NO, that really wasn't me crying UNCLE, despite hours of sleep for two nights that could be counted on one hand (total), or despite the fact that it was 11 high-school girls, or despite the fact that just after supper on the second evening, the motor at the bottom of the well at the camp went out, leaving us without running water for the rest of the evening or the following morning. Or the fact that just after I built the most perfect campfire that would have yielded the best hot coals for making s'mores after flaming to glorious heights to make everyone happy, a huge boom of thunder followed some ominous rumbles, and by the time we'd spread out my fine logs in the fire pit and returned to the retreat center, it was raining, and my perfect fire had to be abandoned for a lame one in the fireplace inside that took about an hour to get going.
I was the third of three chaperones for our church's high school youth retreat this weekend (Thursday-Saturday). Our group consisted of 11 girls -- two high school juniors, one sophomore. Yeah. And eight freshmen -- our youth director Shelly and Pastor Heather. We drove 2 1/2 hours to a Lutheran camp near Angola.
The first rather amusing thing that showed these young ladies' characters was how they got settled in. We were divided into two rooms in a "duplex" style cabin -- self-dividing, some go here with Shelly, some go here with Pastor Heather and Jenny. Our girls proceded to spread out all across the cabin. Piles of bags and belongings scattered about. What? Making up the bed? We can do that at bedtime. I haven't talked to some of these girls since we got out of the car a minute and a half ago!
I stuck my nose into Shelly's side to ask a question and was startled at the difference. All the beds were made up, sleeping bags carefully spread across the bunks, possibly even tucked in on the edges, pillows carefully centered on the beds. What, did some of the moms come too? My cabin never got any better. Shelly's never got any worse.
I started to worry about how seriously some of these girls were going to take it. Several of them spent a lot of the ice-breaker time cutting up, asking silly questions, trying to make others laugh, but when we actually started the serious stuff, those were the girls who jumped right in. There was a question-and-answer time with some "super hero" Bible characters, and they did a great job finding out about Deborah, David, Timothy, Rahab, and Lydia. ("At her feet he sank, he fell; there he lay. At her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell -- dead.") And others who didn't ask as many questions then came up with great observations.
They were ready for bed at lights out. I can assure you with all confidence of the veracity of the fact that they went right to sleep with no shenanigans or moaning. They didn't get up to do anything stupid. They didn't even snore, or talk more than one girl's single mumble. I know this for a fact because I did not choose to participate in the sleep activity. Yeah. Something about sleeping bags and camp cots -- even if you get the counselor bed that doesn't have a bunk. I am pretty sure I was asleep before 5 a.m. I was up at 7:26. Four minutes before my alarm would not wake anyone but those of us who were already awake (=Pastor Heather and me).
Friday included more sessions, great participation from the girls, and then the fun of Jenny's wilderness/survival activities. We divided the challenges into three stations: fire-building, shelter, and first-aid. The girls had some supplies and had to use what they had and what they could find. One girl even was willing to sacrifice her hair band for the fire-building cause (and gambled well, because she got it back unharmed). Only one volunteer "died" in the first aid challenge, her group mistaking heat exhaustion for hypothermia. Oops. All managed to make good shelters, which I wished I'd gotten to see. (I was supervising the fires.) Shelly took some pictures; if the church's email ever gets fixed, I'll have her send some.
Then we had a code challenge: each group had to hide a treasure (a baby food jar filled with Nerds) and then make a code that would allow another group to find it, but not too easily: if the finding group did so in less than five minutes, they would get bonus points. It was then that the chaperones decided to use our super powers for EVIL. One group innocently decided to hide their treasure in Shelly's pocket. Thus was born the idea to be spies. But we didn't have to work very hard at it -- another group proudly showed me their code -- a poem-clue -- and asked if I could guess where it was hidden. I did, and they worried it was too easy so they then made a terrific rebus-puzzle for it. The third group showed their clue to Shelly and me and challenged us to find it. Ah, it was like taking candy from babies... So we stole the prizes from their hiding places and then watched to see if the groups would solve the codes. (Turns out they didn't, but we took some captives anyway.) We also gave them the candy back and gave them points for cool codes -- all groups did a great job.
Shelly, Heather and I opted for quick showers before the afternoon session before supper. That ended up being a lucky choice, as a couple hours later the camp manager would come tell us that the pump was dead, a repair person wouldn't be available until 10 a.m. tomorrow, and there would be no water for showering, washing or flushing.
The storm that rained out our campfire allowed the girls to watch Veggie Tales inside while waiting to toast marshmallows. Then off to bed, and I chose to participate in the sleep activity on a limited basis. Ah, yes, and had to get up to go to the bathroom around 3:30. Since I wouldn't be able to flush anyway, AND since it was raining, I decided to do it the camp way. Took a lot less time. And wasn't as cold. Or as wet. :)
Clean-up of the cabins was as contrasting as settling in on Thursday night -- Shelly's side was packed, cleaned up, and ready to help with other clean-up before "some" members of my side were dressed. I'm not even kidding. But we got everything loaded into the cars before morning worship, then finished last bits after worship and headed for home.
The girls were great. Yeah, sleep wasn't so great, but, hey, it's only a couple nights. (And I got a nap when I got home, and will be going to bed very very very soon now.) And I was really pleased at how seriously the girls took the things we did. We had them write notes to themselves for Shelly to send them later, and they all really took time to do them. I don't think anyone scribbled anything down just to get done. Each girl had a jar with her name on it, and the girls were encouraged during the weekend to write encouraging thoughts to each person, and when they got into the cars to leave, we gave each girl her jar. My carload opened them immediately to read what the others had said. And no one's jar was sparsely filled -- and no one wrote mean or stupid stuff, either.
Yeah. I even told Pastor Heather I'd do it again.