Unification News for August 2003

PA Summer Camp: A State of Mind

by Laurel Sayre

My experience at family camp starts nine years ago. I have been a camper all my life. I canít remember a summer that didnít include a hike on a hot summer day, cooking stoves and lanterns, and a pitch tent or cabin.

Growing up as the daughter of two of the PA Family Camp pioneers and the eldest blessed child in Pennsylvania, I took on responsibility as a group leader, song leader, lifeguard, coordinator, and more recently, group leader advisor. Throughout my nine years at family camp, I have begun to catch on to the vision of what my parents have built.

Itís often hard to imagine what something will become when it is first starting out. It all began with a few local families in tents and has turned into a two week camp with almost a hundred families attending from all over the United States and even internationally.

It was this past year that I started noticing the real impact of family camp. I have watched children grow into young adults. Kids that I had in my groups are now in high school and leading groups of their own. I am constantly amazed at the transformations of my peers from year to year. For many, their most pivotal and deep experiences have occurred while at camp and the most important part about it is that the whole family is there to experience it together.

God has blessed us with so many things over the years. One of which is our location at Camp Shehaqua, a part of Hickory Run State Park in Eastern Pennsylvania. The beautiful scenery, facilities, and uplifting atmosphere make it the perfect place for any kind of workshop. Forgive the "Travel channel description" but I really have come to think of it as a second home. It is a place where God is able to speak through the creation and through all of the people there. When I return back to the camp, I can still feel a part of the spirit that was left there from the year before.

The camp provides divine principle education from toddlers to teens and also includes adult education headed up by one of the camp parents. This year I was fortunate to take on an immense responsibility of being the advisor for all of the second generation group leaders. This was the second time I have played this role at camp. The significance of this for me is great because of my experience in working with second generation over the years. I remember how much I looked up to my older brothers and sisters, and how important it was for me to have those kinds of role models in my life. I was given the position of older sister in my own family and have tried to expand that role toward the larger community. It was such a profound experience taking care of my younger brothers and sisters, and especially watching them love and take responsibility for their younger brothers and sisters. Knowing many of them from years past it is amazing to see how much each person grows, developing themselves into a true son or daughter of God and then spreading that love and experience to help raise up others. My heart was full of pride and love for all of my group leaders this year and I thank them just for being the outstanding people that they are.

In terms of the overall program, there are three things that I feel make the Pennsylvania camps stand out. I have learned valuable lessons from each one of these trademarks of family camp.

First, everyone comes with their family. While I have attended many workshops for second generation only and have valued my time there, I have come to understand more and more the importance of community and family through my time at family camp. We are all Godís children, and therefore, we are all in it together. Often the parents seem to get more out of camp than their children. I have found in my own experience that the best way for a child to grow and understand principle is to have unity within the family.

Second, everyone works at Camp Shehaqua. From older second generation staff as group leaders to parents that work in the kitchen, everyone that comes to camp has a specific role or responsibility to fill. This is what makes the whole camp function physically as well as spiritually. Everyone works together to make the camp happen. We are a part of the bigger family and community working together to accomplish a higher purpose.

And of course, Joy. The three purposes of camp has always been joy, joyÖand you guessed it! Joy! It is Godís joy as well as ours to see all these families coming together as brothers and sisters, a place where he can dwell and live. One of my favorite things to say is, "PA is not a state, itís a state of mind." the joy and love that we experience at camp, we take with us back to our own communities.

In our lives we are a part of something much greater than ourselves. Father has always said that we enter the kingdom of heaven not as individuals, but as a family. Every year, I have experienced a little piece of that kingdom within the bounds of Camp Shehaqua. I cannot begin to describe it in words, all I can say is come and see for yourself.

There were two sessions of Camp this year with 46 families and 200 participants in attendance at each session. Our plans for next year may include more sessions, the development of a standardized 7 day program for families and teens and other ideas have been kicked around as well. Our programs are 100% self funded and we use three simple rules in developing any program. First, every program needs a champion. Second, every program needs a plan that makes sense and third every program must pay for itself. There is a high degree of ownership in our programs. . For more information about the PA Family Camp, visit our web-site at www.live4joy.org.

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