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"Metaphoric Euphoric Parabolic KAUCC Spring Youth Camp" at Waineke Cabins

Written by Olaf Hoeckmann-Percival, Pastor of Waimea UCC

“Hey, I can see my own breath! Looks like I’m smoking!”

“Yup, you smokin’ alright.”

Besides the very cold mornings, the days were warm and bright at Spring Camp at Waineke Cabins. The bane of any camp experience is rain, but by the Grace of God we were sunny for four full days in March up at Kokee.

The first youth to arrive were from the other side of the island, a tradition on Kauai. The farthest away are always the first to arrive–and the last to leave. Gathering in a circle on the grass the youth learned one another’s names by playing “Name Bingo.” The first to get four names in a row on his or her sheet was rewarded with a mini-chocolate bar. “Twix, Twix, Twix, I want Twix!” How come nobody wants the Almond Joy? Then two team captains were chosen to lead the two teams of youth. The captains were Jaja and Junjun–yes, their real names! Jaja’s team chose to be called “The Hammahjammahs.” Junjun’s team was “The Underdogs.” They were invited to draw their own team jerseys with markers.

The volleyball net was set up on the front lawn, and the first scores were earned for the teams and logged onto a whiteboard. Points were also awarded for helping to clean, cook, pray, and even singing the loudest praise. By the way, the praise song that got stuck in everybody’s head that we had to sing over and over again was “You Are My All-in-All.” Every camp has that one song that everybody takes home with them!

That first evening, dinner was by the campfire with roasted hotdogs, chips, melon, and of course marshmallows. Youth Leader Jared (also known as “the cool one”) had the week before chopped a pick-up truck full of firewood. Yet, that would not be enough. The next day, after a rousing breakfast of pancakes and sausage, both teams set out on the “community service project” of restocking and stacking the cabins with firewood. The Underdogs did the most tremendous job, earning an extra ten points on the scoreboard.

Once every evening and morning we had chapel service around the fire in Cabin B. The topic was the “Parables of Jesus,” with emphasis on how Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God being something small growing into the greatest of all. This included the parable of the leaven of course. That evening’s dinner was all about “making your own pizza” from scratch; watching the leaven rise in the starter batter, and then the dough doubling in size, and then doubling again as it baked. The youth were fascinated by the science of yeast, little bugs that float in the air, eat sugar, and then release gas to make the dough rise. “You mean pizza is bug fart?”

Almost as if on cue, one of the youth cleared the room with his own example of gas. We should have taken off ten points on the scoreboard for that one, but grace prevailed.

The next day we read the Parable of the Lost Sheep that led to team scavenger hunts for a potential forty-five points if all the items were found. The youth were zipping back and forth as fast as they could; looking for a paper clip, geranium, and the like. Like Jesus, they found even the smallest.

That afternoon we moved the volleyball tourney down to the meadow next to Kokee Lodge and Museum. Almost as if to prove the Parable of the Wedding Feast, some other kids just came over and started playing with our group. Of course, everyone is invited to be with God’s people!

The next day was the big hike into the forest. “Stay in a group! Don’t get lost! We don’t want to have to send Jesus after you to find you again!” We started at the trailhead of Puu ka Ohelo that looped into the Berry Flats Trail. We walked under a canopy of guava, climbed a perfect tree for climbing (nicknamed the “climbing tree”), discovered the secret Menehune Village (now with two-story duplex construction), and rested in the magnificent grove of redwood trees. This is usually a three-hour hike, but we shortened it somehow to two hours and twenty minutes.

This was now the last night at camp. Chef extraordinaire Andrea made her famous bolognese spaghetti, garlic toast, Caesar salad, and really sticky brownies. Already a sadness was setting in as the youth realized it was their last supper together. They were quiet–too quiet. The evening worship was about the “Good Samaritan,” how God uses the least of us to do great things for others. Almost as if on cue again, a lost stranger drove up to camp looking for assistance!

That night around the last campfire together, the youth strummed the ukulele, sang “happy birthday” to Youth Leaders Jared and Olaf, and shared their innermost thoughts and feelings.

“I miss my phone still, but I wish everyday could be like this. This is real life.”

“I have really been bullied at school, so I became a bully too. I got in trouble because I sent another girl to the ER.”

“I do not know if I can come next year to camp because my father wants me to get a job to help pay the rent.”

“Sorry, you caught me smoking marijuana at the Big Green Gym after school.”

“Do you remember my brother? He used to come to camp. He is just smoking and drinking all the time now.”

“We need another camp in the summer. How can we have another camp?”

Pastor Olaf reassured, “Listen, Jared and I are here for you always if you are in Waimea. If you are in Middle School, we come on campus on Thursdays at lunch in the band room for Bible Club. If you are in High School, Friday at lunch in the band room. Everyday after school we are at the Big Green Gym in Waimea. On Friday we have a special Bible Club meeting at 2:30 there. So, really, camp does not have to end.”

Ah, you must be wondering which team won the camp competition? Somehow the score came out after everything exactly even. That is right, we all won! The big bag of chocolate was evenly distributed to all as were the tears, the smiles, the hugs. And, we all left camp humming that hymn: “Jesus, You Are My All-in-All.”

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