“I don’t want to go home. I wish I could stay here forever.”
As the nurse at Camp Polaris, one of my favorite things to do at camp is to just mingle with the kids, listening to the stories they tell, the questions they ask, and seeing the excitement on their faces when they’re learning new things that they might not get to do anywhere else. It’s wonderful to just see them enjoying their camp experience. Outside of camp they don’t have a lot of opportunity to be creative, other than drawing on their own. So we do a lot of crafts here, giving the kids opportunities to make things with their hands. And most don’t have the opportunity for water sports—so they really enjoy swimming, wakeboarding, and canoeing on Lake Aleknagik.
During the school year many of the kids don’t have much that they do outside of school. From the things I hear them say, they don’t have a lot they can do at home. They don’t play in groups. If they have a bicycle, they ride alone. Many of them just sit at home and don’t do much of anything.
But at camp, I think one of the biggest impacts for the kids, even greater than the activities, is knowing that there are people here whom they can trust, people who will love them and are willing to talk with them about Jesus and present Him as their Friend who will always be there, even when we can’t be with them. That’s something that seems to really resonate with a lot of these kids—learning that Jesus can be their Friend, that He is somebody they can turn to, that they can talk to, who can help them when they are happy or sad, or when they have a problem.
Need for Warmth
Of course as the camp nurse I’m also concerned about the children’s physical well-being. The camp has been here a long time, and the doors of the lodge and many of the cabins have big gaps underneath and above them. The wind comes through, so the kids are often cold. Many times it’s raining, and the kids are wet. The only way to get them warm is to get them huddled around the stove, but you can only get so many kids around the stove. Sometimes you don’t really stop and think about how warmth can have such an effect on kids, but when they are really cold, the first thing we need to do is get them warmed up. Currently we don’t have any shower or bathroom facilities (other than the makai and outhouses), so having a bath house with hot showers and indoor bathrooms will make a huge difference.
Highlight of the Year
But in spite of the hardships and difficulties, their one week at camp is really a highlight of the year for these kids. I’m sure that at many camps kids say they don’t want to leave, but we really do hear it a lot at Camp Polaris. We often hear comments such as, “I don’t want to go home. I wish I could stay here forever.” “This is the most fun I’ve ever had. I don’t want to go home.”
You can see this look in their eyes that just kind of tugs at your heart. It’s a look that says there’s something behind their words. It’s a look that tells you that they’re not just saying, “I’m having fun, I don’t want to quit having fun”; there’s something deeper that you can see in their eyes.
Recently, when asked what I would say to someone coming to Camp Polaris for the first time, I told them that they are going to be meeting a fantastic group of kids who are probably as needy or more needy than anyone they have ever met. They should come with an open mind and open heart, knowing that they’re not going to be enjoying any of the luxuries of life, but that the reward is going to be in their hearts. They should know that they may be faced with questions that they’ve never had to answer before, and it’s going to make them evaluate their own personal walk with Christ.
Camp Polaris is a special ministry, and it would be wonderful if people outside of this area could see and appreciate what’s here—the mission outreach for the kids.
One of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering projects this quarter is to provide a bathhouse with showers and restrooms at Camp Polaris. You can make a real difference in this special mission outreach by giving generously to the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering.