Personal Experiences


A Counselor’s View of Camp Hye Sierra 2017

By David Browning

I have had the rewarding experience of being able to serve on counseling staff at summer camp for six years! Within those six years I have learned so much about myself and was able to develop a stronger relationship with God while serving his youth.

Being a camp counselor at one of our many youth camps that we have is a very challenging and sometimes scary task. For seven days, parents have trusted you to be the one that is with their children 24/7. We as counselors are thrust into the role of being a parent-like figure and taking on the responsibilities that parents have.

It is within these seven days that we have an opportunity to be an example to the youth and to show them God’s way works! A scripture I often read in preparing for summer camp is Deuteronomy 11:19, which talks about this process of connecting with them when they rise in the morning to the time when they sleep at night.

We have the chance as counselors to talk with them about God and his way at all times throughout the day just as it talks about in this scripture. In doing this we reap the benefit of drawing closer to God through Bible study and reinforcing in our minds God’s way of life as well as knowing His scriptures.

At the end of camp I come away just as pumped and spiritually refreshed as I think the campers do, and I eagerly begin counting down the days until the next year of summer Camp!


The Joy of Being a Counselor


By Scott Buchanan

I sat at the end of my bed with my briefcase perched on my lap. The pulsing music of the Saturday night closing dance echoed up the staircase and out of the doorway directly to my left. I had spent the last hour at the dance, milling about, wishing my wife could have been there that year so I could have someone to be ridiculous with, when I finally decided to come upstairs and finish the letters to my campers I had begun that morning.

I don’t write a whole lot of notes at camp anymore, but I do try to write all my lads each year to wish them well as they return back to the real world. I knew the post-dance fever would prevent any actual progress, the next few hours were going to consist of set up for tomorrow’s check out process, late night wrestling matches and the ceremonial raiding of the downstairs fridge for any traces of leftover ice cream—or really anything edible.

I explained after check-in the previous Sunday exactly what I expected out of them. Be the leaders this camp needs. As the oldest boy dorm our job is to set the tone for the camp—we will lead by example, and our example will be noteworthy. What followed was a week of one surprise after another, culminating in me at that moment hiding away from the chorus of “Geronimo!” echoing up the stairs.

When you’re meeting 15 new young men on the cusp of legal adult status, whom you are taking full responsibility of for the next seven days, there can be a sense of apprehension for the coming week. That many young men could certainly create a lot of fires to be put out around camp, both metaphorical and literal. The last time I served at this camp we had the entire staff on a manhunt for one of my campers who had gone AWOL within the first two hours. It’s never very much fun to stay in parole officer mode all week, and let’s be honest: Sometimes dorms can be a gamble.

My fears were soon allayed as I witnessed their behavior that evening and the following days. To see them all so readily serve around the camp, to hear their uplifting conversations and watch them click together so well made me feel like more than a casual chaperone to their antics all week. In the rare moments we weren’t surrounded by campers, staff would flock together to hold 20-second status updates. Those rare opportunities to let each other know how the day had been so far are crucial for letting activity staff know of any potential problems or dorms issues, but with each activity I found I had less and less to say. Each activity close led the instructor to make a point to assure me how easy their life had been the last hour and how nice it was to know their work was appreciated.

Our morning counselor meetings were full of other staff addressing concerns and solutions for our many campers, and I felt a pang of guilt every time I repeated the phrase “No issues whatsoever.” This was inevitably followed by me catching one of my boys cleaning up a table or sweeping, even though our KP duty wasn’t until the next evening. I soon decided that I should reject those guilty pangs, because these fine young men deserved to be recognized for who they were. They were the servant leaders of their generation.

We in the summer camp world are ever pursuing our cause to raise the next generation to overtake us. We know at some point our batteries will run out, and we will be replaced by newer, shinier models. The UYC program had consistently been working with this goal in mind at each camp I’ve been to, coast to coast. It’s what made me realize I needed to be a part of the program to pay forward the benefits and investments made in me when I was young and bull-headed. To see those investments made all those years ago reap such rewards now is a glimpse at seeing the connective tissue that keeps the truth of God alive through the generations. What joy it was to witness the next lineup of young men answer the call.

