Unification News for August 2003
Camp Aurora New Hampshire
by Heather Thalheimer and Marjorie Buessing
Our camp was held at Geneva Point Center June 21 - 27th, 2003 on beautiful Lake Winnepausakee, in New Hampshire. 122 children and 27 camp counselors, 13 of them 2nd Generation, attended Camp Aurora for our eleventh annual Blessed children's camp. Camp Aurora is a collaborative effort. Our volunteer staff represents five regions and over the years children have attended from fourteen states. We were blessed with perfect weather and everyone felt it was the best camp ever!
The camp provides a wide variety of activities such as the water sports carnival, canoe lessons and trips, swimming, ropes courses and team building activities, nature center and crafts. Geneva Point staff support our camp and help us take advantage of the many wonderful activities they offer. The camp is on 200 acres of lakeside property with many hiking trails. A lakeside outdoor chapel hosts our early morning services. They have ample space for the various age appropriate Divine Principle presentations. A restored barn, with a stone fireplace for campfires, is available for the camp theater and evening activities.
The wonderful facilities at Geneva Point enable us to host all three camps concurrently, Kids Camp (grades 3-4, 22 participants), Youth Camp (grades 5-7, 45 participants) and Teen Camp (grades 8-11, 55 participants). Camp Aurora is strengthened through the contribution of our second generation. We welcome high school seniors and college students as camp counselors and presenters. Hosting all three camps together ensures all groups a powerful, spirit filled experience as they come together to create music and share in certain activities collectively. Every year we hold a huge, multi-age capture the flag game. Campers are paired oldest to youngest. Seeing the pairs running around the field together is a riot. Interactions like this help the older children develop a parental heart toward the young campers. Our singing and music raised the roof! The pure spirit, enthusiasm and good behavior of our children received a lot of praise from Geneva Point staff. The Director of Geneva Point Center asked, "Where did you find these children? We have many groups passing through this facility but your children are exceptional; their behavior and the way they cooperate together is very special."
A theme that permeates each camp we run has its origin in Father's guidance to us concerning Blessed children's education. About 12 years ago Heather Thalheimer, who co-founded Camp Aurora together with Marjorie Buessing, attended Belvedere for Sunday Service. At that particular service Father asked all the Blessed couples to stand up and scolded everyone for not educating the 2nd generation about the history of Israel and the unsuccessful settlement of Canaan by the 2nd generation of Israel. Helping our second generation understand how Israel became weakened as it was absorbed by the surrounding culture has always been a focus at our camps. We look at the forces today in American culture that try to drag us away from God's lineage, tradition and culture and how we must be spiritually clear and not become absorbed by the by the larger secular culture.
The theme this year was, "The Dream Starts Now!" We emphasized how what we do today determines our future. Even the biggest dreams, such as building Cheon Il Guk, all start with a small, but significant step toward the goal. Campers were guided to take initiative to create goodness starting now, today, in every little action they take. Many of the children had breakthrough experiences and felt reborn through their time at camp.
Camp is so important for the Blessed children because it creates a pure environment where they are not afraid to be themselves. One camper wrote, "I love being at Camp with Blessed friends because I can be myself. In other places, except home, I feel I'm not myself." Other campers added their thoughts, "being here is so refreshing! I feel closer to God" and, " I got a taste of the Kingdom of Heaven here, I hope to take it wherever I go."
Camp Aurora also empowers the kids in meeting the challenges of a culture that doesn't understand the value of purity. After one of the sessions one girl shared that hearing other girls be clear with their friends about why they don't date gave her the confidence to do the same with her friends in the coming school year. Another camper shared that he better understood the value of his existence and that he needed to influence his friends rather than allowing everyone to influence him. At camp teens get an opportunity to share honestly with each other about their challenges but also their successes. They learn they are not alone and find support from each other.
Keiko Park gave a presentation on Jacob's course and it's practical applications for our life of faith. The teens gained a lot from the presentation. One student reflected, "Keiko inspired me to be more like Jacob and prepare myself for what God wants me to do." On many different occasions it was encouraging to see teens awaken to an awareness that God needs them and is calling to them.
Many of the presenters integrated personal testimony along with Divine Principle. The campers appreciated real life examples, "The testimonies make it all real and it always stays with you." (Camper, 15yrs.) Matt Jones was the main presenter for teen camp. He shared honestly about his struggles in high school and college but more importantly, how he won the victory. The 2nd generation presenters could reach the campers on a very deep level because they've been through it and understand the kind of support and education that's needed. Camp Aurora works hard to reap the benefits of shared leadership and expertise by building a strong collaboration between 1st and 2nd generation.
Camp Aurora has benefited from the sharing among camps, facilitated by the national 2nd Generation Education Conference held last October at UTS. We were able to share what's worked for us and get new ideas. This year we added a candle light vigil to our program. We also emphasized prayer with all three camp groups. Kids and Youth camp had designated prayer trees: the "Tree of New Beginning" that helped campers talk with Heavenly Father about what they were sorry for and the "Dream Starts Now Tree" to help them focus their energy and pray to accomplish for Heaven. Suggestions included: today I will do something good for someone else, try my best at everything etc. The trees were helpful as they gave campers something to focus their prayer on. Teen camp had daily prayer in nature and journal/reflection time at night to help them process their experience and learn from it. Some campers received answers to questions posed in prayer and this encouraged them to maintain personal, regular give and take with Heavenly Father.
This year we gave the teens a Divine Principle test so that they could self assess their knowledge base. This was a great springboard for discussion and helped everyone realize how we need to study the Principle throughout the year. This fall we are beginning a Camp Aurora Extension Program for high school and college students who would like to study the Divine Principle in depth and train to become presenters. There is tremendous talent waiting to be cultivated!
The Camp Aurora Leadership Program fosters leadership through giving students, 11th grade and up, the training and opportunity to be a group leader. Every year we award an outstanding counselor with the Camp Counselor of the Year Award. This year the award was given to ___. He was a great example of a true Able to his campers. Camp Aurora also offers the "Living for the Sake of Others Award" to promote this core value. This year the award was given to Katherine Li Greene who was always encouraging others and an enthusiastic, helpful participant. These awards help set the standard for our camp.
Camp Aurora works in collaboration with Service for Peace in Maine to provide a weekend service experience for teens following camp. The teens left Camp Aurora so full of energy and inspiration and were able to channel that into their service project. In closing we'd like to leave you with some words from campers themselves: "I feel safe and happy when I'm at Camp Aurora," and "I had one of the best experiences in my life here!"
Thank you to all the campers who came and made it the "best camp ever," and much gratitude to our hard working staff, many of who sacrificed their vacation time for camp. We also appreciate our ten prayer ladies who prayed daily for each child by name and special thanks to our Regional Director, Rev. Jung who loves the Blessed children and lends his thoughtful guidance and support to Camp Aurora.
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