(This is the promised 3rd and final post in this series on using older folks in our YM. Phyliss’ story of being 76 and how God called her to do her part with girls at camp is a wake up for us all. Read her thoughts for yourself. – Stephanie)
My adventure began with an intriguing question: “Would you like to be the Camp Grandma at our Soul Sisterhood Retreat next summer?” My reply to Amanda was, “What is a Camp Grandma and tell me about the job description!” I’ll never forget her answer: “Just be there for the girls and love them up.”
Now I have participated in six sessions of Soul Sisterhood retreats and I am so glad that I accepted that invitation. Over the years I realize that what I enjoy most is meeting new people and learning their stories. This new challenge and experience at Soul Sisterhood retreats gives me carte blanche in interacting with these young girls.
The campers come to South Fork Farm with their dreams, expectations, challenges and, for those who have never experienced a sleep-away camp, there is even some apprehension. Most of them seem very confident and sociable, especially if they come with good friends or relatives. They immediately jump into action, enjoying the chatter and activities of camp. But in every group there are those who seem somewhat shy and unsure. I gravitate toward these “slow starters” who linger on the edges of the activities. I feel somehow that because I am an older woman and the “grandma” figure, they sense that I am not judging them. If I ask them about their families, their pets, their favorite food, their favorite vacation experience, they will open up. When that happens – when that shy frown turns into a glowing smile – my heart soars! This is my greatest joy – to see that young lady share a part of herself with me.
Another gift of being Camp Grandma is the lift that I receive from experiencing the girls’ energy and curiosity. These campers are filled with hope and plans for the future. They are talented and driven to make a difference in their world. Also, they seem to enjoy hearing my frequent anecdotes about the “olden days” when I was their age. All of this exposure to their youth and innocence makes me hopeful for what lies ahead in this country.
Most importantly for me in my role as Camp Grandma is my hope that I play a part in helping these campers realize that our lives are all entwined and connected. We are all daughters of our King and Lord. They see our staff working together, supporting each other and showing respect for our differences. If I had a quarter for every time one of us says “Great job!” to a camper or to another staff member, I would be a very rich Grandma.
This Soul Sisterhood ministry is vitally important in developing the faith lives of each camper. Amanda has created a wonderful experience. She has given the campers an opportunity to witness the love, support, devotion of each other and of the staff members. I feel privileged to have been invited to be a part of this project. My prayer is that I will be able physically and mentally to play the role for many years.