Deana (Hamby ’93) Nall continues her week-long series of posts about her family’s three-generation tradition of attending, working or volunteering at ACU Leadership Camps. She and her husband, Chad (’94), and daughters Julia and Jenna are on campus this week:
I had one week of vacation in 1999. I spent it working at Kadesh and toting Julia, our then 6-month-old, to all the week’s activities. In 2004, I led a Kadesh group while seven months pregnant with Jenna. My ankles were the size of softballs by the end of the week. One year later, I was at Kadesh again – 11-month-old Jenna in tow. In the summer of 2006, our lives were consumed with our plans to move from the Houston area to Little Rock, Ark. But there we were in Abilene, three weeks before our move, working Kadesh once again. Sometimes Chad has done camp without me, and sometimes I’ve done camp without him, but one or both of us has come to camp since 1994, except for the two years I can think of that we missed.
Why do we keep coming back to ACU Leadership Camps? Why didn’t I at least take a break during my childbearing years? Besides the fact that the executive camp director, Jan Meyer (’87), buys doughnuts for me and the other camp volunteers every single day, I have quite a few reasons, which I think warrant a Top 10 list:
10. For group leaders, it’s pretty cushy. We get to stay in Barret Hall, the newest residence hall on campus. Can’t complain about that. And for our youngest child, for whom there is no camp the week we are there, there is childcare. I’ve often said that as a youth minister’s wife, ACU camp is one of the few teen activities in which I am able to fully participate, and it’s because of the childcare for children of camp volunteers. And there’s the bonus of the sweet friendships we’ve made with our girls’ babysitters over the years.
9. We youth ministry folks have been to a few camps. Nothing we’ve experienced has been as highly organized and efficiently run as ACU Leadership Camps. But even more importantly, the camps are planned and led by staff members who are passionate about ministering to young people.
8. In addition to having taught Kadesh and MPulse, we’ve had a child go through three years each of KidQuest and Learning to Lead. The curricula for all four camps is outstanding. It was developed years ago and it is constantly being revised and improved. From a teacher’s standpoint, I’ve been trying for years to figure out if I like MPulse curriculum (which teaches middle-schoolers how to view others and the world around them through God’s eyes) or Kadesh curriculum (a deep focus on high-school students’ relationships with God) better. I still can’t decide.
7. ACU Leadership Camps helped influence a significant change of direction in our lives. Youth ministry had been brewing in Chad’s heart for a while, but it was at Kadesh in 1995 that he, a Ph.D student in a science field at Texas A&M University at the time, decided to pursue youth ministry full time. That was one of the years he did camp without me because I had to work. When I showed up to pick him up at the end of the week, he said, “I need to talk to you about something …”
6. We get to hang out with some really fun kids. More about that in tomorrow’s post.
5. There can be honest-to-goodness natural beauty in Abilene. Except for Cross Training (in Sipapu, N.M.), Leadership Camps take place on the ACU campus, so it’s not really a “get-back-to-nature” kind of camp. Part of that is because the Abilene area doesn’t typically have the kind nature you would want to get back to. But it’s there, if you look. Two years in row, we witnessed jaw-dropping, high-arching, both-ends-touching-the-earth rainbows while at camp. And the sunsets rarely disappoint. If nothing else, when the sun drops below the horizon, the wind improves from unbearably hot to just uncomfortably warm.
4. We love Leadership Camp counselors. They have to go through an intense application process and not everyone gets in. These counselors are college students who spend their summers pouring themselves into young people. For us group leaders, they are the best group assistants we could ask for. From a parent’s perspective, I’ve seen these godly, energetic young people influence our girls year after year. You won’t find better camp counselors than the ones at ACU Leadership Camps. You just won’t.
3. We live in Harding Land. It’s nice to come back to ACU and not feel like freaks for having an ACU sticker on our car.
2. Camp devos in the Beauchamp Amphitheatre. These have become so well-known that people come to them who aren’t even involved in Leadership Camps. I would try to describe what worship is like in that setting, but I don’t think I can. So just come to a devo.
1. I’ve often thought of Leadership Camps as youth ministry in its rawest form. Sure, we get to know the campers and have fun, but we don’t waste any time getting into the scriptures with them and helping them see what God has planned for their lives. There’s no time to beat around the bush, so we don’t. As a result, we’ve been blessed to have witnessed countless holy moments with some terrific young people.
You could be wondering if there’s anything we don’t like about ACU Leadership Camps. As a matter of fact, there is. Crickets. Every five summers or so, ACU has a full-scale cricket plague that makes the book of Exodus look pretty tame. We actually mark the years of camp that way: “Remember when so-and-so was in our MPulse group?” “Oh, yes. That was a cricket year.”
Tomorrow: Why middle-schoolers are more fun to be around than you think.
Monday – Camp Confessions: It’s all in the (Nall) family