One of the Best Things about Summer

One of the Best Things about Summer

Mar 21, 2014

One of the Best Things about Summer

by Charlotte Chroniger


The first summer I went to church camp I was in fifth grade. Five girls from my Sunday School class and I spent a week at a Baptist campground in Iowa. I enjoyed the morning chapel, the evening services, making new friends, and choosing different activities together. It was the best week of my summer, and the beginning of many years of summer church camp, either as a camper or a counselor.

When we moved to New Jersey, our family was excited that the Shiloh Church had its own camp—Jersey Oaks—and a ministry to many children and youth during the summer. The camp was the vision of Pastor Charles Bond and others in the congregation. In 1960 they all had a standing appointment at 7:00 am on Sundays to work at the property.

05 Jersey Lemons CLR

The Shiloh Church was fortunate to have men with the skills needed to build the camp: masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, roofers, and those who could run the heavy equipment. With the women working alongside, and after nine months, the camp was dedicated on July 23, 1960. That first camping season, 48 of the 118 campers who attended Jersey Oaks were from Shiloh. Another kind of outreach to the area children and youth had begun.

The goals of Jersey Oaks haven’t changed much throughout the years—to present Christ and His way of life to children and young people, and to provide experiences in Christian group living in a camp setting. As a Christian camp, the staff helps the campers to fulfill their pledge: to cooperate in study, work, play and worship; to refrain from habits that are harmful to one’s body; to try to be Christ-like in one’s conduct; and to obey the camp rules.

I’ve been blessed to direct the Jersey Oaks Primary Camp for a number of years. This week-long camp is for children in Kindergarten through Third Grade. It is a day camp, with the opportunity for 2nd and 3rd graders to spend two nights at Jersey Oaks. As their first camping experience, it is crucial that we provide the best possible opportunities for the boys and girls. We want them to want to come back the next summer, and many summers after.

We are so thankful that we have youth and adults who are willing to give up a week of their time to work at Jersey Oaks. Some are at camp all three weeks. These volunteers impact the children in so many ways, and we are very aware that we are planting seeds for God’s Kingdom.

06 Jersey Lemons2 CLR

Primary Camp offers basic Bible lessons. Many of the children know some of the stories, but we occasionally have children who have never heard the Gospel. What a privilege to share the Word of God and His message of love and forgiveness with the children! The campers have recreation, music, crafts, snacks, swimming, and some free time each day. These activities encourage the campers to work with others, to play fair and safely, and to learn how to resolve any conflict that might come along.

The 2nd and 3rd graders who spend the night have the opportunity to plan vespers and campfire, as well as doing dishes, sweeping the dorms, and cleaning the bathrooms. We frequently have campers who have never done dishes before, but when they work with their small group, the time goes quickly. Some campers even enjoy doing dishes! The staff members who supervise chore time use it as a teachable moment.

Because of the age of our campers, anyone who wants to go in deeper water at the pool must pass a swimming test (swim the length of the big pool). Campers with swimming experience find the test easy, but for some of the campers, it is a bit scary. We encourage them to keep trying, and they do!

Some children try to pass the test every day, and each day they do a little better. A highlight is when during our last swimming time, someone finally passes the test. What a great achievement! We make sure the parents know of their accomplishments—how proud we are of the campers who kept trying to overcome an obstacle and reached their goal.

It is one thing to live with Mom, Dad, and siblings at home, but it’s very different to live in a cabin with other girls or boys, with a bunk bed, a suitcase full of clothes and stuff, and sharing a community bathroom. The life skills the campers learn hopefully will stay with them throughout their growing up years.

Picking up wet towels, waiting a turn at the showers, keeping one’s bunk fairly neat, sleeping in a different bed—all are experiences that will shape our young campers. Each camper learns about responsibility and getting along with others.

It takes courage to go to camp the first time, especially for those children who have never spent the night anywhere besides home or Grandma’s place, or those children who don’t go anywhere without a parent. We want to help our campers try some new things, to move out of their comfort box, to enjoy Christian camping.

As I prepare and study for the Bible lessons I will use at camp, I always learn something new from the Scriptures. I am blessed by my interaction with the campers and staff.

I am a different person because I’ve been at Jersey Oaks. God teaches me while I’m at camp, and reminds me how much I need to be faithful in sharing the Good News of Jesus with the campers. Church camp is still one of the best things about summer for me.

Clip to Evernote