciliation and heal broken relationships through a spirit of peace freely given and accepted. Pastor Chip Bennett reminded us that God can show up in unexpected places. Peace can come, even in the most unlikely of places or relationships, when we find Shalom in our own hearts and offer Shalom to those around us.
We work to share the spirit of Shalom through the affirmations we write for each other at the end of each week of camp. Every camper gets a sheet of paper with their name written on it. This paper is passed around to the rest of their family group, and every other camper and counselor writes them a short note. Affirmations are something positive about the camper, which could be something they do well, something they are admired for, or something that reflects God’s peace and love. Once everyone has written on everyone else’s paper, the papers are returned and campers can take their affirmations home with them.
Affirmations are powerful because they come from outside yourself. You may not see something in yourself, but it may be very clear to other people. Affirmations can also help to mend conflicts, because even if you may have had a difficult week with someone, you have to recognize the gifts that this person has. In this way, Shalom is felt by all.
This week, we had four different specialty camps. Wacky Water Adventures focused on our aquatic activities, which meant a lot of time in the pool, on the lake, and doing wacky, watery things. Night Owls stayed up late and slept in, giving them plenty of time to sleep out several nights and enjoy nighttime activities like night hikes. Hold Your Horses saddled up for a week of horse riding and learning about the care and keeping of horses. Finally, our Beginners and Mini-Classic camps were here only for three days, but they packed in a ton of activities and fun!
Our second Dayspring camp was also a blast! Three of our staff traveled to Rainelle, WV, to have camp with 14 kids. Despite some trailer trouble on the way down, we had a fun week! Our Dayspring campers practiced archery, played nine-square and gaga, and had a dance party with karaoke! The campers gave all the staff Moana-themed nicknames. We had a great water day where we played in bubbles and soap. We also made a trip to Summersville for a lake day, complete with swimming, tie-dye, and a hike. Some of our campers had special needs this week, and we enjoyed ministering with them and teaching each other how to treat each other with kindness and love.
We would like to thank Pastor Ron Gamble and Rainelle UMC for hosting Dayspring and providing housing and laundry services. We appreciate the Greenbrier School District and Mark Williams for providing transportation for our campers to Summersville. We are also very grateful for our four volunteers this week, John, Ashley, Steve, and Rachel, for all their hard work and service.
Shalom requires us to respond to conflict and work towards reconciliation. As our campers go forth in Shalom, may they recognize the profound impacts they have on our world.
Check out our end-of-week slideshow here!
This week’s word is Ubuntu! Ubuntu comes from an African phrase that can be translated as, “I am because you are.” We learned about where this word Ubuntu comes from. In African culture, harmony, friendliness, and community are exalted as the greatest of goods. A person who embodies Ubuntu is generous, compassionate, caring, and hospitable. “I am because you are” recognizes that no matter how hard we may try, we can never be completely independent of others. More than that, when we disrespect another person, we also disrespect ourselves.
Ubuntu is shown in 1 Corinthians 12:1-27, a passage by Paul that talks about spiritual gifts and the interconnectedness of the body of Christ. We all have different spiritual gifts, but they come from the same Spirit. As Pastor Carl Tribett said when he joined us for Closing Campfire, we all have a GPS, a God Powered Spirit, to help us navigate our journeys in life and with each other. We are baptized by this Spirit into the body of Christ. There are many parts, but one body, and the parts that are seen as least presentable and honorable are most necessary for the body to survive and thrive. When we truly live into Ubuntu, “I am because you are”, we cannot say that because we are not a specific part, we do not belong in the body, and we also cannot say that another part of the body does not belong. All are welcome and needed in the body of Christ.
Here at camp, we embody Ubuntu through our family groups. Split in family groups based on age and camp, we create communities where we are safe to share our thoughts and our experiences. We have a group to help cheer us on and encourage us when we are scared or tired. We do a lot of team building games and exercises so we can learn how to appreciate each other’s strengths and gifts. Everyone is different, but we all need each other to have a great week of camp.
We also embodied Ubuntu in a special way this past week during our Fourth Fest camp. Fourth Fest is a special camp where in addition to your family group, you also choose and participate in a club that meets every day. Our clubs this year were Horse Club, Creek Explo Club, Water Club, and Drama Club. These small groups as well became communities of support and encouragement during this week. We had another unofficial club, the Newspaper Club, which published daily newspapers for our campers. Check out this week’s news here!
As our campers head home this week, we hope they take the spirit of Ubuntu into their families, their lives, and their communities. In our deeply divided world, we need to be reminded that “I am because you are.”
Check out our end-of-week slideshow here!
