Kids often hear the phrase, “Make sure you use your inside voice.”
But the more than 1,000 incoming first- through fifth-graders who attended Summer Camp at Country Lake Christian Retreat heard quite the opposite as they enjoyed themselves outside.
Southeast Christian Church’s SE!Kids Summer Camp was held in three sessions July 16-25.
“The kids really enjoyed the retro video game theme, and they took to heart the concept of ‘leveling up’ their faith,” said Blankenbaker Campus Children’s Associate Steve Young.
During camp competitions, children were divided into teams named after retro videogame characters, such as Frogger, Mario, PAC-MAN and Donkey Kong.
The Frogger team of campers and leaders from Southeast’s Elizabethtown Campus adopted their own military-style chant: “I don’t know what you’ve been told, we know why Frogger crossed the road. Jesus died for all of us, Frogger gives us all our trust. Now we got to dodge those cars, He paid it with all His scars.”
Volunteer leader Phil Hayes said the chant created camaraderie.
“One of our fellow leaders for E’town wrote up a military style cadence, and they wanted me to do it because I’m leaving for the Navy soon, and they thought it was appropriate for me to lead this chant,” Hayes said. “On the bus and during breakfast, we were trying to get the team as loud as possible.”
Hayes, who ships off for service at the end of September, also learned a lot by getting out of God’s way.
“It was very cool to be in a supportive role, to step back and let God work,” Hayes added. “If you just step back and let Him work, He will.”
That He did.
During the two camps for third- through fifth-graders, 65 kids were baptized and 18 committed to be baptized after camp.
The “Forever Treasure” class was offered for kids to learn about what it means to follow Jesus through baptism and beyond.
The class was held during swim time.
“We place it during swim time, and they have to give up that free time so they know it’s a serious thing if you’re considering that decision,” said E’town Children’s Family Pastor Ryne Able. “One of our kids, Jude, said, ‘I want to follow Jesus.’ I said, ‘All right, that’s exactly what this whole thing is all about.’ I was hoping he would get to the point where he said, ‘It’s not because of my parents or I think it’s the cool thing to do, but it’s my decision.’”
Young, who has been to more than 60 camps over the course of two decades, said this year’s camps were packed with energy.
“SE!Kids Camp 2019 was the biggest yet, and not just in terms of attendance,” Young said. “From the facilities at Country Lake, to the commitment of the volunteers, the energy of the kids and the presence of the Lord, this camp season was incredible. Daily worship sessions were filled with energy, and kids really engaged in their small group times.”
Fourth-grader Grace Godthaab, who’s been to SE!Kid’s Camp three times, enjoyed learning about the story of Paul and Silas.
“I thought it was cool we had worship in the morning and night,” Godthaab said. “We dug deep in the Bible. Paul and Silas were put in jail because people didn’t like how they were praising God. The jail doors opened, and they got to tell the jailer about Jesus. It was amazing that he learned about Jesus and started following Him.”
While kids got to let out their energy during games, they also noticed bed time was pushed back a bit.
Fifth-grader Blane Torzewski, who attends the River Valley Campus, normally heads to bed at 9 p.m.
“We got to stay up late until like 11 at night and play a bunch of games,” Torzewski said.
Torzewski’s little sister, fourth-grader Stella Torzewski, had a different “aha” moment. She enjoyed the “no electronics at camp” rule.
“A lot of times, I’m on my iPad a lot,” she said. “It was nice to have a little break from it staying out with my friends and talking about God.”
For River Valley Children’s Ministry Leader Jennifer Baumer, this was a sweet surprise.
“Stella looked at me and said, ‘Thank you for us not being able to have electronics. I’m so addicted to technology that I’ve missed so much. Being at camp has allowed me to really focus on everyone around me and to be with them while I’ve been here,’” Baumer said. “That was really profound. Here’s this little bitty fourth-grader, and she’s realizing the importance of being in the moment with other kids.”