What a blessing our Passport summer camp experience was this year. With Paul Laughlin as chaperone, I took Reggie McSwain, Harrison Hicks, and Matthew Gallardo of Sacred Heart to Charlotte, NC, for a week of fun, worship, learning, and interaction with other youth from across the southeast. The guys, all going into their junior year of high school in the fall, felt a little out of place initially as most of the campers were junior high age; but over the course of the week, all three made new friends, had good times and fellowship, and even gained a following of fans (especially, I think, with some of the female campers).
The camp’s emphasis was on Choice groups, designed to allow campers to modify their experience based on personal/vocational interests. Matthew and Harrison took their athletic skills to a sports-oriented group, the purpose of which was to coach and inspire a service-leadership mentality through discipline and teamwork. While they had a lot of fun with the different games and competitions, Matthew and Harrison also quickly developed mentoring roles among the younger kids as they led them in activities (and antics outside of Choice groups). Reggie was part of the group I signed up to chaperone, which encouraged campers to develop an appreciation for the commonalities among cultures and religions, and to think broadly and globally for the building of better relationships.
Part of the curriculum included a trip to a local mosque, where we were graciously welcomed by the imam and his family—this was a particularly cool experience, as the imam took time to give a rundown of the basics of Islamic faith, highlighting the similarities in outlook between his religion and ous. Everyone in our group was curious and eager to learn and took away a new perspective from the meeting. I know my and Reggie’s understanding benefited, and for us, it was one of the most memorable parts of the week. Paul Laughlin chaperoned a group that dealt with ecological awareness and stewardship, teaching kids about all the delicate interconnections of nature and our responsibility toward, and dependence on, the earth, and allowing them some hands-on gardening experience.
Besides the Choice group activities, our busy days were spent in high-octane morning celebrations (which intimidated us all at first, but by the end of the week we were awkwardly dancing and jumping along with everyone else), Bible study groups, free-time activities like basketball, evening worship services, nightly camp parties (you can imagine the wild energy this unleashed on the campus of Queens University), and finally some “bonding time” for our church group as we hung out and reviewed the day’s events. Matthew and Harrison also participated in the big volleyball tournament, on a team with youth from Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Kentucky (the referee called the team “Hopeversity”). I am proud to say they were the victors, beating out the camp leaders’ team to claim first place. It was a marvelous ecumenical movement.
While we all enjoyed the camp experience and interacting with new people from other (mostly CBF) churches, the real joy of the week was the opportunity the five of us had to spend time together—whether on the road, in the dorms, in the cafeteria, or out on the town with bowling and dinner at Bad Daddy’s Burgers (a popular Charlotte dive)—and to get to know one another a little better. I am really grateful for the chance to learn more about these guys’ personalities, interests and goals. I probably got more from their fellowship than anything I gave in the way of leadership, and I can honestly say I count them as more than the students of my ministry, but as friends. Paul, who is a delightful traveling companion, did not really know what to expect out of the week, but I believe I speak for him as well as myself when I say this turned out to be a greatly rewarding but extremely exhausting trip, and a fantastic memory of Christian life together with the youth of UBC.