This week’s word is Peace! The theme of all our camps this summer is Peace, and in this post I will talk about why we chose a theme of peace.
Jesus is our Prince of Peace in a world that often struggles with peace. We see conflict every day in our homes, our schools, our communities, our nation, our world, and even our churches. It can be hard to make peace in hot weather, when you are tired and sore from hiking, and you just can’t wait to jump into the pool and cool off. Finding ways to make peace with one another is essential to having a successful week of camp and providing an example to the campers and staff around us.
The words I will be sharing over the next few weeks all have to do with peace and peacemaking, in the example of Christ. We are also learning skills to help us see each other and love each other as Jesus loves us. Pastor David Johnston served as our chaplain this week, and he taught us about the Spirit. He also taught us about how important the passing of the peace is during Holy Communion. Passing the peace is not a time to chit-chat or ask people how they’ve been. In ancient times, the passing of the peace gave the congregation time to mend conflicts with each other before joining together at the Table. Passing the peace intentionally is a much different experience.
We also had our first Dayspring camp of the summer in Pineville, WV. At the start of the week, we had six campers, and by the end we grew to nine. These campers were introduced to Spring Heights for the very first time, including being introduced to Gaga for the first time. They loved Gaga so much they played it for three hours straight! Dayspring took a field trip to Twin Falls for activities like a hike, visiting a pioneer farm, and exploring the creek. Water day featured a firetruck from the Wyoming County Volunteer Fire Department so we could cool down and splash! Other Dayspring activities include tie-dye and bead ceremonies.
Dayspring Pineville would not be possible without the help of Pastor Dan Lowther, who was instrumental in coordinating this event for his community. We are also very grateful to the volunteers we had every day, the Wyoming County Volunteer Fire Department, the Wyoming County School District for providing transportation to Twin Falls, and the three churches who provided meals and hosted our campers and staff. Thank you all so much for your hard work!
Peacemaking calls us to extend the peace of Christ to everyone in our community and in our world. As our campers go forth into the world, we invite you to pray for them and the peacemaking they will do.
Check out our end-of-week slideshow here!
Over the seven weeks of camp, I will be sharing each week’s camp experiences through seven words used in our curriculum. This week’s word is Aloha! Aloha is from Hawaii and we share this word because God welcomes us. God welcomes all people, and we echo that hospitality with each other.
I saw Aloha shared quite literally at our Luau Lunch, prepared by our fabulous kitchen. We wore leis and listened to Moana over our meal. But a spirit of Aloha is more than leis and a great lunch. We read Luke 14:15-24 and talked about radical hospitality. Just as the master of the house brought in everyone he could to his banquet, seeking out the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame, we are called to hospitality beyond the ordinary to make everyone feel respected, welcomed, and loved. Through our hospitality, we can invite others into peacemaking with us.
The spirit of Aloha runs strong at camp. Everyone, campers and staff, make and decorate leather nametags so we know each other’s names. We play a LOT of get-to-know-you games and ice breakers with our kids to learn about who we are and where we come from. Our camp is challenge by choice, and we invite everyone to try our activities. We create an environment where people can feel safe to express themselves and talk about their experience.
In the spirit of Aloha, we also had an opportunity for campers to reflect some of the hospitality they have experienced. We gave each camper two special beads at our Thursday closing campfire: a Cross bead and an Invitation bead. Campers keep the Cross bead, but they are encouraged to give the Invitation bead to someone to invite them to camp.
We invite you to pray for the amazing campers we have had this week and the ways they have grown in hospitality.
Check out our end-of-week slideshow here:
My name is Robin Kelby and this is the Spring Heights blog! I am the PR intern here at camp and I think I have the best job ever: I take pictures at camp and I get to tell the world how amazing Spring Heights is and how the Spirit moves here like nowhere else.
Each week, I will be writing about the week of camp with pictures from our new Flickr page at https://flickr.com/photos/springheights. Our theme this year is Peace, and our curriculum for the summer is fantastic. Each week will focus on one of the daily lessons so we can share the message with you all as well!
This blog will also celebrate our Dayspring camps, which takes some of our staff as well as the spirit of Spring Heights to locations across West Virginia for day camps. This year we are delighted to have four locations, in Rainelle, Clendenin, Pineville, and Keyser. This ministry is incredibly important to us because we are committed to showing Christ to all his children across our state and our Conference.
We encourage you to use this blog to stay connected to camp and learn about the ministry and discipleship here. We also encourage you to pray for our campers and staff this summer and the ways that both will be transformed.
Finally, to stay connected for this blog, you can check back to the blog page at springheights.org/blog. New posts will also be announced on our social media platforms:
Thank you for reading!
Peace in Christ,