Core Value: You Cannot Teach An Unhappy Camper

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It’s been nearly 35 years and I can still remember like it was yesterday. It was my first, and last experience, as a camper. I found myself at a small camp in Northern Ohio away from mom and dad for the very first time. Two days into my camp experience I got homesick so I decided to write a letter home. This is what my little literary gem said:


Dear Mom and Dad,


Come get me.




P.S. I caught a turtle.


For some reason, my mom has held on to that letter for over 35 years, and no, she’s not a hoarder!


As you can probably tell from the letter I wasn’t exactly what you would call a “happy camper”. I wanted out and NOW! After a desperate phone call home, my mom encouraged me to tough it out for the rest of the week. To this day I’m thankful that she made me do the hard thing.


Unfortunately, after that dreaded experience, I never went back to camp. I was one of those “one and done” campers – one time to camp, never to return again. (Can someone please pass me a tissue? Sniff, sniff.)


As I reflect on my week at “Camp Agony” I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t learn a whole lot during my time there. Why? Well here’s the thing. It’s a simple fact of camping that you cannot reach or teach the heart of an unhappy camper. If a camper’s heart is unhappy, a camper’s heart is unteachable.


There are different reasons why a camper is an unhappy camper.


  1. Fear. Some kids come to camp with fear. Fear of being away from mom and dad for an entire week. Fear of what might happen to them in their new environment. Fear of someone embarrassing them with a dreaded cabin prank. Fear of the unknown.
  2. Burdens. Other kids come to camp carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Whether it’s the weight of having to move to a new school, the prospect of heading off to college, the impending divorce of their parents, or just the burden of feeling all alone, many kids come to camp overwhelmed.


All the fears and all the burdens that a camper might bring with them will most likely result in an unhappy camper long before camp even begins.


So, what’s a camp to do? Well, for starters, a camp worth its salt will make camp fun…REALLY FUN. Fun won’t fix problems of the heart like fear and worry, but it certainly can crack open the door to a kid’s heart – the very place Lake Ann Camp wants to reach for Jesus Christ.


You see if a camper who has a personal relationship with Jesus is having a good time with all the activities, they will be much more likely to show up at chapel at least interested in what the speaker has to say about God, their life, their attitudes, and their choices.


On the other hand, if a camper thinks game time is boring, cabin time is boring and swim time is boring then when chapel time rolls around, they are most likely going to think that chapel is going to be boring too.If that’s what they think, then we’ve likely lost a golden opportunity to make a difference for Christ in that camper’s life.


Lake Ann Camp understands that. Lake Ann knows that every camper comes to camp with high expectations that their week at camp is going to be packed with fun. And Lake Ann works really hard to deliver that fun. As a matter of fact, most campers “fun meter” is MAXED out during their entire week at camp. Just take a trip to our bog or go airborne on our blob and you’ll know what I mean!


Lake Ann Camp sees fun not only as a wonderful blessing from a gracious God for His creation to enjoy but also as a tool to help prepare a camper’s heart when it comes time to open up God’s Word in chapel or to talk about life out on the challenge course.


While it’s true that God can easily reach into the heart of any camper any time He wants and touch it with His grace, even if camp were a complete bore, we also believe that a wise teacher will make learning a joy.


A wise person will work hard to create a setting where the learning and growth process is enjoyable for the learner.  The wise person will design an atmosphere that screams out “you’re going to learn a lot here and you’re going to have a lot of fun while you’re doing it.”


That fun prepares the camper’s heart to receive whatever the teacher wants to teach them – in Lake Ann’s case it’s the life-giving instruction from the soul-nourishing Word of God.


Fun is not an end in itself. Instead, it becomes the means to a very important end – helping campers to grow in their understanding of what it means to walk with God.


So when you set foot on the grounds at Lake Ann Camp, expect to enter an environment where fun is happening everywhere you look – all for the intentional purpose of achieving the ultimate goal of camp: to teach every camper that our God is truly a good, good Father that is worthy of all our love and obedience.


-Sean Fox

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