As the final chorus of “With or Without You” blared from below, I signed and sealed the last note. The night indeed was full of hall rearranging, late night wrestling matches and the successful raiding of a fridge replete with ice cream and day-old watermelon. As I lay down that night, I felt a great appreciation for where I was at that exact moment. I replayed the week over and over, savoring all the individual moments of triumph we had won that week. Then I realized how absolutely exhausted I was from my attempts to keep up with them all week, and I was soon out cold, my snores echoing back down the stairwell to the empty hall below. The letters could be delivered in the morning.



My First Time at Camp—A Collection of Stories


1. Aaron Preston

Ah camp. Just thinking about it makes me excited for the summer, and it also makes me think of last year, which was my first year at camp. If you are thinking about going to camp I strongly suggest that you go no matter who you are. To the newcomers I want to show you three steps to having a great year at camp and three reasons you should go.

Reason one is because it’s amazing. Camp is a great experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You learn a lot and do a lot. Step one to having a good year at camp is going outside your comfort zone. This year at camp I tried to get very far outside my comfort zone, and I wanted to do everything. You should go outside your comfort zone too because you want to be able to do all of the fun activities and say that camp was great. A good example of this was last year on the first night of camp. It rained, and we didn’t have a campfire. It was still nice because we did activities like the Disney lip sync battle, and my friends and I sung a funny song that wasn’t the most comfortable song to sing. But during this activity we all stepped outside our comfort zone, and it felt great afterwards.

Reason two is to be with people who think the same as you and who believe the same things that you do. Sometimes in the world we get made fun of or teased for what we believe, but we are meant to stand out and be a light. To see that other people are going through the same thing that you are makes you feel good. Step two is to get to know and get along with your dorm. Your dorm is full of the people you will be spending your entire camp with, so it is important to get to know everyone and make friends with them. When you see those friends later on in life, it makes you happy. I will most likely be at Camp Cotubic in B1, and I can’t wait to see my new dorm-mates.

Reason three is that you will make wonderful memories you will cherish for a lifetime. Last year I made lots of memories and new friends. I have memories from camp that I love and think of almost everyday. Step three is to try to find things to remember. There are many things that I loved at camp, and I remember a lot of those things. I am so thankful that I have these memories.

To conclude, camp is definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life. I am so thankful for camp and the memories I made. I hope you can gain something from camp like I did last year, and I hope this helps you to want to go to camp.


2. Aidan Orsargos 

Last year was my first time attending Camp Pinecrest. On my trip to camp I was nervous at first, but before I knew it I felt at home. Some of my favorite activities were riflery, swimming and archery.

Also, the food was amazing. I thought at first that camp would have not-so-great food that you might expect at a summer camp, but I was definitely proven wrong when I had my first meal.

Probably my very favorite part of the whole trip was the friendships I made, and Pinecrest definitely taught me a whole lot about the Word of God with the daily Bible studies. When I got home, my dad was curious to know if I had a good time. The only words that came to mind were, “Can I go again next year?”


3. Josiah Garduño

Camp Hye Sierra, without a doubt, was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had! As a teenager with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare hereditary genetic condition that makes my bones break easily, I don’t usually get to go out and do much over the summer. I got to try so many things I otherwise would never have been able to do, including rock climbing, volleyball and bubble balls.

The small rural Sonoran desert town where I live leaves me little access to recreational water activities in the immediate vicinity, so you can imagine my delight when I found out about kayaking and the other water events available to campers. Accompanying all of the amazing activities were short Bible lessons matching the activity we were doing, which really made you think about how that lesson applied to the activity and life.

Another thing I really liked about Hye Sierra was how all of the counselors were always available when you needed them and all of the campers made you feel at home. The sermons and the messages given by the pastors and the speakers were truly inspiring, and whenever a message finished it left you wanting to hear more and more! Also, the food they served was absolutely fantastic. The view of the tall trees, mountains and lake from the camp was also breathtaking!

I enjoyed my first trip to Camp Hye Sierra, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to attend. If I am given another chance to attend this summer, I guarantee I plan on going back!