Articles from the August 1997 Unification News

California Summer Camp: The Heavenly Kingdom on Earth!

by Kristina M. Seher-Berkeley, CA

"Ooh! Ahh!" Spontaneous applause and squeals of delight accompanied our spectacular fireworks display at the Eleventh Annual Family Camp Shimjeung at Aetna Springs Resort in Northern California. About 55 excited families celebrated America's birthday with a free carnival topped off with a fireworks display. The carnival featured 20 "booths" where everyone won tickets for effort as well as for successful results. The fourth and fifth grade boys designed a winning miniature golf putting green complete with obstacles. The 7th and 8th grade girls buried "jewels" in a sandbox and gave participants 30 seconds to dig up all they could and to redeem them for tickets. Teams of children panted, running frantically, to fill up a can with water squeezed from sponges, a game made up by one of our science teachers, Gerri Linek. Other parents and older kids manned a duck pond game, bean bag toss, golf ball-in-spoon race, bowling, nickel toss, and a dozen other booths. Children dashed to the prize table to redeem their tickets for super prizes which Robin Cox had ordered from novelty houses. All the children (even the teenagers) were happy about their prizes, trading and demonstrating them to their friends. Bob Gauper brought a soda fountain machine and set it up at the carnival so everyone could enjoy unlimited free sodas. Matthew Morrison and Casey Cox and the 6th, 7th and 8th grade boys set up the fireworks.

Family Camp Shimjeung starts each day with parents praying at the Holy Ground, followed by exercises and morning service. We felt deep gratitude to True Parents for giving us the Divine Principle, which makes this "Shimjeung Community" possible. We share a bond of heart so deep that many of us expressed the feeling we had never been separated since last year. Family Camp Shimjeung features qualified teachers offering classes each morning for kids ages 2-14. Each group of kids rotates to Principle Life Education (taught by parent group leaders), Science ()taught by Poppy Richie and Gerri Linek), and Art (taught by Robin Cox and Carol Clive). Principle Life Education topics this year included the First Great Realm of Heart (filial piety), the Second Great Realm of Heart (brother/sister relationships), Father's and Mother's lives, living for a greater whole (saints and patriots), and the relationship of spirit world to physical world (including a group service project). Science is taught at camp because we find the Blessed children are natural scientists, filled with curiosity about God's Creation. They persist in asking questions and in researching the things they discover. Art is taught because through the creative process, Blessed children can know that God created this entire world to give us beauty and use. Through art they learn to cherish the unique qualities of things related to the five physical senses and to cultivate their sense of beauty. In addition, as they create they feel a natural sense of joy and self-esteem. Science and art were both set up with various centers where campers used a printing press, a microscope, made jewelry, Indian prayer sticks, paper, silly putty, playdough, star wheels, identified various plants and animals, as well as the universal favorite: making and stocking terrariums and aquariums with specimens of wildlife from Aetna Springs. Beverly Tidwell shared about navigating across the Pacific Ocean in a 36-foot sailboat by the stars, and led a stargazing activity. The heavens were breathtaking. Billions of stars were visible out in the country. Some shooting stars graced us with their brief glory. We felt awestruck by God's majesty, bathed in wonder at His Creation.

During the afternoons, a period we call Family Free Time, parents and children enjoyed relaxing in the spa, swimming at the lake, and playing various sports. Special classes were offered by various parents: Music Appreciation by Marie Gauper; Ceramics by Robin Cox and Matthew Morrison; kayaking by Michael Joyce; basketball by Dan Davies; horseback riding by a new friend of our movement, Susie Whaley; and safely using a BB gun by Casey Cox, Steve Tidwell and David Wolfenberger.

One of the tremendous spiritual benefits of Family Camp is that parents take time to share with one another about important issues. Many couples shared their testimonies about Blessing couples in preparation for Nov. 29 and their experiences at Chung Pyung Lake. People were constantly reflecting on what works and doesn't work in caring for children. We even managed to have a daily "parent roundtable discussion hour" centered on various topics such as bringing 160 couples to the Blessing, parenting and children's camps. Our nightly staff meetings were a combination of nuts and bolts planning, inspired brainstorming and hysterical laughter. The fellowship we experienced truly made this the Kingdom of Heaven.

We find our children making deep bonds of friendship with other Blessed children, bonds they cherish from year to year. Many of them correspond with their Family Camp friends during the year. Many parents report that their children look forward all year to Family Camp, pestering their parents to be sure they don't miss it. One parent, Bob Millar, noted that the question is not "How can we afford Family Camp?" but "How can any family afford to miss Family Camp?"

Gourmet cuisine was prepared by Joel and Mary Larson, assisted by Helen Abelseth, David Bell, Linda Nichols and Mary Glade, a new friend who attended with her husband and two children, having met our movement through the WFWP Bridge of Peace conferences. Every meal was a new delight and contributed greatly to the heavenly experience families had together.

Evening programs were special for everyone. Besides the carnival and fireworks on the Fourth of July, we enjoyed a fabulous skit night and an exciting Treasure Hunt. One evening Matthew Morrison, Bob Millar and I organized two Treasure Hunts for younger and older campers. Teams of red-faced kids raced through the camp, finding "clues" written as riddles, directing them to different parts of the resort. Teams which unified and thought before rushing off had the shortest times, but everyone enjoyed Mary Larson's homemade cookies and milk at the end (the "treasure"). The final evening we celebrated by having each group of campers present a heavenly song or skit. From the preschool's adorable "Beaver Song," led by Ann Steinbronn and Beverly Tidwell (with a lot of funny-looking parents participating!) to the 6th/7th/8th grade girls imitating their parents and staff at the camp (preceded by the disclaimer "Any resemblance to people or events at this camp is entirely unintentional"), the entertainment was superb. The most hysterically funny skit was the 4th-8th grade boys'; in pairs they created "midgets" who followed the camp schedule. We laughed so hard our sides ached! The grand finale was the Korean tale of "The Blind Man's Daughter," acted out by the staff. It turned out to be a wonderful blend of humor and touching filial piety, crowned with the staff's rousing rendition of "The Impossible Dream"; this brought down the house.

It is fair to say that a fabulous time was had by all. We urge you to put next year's Family Camp Shimjeung on your calendars: Tuesday, June 30 through Sunday, July 5. We will offer a Counselor in Training (CIT) Program for enthusiastic 14 and 15 year olds, which will begin with a two-day workshop June 28-29. The CITs, like everyone else, need to attend Family Camp with their own families. I urge you to set aside one week out of your whole year for your family to actually experience the Heavenly Kingdom on Earth through Family Camp.

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