This summer, I’m working at Camp Wakonda, about an hour north of Madison, Wisconsin. This will be my fourth, and likely final summer working here. It has always been a great place for transitions in my life: 2 years ago, it helped me navigate culture shock coming back after a year as a student missionary to Lebanon. Last year, my wife Mateja and I spent the first 2 years of our marriage working at camp, and then went on our honeymoon. This summer, we are in the process of moving from Berrien to Stanford, CA.
Camp has always been a welcome break from the high-paced digital world that I am growing up in. For the most part, camp has one bar of cell service, the mobile data is barely faster than a skilled morse code operator at times, and there are 60 staff all sharing one WiFi connection during their time off. Camp instead offers an opportunity to experience nature including sunburn, last minute preparations in the pouring rain, and ticks and mosquitoes.
I’ve had some discussions with some of the staff over why we chose to work at camp. While there are a lot of jobs and internships out there where us young folk can gain professional experience that will help with our careers, there are some people skills that are best taught by roughing it at a camp. These skills include:
- intentional communication (ex. reminding junior campers more than once what the expectations are)
- face-to-face people skills (at camp, staff communicate with all their coworkers and campers without email, text messages, phone calls, etc…)
- resourcefulness (ex. carrying around a frisbee because you can entertain kids of any age at a moments notice by throwing something at them)
- patience and understanding (ex. counseling kids with special needs)
- leadership (ex. quickly identifying what each of your 5-9 campers are strong and weak in, and building a family out of each camper’s character)
- being comfortable with discomfort (ex. taking cold showers every morning)
There is so much mentoring and development that happens during camp. So often, you see staff around you come to what they feel is a breaking point, facing a limit they feel they can never overcome. But through prayer and support from mentors and team members, every time Jesus helps us to make it through.
I’m glad that I could make it back this summer as I transition to surviving in silicon valley. As much as possible, I want to embrace a more simple life, in our bubble out here disconnected (or set apart) from the world.