6 Things I Remembered After Returning to Work at Senior High Camp
If you’ve been to Portage Lake in the past 6 years, I’ve probably met you. Odds are also very good that I have at one point (or have currently) forgotten your name. Sorry about that. If you don’t know me, my name is Wes Beemer. I worked my first summer in 2011 and my last in 2014. Since then I’ve been living in Onekama and working as a teacher at Onekama Consolidated School (go Portagers!). Before senior high camp this summer, Peter and Beth both asked me if I’d be willing to return to be a counselor for just one week. After some hesitation I agreed, assuming that I knew everything there was to know about being a counselor. However, I found that there were some things I learned or had forgotten about working at camp:
1. Sleep is unnecessary
Most nights I managed to turn off the lights in my cabin by 12:45 am. This, I believe, was better than average. Friday night was a late one–about 1:30 am when the lights went out, then up at 5:45 am to help a camper check out early. I drank more coffee this week than I did any week while working at school. We fit as much fun in the day as we could, but always ended the night talking about the message Speaker Guy Tim delivered. So if there’s one thing we can and should cut down on while at camp, why not sleep?
2. I might be too old for this
In 2011 on the dune-hike trip, I climbed the dune three times in one afternoon. This year, on the other hand, I made a fool of myself climbing that thing. Thank your trips directors and your counselors. Maybe buy them an energy drink next time you see them.
3. I can’t remember anybody’s name
If you’re a senior high camper reading this and I never called you by name, I’m sorry. If you were in my cabin 3 years ago and I still didn’t recognize you, I’m sorry. If you’re a family camper and I sat at your dinner table every day for a week last year and I still just wave when you say hi to me this summer, I’m so sorry. Facial blindness is an actual cognitive disorder, and at times I wish I had it so I could use it as an excuse.
4. The kitchen staff remains the hardest-working group at camp
Portage Lake has an all-new kitchen staff this summer, plus no head cook. Despite this, they have not missed a beat. The food remains excellent and the kitchen staff is unbelievable. Their positive attitude and outstanding work-ethic makes them the prime example of a great Portage Lake staffer. Maybe buy off their student loans next time you see them.
5. Watching kids grow up is what makes this job fun
I had a cabin of 11 boys. Three of them had never had me as a counselor, the rest had been with me at least once, some twice before. I’ve known many of these guys since they were in 4th grade, and seeing them grow into joyful, God-loving young men has been the absolute best part of living here for the past 6 summers. I love being around all kids who come to camp, but this was something special I think.
6. There’s nowhere on earth that God’s presence is felt more than at Portage Lake
I suppose I didn’t forget this, but man was it a good reminder. My Aunt Pam once said that we should all take off our shoes when we walk on camp property. If you’re not sure what that means, you just have to be here. Seeing over 175 high school kids throw their arms up in worship and seeing the tears on their face while talking about what God’s done in their lives was an unbelievable experience. This place is extremely special, and what’s amazing is knowing that it’s special because of the love our God has for us.
I love being here and will continue to be here as long as Dave can tolerate me lurking around. There are a lot of kids and families that I can’t wait to see this year, and if you’re coming up this summer, come say hi! I’ll be around, but I might need you to reintroduce yourself.
-Wes Beemer, Camp Friend and Volunteer Counselor