Wednesday night I posted this picture to capture my anxiousness about going on my first youth camp trip as a leader.
The annual camp trip to Kansas has none of the amenities that a spoiled glamper (fancy camping) like me is used to. Add to that, I volunteered to teach the youth on sin. Thursday morning, I put on my bravest face and began the 3 hr car trip to St Francis, Kansas. We camp out on some land on the edge of the town. This town has a population of 1300. Here’s what camp looks like.
I was able to adjust to the “bathroom”, which was a toilet seat elevated over a hole, surrounded by a tarp. I didn’t even mind being with 37 kids, some of whom I knew, and some of whom I would grow to know. While I thought I would dislike losing my privacy, I liked being around the kids. There was always someone to talk to.
Thursday night, the wind was so strong, it nearly blew my tent off the ground. It made having a fire impossible, and kicked up all kinds of allergens. I barely slept that night, the wind was too much.
Friday’s fun was playing at the park in town, where the kids had a ridiculous time playing Slip N Slide kickball. The pictures show giant smiles on everyone’s face. Friday night was my turn to teach. I was blessed to have the leaders lay hands on me to pray. I opened by telling them I was so nervous about teaching that I felt like I could either puke or pee. With that icebreaker, I gave an abbreviated version of my testimony, then broke into Scripture and teaching on how hard it is to surrender sin. I was relieved when it was over. While it felt like I had only taught for 5 minutes, I’m sure it was longer.
Unfortunately, one of our girls (K) fell ill that night. The allergies were far too much for her, and her breathing was very labored. She was taken away to the hospital in town, by one of the families from the church who has a home in St Francis. They come out every year to help us with all the meals.
Saturday we woke earlier than usual to get our teaching in before we went into town for a service project. We visited a retirement community to do some chores (window washing, painting, cleaning). It was a blessing to them, and to us. We returned to camp for lunch then went off to Frogland, one of the town’s bigger ponds. Here we could play in the water, or just chill on the beach. This was also our day to visit Dairy King.
I spent my time at Frogland in the shade, but was coaxed out to play some beach volleyball. Volleyball is not my sport, but I had a blast getting silly with the group playing. I think my team even won.
Saturday night is when things got wonderful and weird. During worship, one of the girls starting showing symptoms similar to what K had experienced. It was determined she should go get checked out at the hospital. Larry was in charge of teaching that night, and he did awesome. 5 kids ended up giving their lives to Christ. It was a huge blessing. Larry’s teaching was followed by more worship, and prayer time. I prayed with one of my HS girls who was overwhelmed with joy at the news of kids being saved. But during the worship, K and another girl had to go to the hospital. That made it 3 girls in the ER. The leaders met and talked about what the plan should be. We determined that we were under attack by the enemy, and we were going to stand our ground and rebuke anything trying to distract from what we were doing. We prayed loud and hard, then broke into small groups. Two of the HS boys went around camp praying over the youth for protection (it was a cool thing). Not even ten minutes into small group time, we were told by the hospital that we should evacuate camp. Clearly something was in the air at our camp, and we needed to leave. We grabbed sleeping bags, and some grabbed a few items, and we fled to the homes of the two families from church who have places in St Francis. By this time it was about 10:30pm.
Morale was pretty good, considering what was going on. As we waited to find out our next move, another girl fell ill and was sent to the ER. We then got word the hospital wanted us to all shower and ditch our “contaminated” clothing. The local high school was opened up for us to shower and change. Hospital gowns were sent over, as well clothes donated by the two families, also clothes from a church. Some of the kids were also sent to the thrift store, which opened up to us, and donated items.
We were at the high school for some time, because it takes a while for everyone to shower, especially if there are only two bottles of shampoo. The school provided towels for us. All our clothes were put into trash bags, to be dealt with later. While we waited at the high school, a 5th girl fell ill and was sent to the hospital.
Once everyone was showered, we split the boys and girls between the two houses. Pretty much everyone fell asleep right away. We resolved that a group would go out to the land Sunday morning to pack up all the tents and belongings.
Sunday morning we did just that, breaking down camp in less than 90 minutes. All the girls that had been hospitalized were released with an epi pen and had received nebulizer treatment. While we still are unsure what had happened, the symptoms were dizziness, shakes and breathing problems. We tried to keep the hospitalized girls in vehicles without people who broke camp, as a precaution. The drive home was fairly uneventful, although one girl had a stomach bug and had to pull over to be sick.
Once we returned to Aurora, all the belongings were laid out on the lawn of the school to be collected. Everyone was told to wash all their clothes, and all girls had to discard any makeup, lotions or sprays.
Three of the five girls had return trips to the ER/Urgent Care after their return to CO Sunday. We’re praying hard that this is the end of whatever is attacking their systems.
So, that was Kansas Youth Camp. In the end, it was interesting. There was laughter, tears, and stories to share. Lives were changed, bonds were formed, and God moved.
Pics from the camp trip can be found here: https://igniteyc2k14.shutterfly.com