Mind-clips of the First Summer of FUGE Camps
Centrifuge was a new, fast-paced camp for teens in which they would join other teens from across the nation for a week of Bible Study, recreation, and worship. Then, at the end of the week, they were sent back home to re-enter their world with a deeper love of God and others.
I served on the Glorieta staff the summer of 1979. People often ask me “what was that first summer of Centrifuge like?” I respond by telling them it was fast, exciting, exhausting, hot, cold, full of successes and failures in a place of beautiful vistas. The first summer, we were discovering what worked and what did not. Both staff and campers were the beta testers or guinea pigs to discover the best way to do camp. It was a summer filled much laughter and tears.
My job included leading Bible study and the craft track and serving as a “dorm mother”. Imagine living with a different group of teenage girls for 9 weeks. It was an adventure in patience, lack of sleep, too much hair spray, and at least one encounter with an alien space ship which turned out to be a helicopter so high that you could not hear it.
Too busy to be exhausted—The Glorieta team consisted of 8 brave souls who did it all. For 9 weeks, we worked from Saturday afternoon to Friday morning, teaching Bible study and tracks, and leading worship, fellowships, and afternoon activities. There was little down time. Morning worship was followed by Bible study, recreation, lunch, tracks, planned activity time followed by dinner, evening worship and fellowships.
Too few or too many—We learned that we had to be flexible week by week. The first two weeks, there were only about 200-300 campers. Then, week three hit. We had over 800. We learned later that they had doubled booked that week and all the teens whose parents were attending Sunday School conferences joined us. Imagine 8th grade Bible Study with 85 kids (60 boys and 25 girls) in a room designed for 40.
8th grade Bible Study—Yes, that was my assignment. I had tough questions, 8th grade boy humor, mental workouts, and physical challenges. I prayed every night that my own Bible knowledge would be enough to answer questions like:
- Why should I believe the Bible?
- What is heaven?
- If I follow Christ, do I have to be good example to others?
- Why can’t Christians have fun?
- Do you really think Jesus was a real person?
The mountain challenge—One afternoon each week, the Bible Study groups had to decide on something to do as a group. Most of the time, 8th graders choice was baseball, basketball, or mini-golf; all sports that I either love to do or love to keep score (mostly keep score). Of my week of 85 campers, they challenged me to climb Rattle Snake Mountain. Hiking was not in my list. I knew that if I wanted them to engage in Bible Study with me for the rest of the week, I would have to accept the challenge and climb. I was shocked to see all the boys from the Bible were there ready to climb. Like a good leader, I started out at the front but by the time we reached the top, I was at the end. Failure to finish was not an option. When I reached the top, I was confronted by the group of boys who at first were shocked that I made it and then began congratulating me that I really did it. The next day was the best Bible study that I had all summer. This group of 8th graders began to engage in the conversation about the Bible study. I learned from one of the adult sponsors later in the week, that the reason all the boys had come on the hike was that they did not think I would make it to the top. Hiking became one of the options each week.
Nine weeks of the same sermons—By the end of the summer, the staff could tell almost to the minute when all the jokes would come, all the pauses, and all the important points would be made by the pastor. Even though we knew all this, we still laughed, cried, and were inspired. We knew that it was the first time for the campers. They heard the jokes, pauses and spiritual points for the first time. The worship leader had a way of using his humor and Bible knowledge to reach the campers and inspire them to step out and become “all the God wanted them to be.”
One knot too many—I led the craft track that summer. I had planned a variety of activities that the campers could choose. We did string art, macramé, and batiking. The joy of watching, guiding, and help campers find their artist streak was exciting and also became a time of life lessons.
- The macramé owls were often lopsided because of too many or few knots. However, this became a time when we could talk about how our lives are often lopsided and with the help of God we can still become part of His design.
- String art was a lesson in following the instructions. One missed step and the picture would become just mess of strings instead of the beautiful picture. This often led to discussions of following God’s plan for our lives and how the Bible was the instruction manual for life.
- Using blank canvas of muslin adding melted crayons, black dye and bleach allowed the campers to create something out or nothing. To see how proud they were of their masterpiece gave pause to help the see the creativity of God’s creation.
Even with all the missteps, overcrowded rooms, hot long hikes, and newfound friendship, that summer at camp was for me a life-changing event as I saw God’s plan unfold in campers’ lives and my own.
Cindy served on the first ever FUGE Camps staff in Glorieta, New Mexico. She is 4th from the left on the back row of the above photo.