Day Camp Photographer

It has been two weeks since the end of Day Camp, and yet I have written nothing about it! How curious an omission, when you consider the importance I have placed (and continue to invest) on that momentous week. I guess I’ve been busy, which is no particular excuse.

One of the best things about living in the Duckabush is the neighboring Christian Camp, Wilderness Northwest. Directed by Jody Weed (ably assisted by his family), this camp offers summertime camping, year-round retreat programs, and a week-long Day Camp program for children ages 6-13. Last year I had the opportunity to serve as Camp Photographer, following the five groups of 12-15 children around as they engaged in various skills, crafts, and other activities.

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Me in my intrepid videographer pose.

After Day Camp 2003, I produced a commemorative CD set featuring scores of pictures and more than 45 minutes of edited video describing the program for the friends and families of the campers. It was such a positive experience that I determined to seize the opportunity again this year.

Fortuitously, the end of my 90-day contract with my employer fell on the first day of Camp. Although they determined to hire me on a full-time basis, I was able to negotiate a week’s leave before signing on as an employee (just another way that God works all things together for good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose). I purchased a new video camera to supplement Jody’s camera, and I pestered Ray Canterbury to release several Counselors In Training (CITs) as my assistants each day of the program.

Over the course of the year, the CITs meet on a monthly basis for discipleship training. It is always inspiring to see the love that these teenagers have for the Lord as they patiently work with the campers, setting an example of kindness and godliness. I am challenged by the effort and talent they invest into the daily skits, often improvised and always enjoyed by the children.

It was a glorious week. The weather was nearly perfect, and the campers were filled with enthusiasm. The week-long program that Jody devised was very well coordinated with the workbook pages and the curriculum used by the teachers. It really seemed to resonate with both the kids and the teachers.

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The kids always seem to enjoy parachute games, even on the ground.

On Monday, we studied Creation, with specific emphasis on the fact that all of Creation came about through the literal ‘Word’ of God. Tuesday focused on Corruption … the tragic Fall of man into sin its consequences. Wednesday came in with a Flood, as we examined the account of that worldwide Catastrophe and its impact on the people of Noah’s time. On Thursday we studied Confusion and the story of the Tower of Babel (many groups helpfully provided their own supplemental confusion as well). The week culminated in teaching about Christ and the Cross with an emphasis on the way that God’s plan, beginning with Creation, points to His Son and His redeeming work on the Cross.

Most days included a 45 minute session in each of these categories:

  • Craft Station
  • Outdoor Life
  • Science Lab
  • Recreation
  • Skills

And of course, each day began and ended with an assembly in the big green tent, with singing, skits, group cheers and Bible verse recitation. I thought that the singing communicated a real sense of being on fire for God. These campers were not ashamed of loving Jesus — some of us could really take a lesson from them.

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This old lady was very helpful in serving the campers from her jelly-bean jar.

The camp was staffed by roughly 30 adults and 15 CITs, in addition to the 65 campers and occasionally visiting parents; it was a bustling place throughout the week. Many of the adults and CITs used vacation or took unpaid leave to serve on staff at Wilderness Northwest, while others worked evenings to make the time for Day Camp.

I’ve begun editing the video footage, and am very excited about this year’s DVD project. Last year it took me more than 10 weeks to put it together … this year I hope to finish more quickly (while people still remember that they attended Wilderness Northwest in 2004). If you are an alumnus of Day Camp this year, look for your DVD in the mail not later than Easter.

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Absentee Dad

Now that I have become a full-time employee, it becomes imperative that I find a solution to this ‘commuting conundrum’ which plagues me.

While few would criticize my decision to accept employment in Seattle after 17 months without full-time work, it seems unlikely that I will be winning the coveted “Father of the Year” award when I see my children only on weekends, due to a 3-hour commute each way. In my experience, whatever people may say about “quality time”, children require both quantity and quality time from a father.

Yesterday Kathy was laid up with her back injury, and I spent the day at home. At one point I played a game of dodge-ball on the deck with the kids … not more than 30 minutes in all, with the requisite number of injuries. That silly game is probably one of the things that they will remember, if only because I so rarely play with them outside.

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So I need a solution that will allow me to:

  1. support the financial needs of my family
  2. assist my wife in parenting the children
  3. build lasting love relationships with my kids
  4. grow the intimacy of my marriage
  5. provide an environment that is pleasing and conducive to my family’s growth

So far, my employer is willing for me to work from home, one day each week. I haven’t yet managed to test that out … I’m still working through some technical issues with my laptop and remote access. I expect that being home one workday each week may help to take the sting out of my long absences on the other days. Nevertheless, I am not satisfied with this arrangement … last week I didn’t see Sarah between Tuesday and Friday nights, leaving before she is awake and coming home late each night.

I don’t want to move hastily, ahead of God. If He sees fit to provide me with another work-from-home opportunity (like my former job, in which I traveled to the city only once a week), it would be a shame to miss that chance. At the same time, I don’t want to fall into the trap of persisting in behavior that is destructive to my family out of timidity or indecision.

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I suspect that a lot of men have sacrificed their families to their jobs on a “temporary” basis only to discover that, after 15 or 20 years, their window of opportunity to impact the family has slowly closed. I suspect that no one laments on their deathbed, “If only I had spent more time at work!”

My children (and Kathy, for that matter) are reluctant to move to Seattle. And of course, there is the question about what to do with our house … the proximity to the Retreat Center property restricts our ability to sell the home in good conscience. I recently hit on a possible compromise: we could rent a small house in Seattle or Tacoma and live there half the week. We might occupy such a potential house from Sunday night to Wednesday night, and spend Thursday through Sunday in the Duckabush. This would likely cut my commute down to a manageable 1 hour each way on Monday through Wednesday, freeing up 4 hours each day to spend with my family. On Thursdays I could work from our home in the Duckabush, and on Fridays make the long commute in to Seattle.

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While the cost of maintaining two households would be non-trivial, it is already costing me more than $400/month to commute to work, not considering the lost time in the car and on the bus. (Ferry time, of course, is redeemed by the quality of these fine blog entries.) If we found a house that was sufficiently inexpensive, we might substantially improve our quality of life by such an arrangement. It occurs to me that the opportunity to visit zoos and museums and parks, as well as the chance to make some new friends, could outweigh the inconvenience of living between two houses for Kathy and the children. I have hopes that Kathy might attend BSF this year with the youngest two children if I can be home consistently on Thursdays.

If you read this blog entry, and have a reaction, please leave a comment expressing your viewpoint. I would value any suggestions that you may make, especially since this idea is still in an embryonic state.

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