Reflections from summer staff
We asked members of our summer staff to share their thoughts and reflections of their summer at Ewalu, where the theme was "Boundless: God Beyond Measure."
NOAH TIEGS, Day Camp Coordinator:
Although we are bound by time and space to the joys of camp, 2022 has been an awesome summer for learning about our Boundless God. As this year's Day Camp Coordinator, I was thrilled to hear so many stories from counselors and church volunteers about our ministry beyond the boundary of Ewalu. Nothing has shown me as much as Day Camp how blessed Ewalu is to be surrounded by a welcoming, generous community. To our counselors' host families and the pastors, youth directors, and volunteers who supported our Day Camps: thank you for making space for us in your congregations!
As a returning staff member, it is easy to wrap oneself in camp traditions, but as a part of our Boundless: God Beyond Measure theme, we were called to expand our worship practice and vocabulary this summer. Thanks to the creativity of our Chaplain, Hannah Bockbrader, we praised God in a silent worship service, offered beautiful confession and forgiveness through the burning of our written sins, and built a faith community while building a puzzle. Support staff Bible Study is another favorite time of mine to explore God's love and goodness. Led by many people this summer, we saw a dialogue sermon, competed in trivia, connected the Good Samaritan with passages across the Old Testament, and learned that God can handle our anger and frustration. In each of these sessions we saw our God Beyond Measure from a new angle.
My personal study this summer included much reading, including Bonhoeffer's Life Together. Bonhoeffer's text opened my eyes to the true miracle of a group of young people willing to devote ten weeks of their summer to this ministry, and challenged me to practice healthier living within it. It is always difficult to step away from that miracle of Christian community, but the distances does not diminish our blessings or call to show the grace of God. I cannot wait to celebrate, pray, and worship together again soon.
Soli Deo Gloria!
MICHAELA DEHLI, Trailroom Coordinator:
Camp EWALU has been home to me for many years. I first came here as a mini camper and continued all the way until I was an LT. After that I began counseling and coordinating, leading me all the way to my role this summer as Trailroom Coordinator (pack-out meal master). I worked alongside my fellow coordinators to provide nourishing and exciting campfire meals that bonded cabin groups as families and left them telling stories about the delicacy of muff fluff.
I look back on this just-ending summer with fondness and lots of laughter. From game nights, to coffee on the roof, and all the meaningful moments that happened in between this summer was nothing short of a dream and I am so thankful I got to experience it alongside these folks.
WILL VERSTEEGH, Volunteer:
The Ewalu sign on Alpha Avenue evokes a variety of emotions driving into camp, but more importantly for me, it always signals that regardless of the emotions, the next adventure is about to begin. That signal had faded after spending week after week, summer after summer in my college years. Now, that sign greets me as a new welcome and reminder that for a few days I get to be part of the wonder that is an Ewalu summer. Being able to chat with and observe campers and summer staff while helping here and there is something I’ll never take for granted.
In simpler terms, I supported the staff as a volunteer for a few days during Weeks 4 and 7—but like any good camp week, you can pack a lot of fun into a few days. Setting up a teepee and treehouse here, some vehicle and trailer maintenance there, cleaning up a fallen tree here and there were wonderful escapes from daily work to the peaceful solace that I’ve come to love at Ewalu.
On the other side of the coin is the community—similar to a time when I was a wide-eyed camper in awe of the counselors, coordinators, and LTs—conversations with summer staff frequently left me inspired and filled with peace. Experiencing a new “generation” of summer staff has been a reminder the same spirit is present and active.
While I’m no longer the mind-blown teenager finding role models every summer, I felt privileged to watch former campers knock it out of the park as summer staff. Witnessing the results of young adults putting their hearts, souls, bodies and minds into creating fun and foundational experiences for all involved just never gets old.
ASHLEY GULRUD, Interim Program Director:
This year, as with the last few, an obvious challenge going into the summer was Covid. This quickly became apparent as 15 staff tested positive during staff training. I ended up struggling to figure out how to get through staff training with just over half a staff left to train while also spending some time in the kitchen making sure people got fed with our food service director being one of the many out of commission.
Even though it was not without challenges, I was grateful for the outbreak to have happened when it did. We made our changes for the first week of camp and prepared to move at full steam ahead as staff started trickling back in after their quarantines. This would, of course, only be the first challenge of the summer, and boy was it a doozy.
Comparatively, the rest of the summer went along without any major hitches, just the little things that pop up along the way. Not only was this my first year in the program director role, but I also took on the role of health officer as well. This put me in the position to smooth over all of the biggest bumps in the road. The staff were well equipped (even after the Covid thing) to deal with a lot of situations, but some are just too big or require my help in some way or another. From homesick campers wanting to go home to more urgent trips to the ER, I am the go-to person when situations escalate.
As a result, I’m usually not the person seeing campers at their best but at their most vulnerable. It’s not necessarily a position I like to be in, but one I’ve learned to accommodate well. Ultimately, the biggest reward is to help a camper through their situation and hear they still want to return next year. It takes patience and compassion, but that’s not too hard to come by around here.