Saturday, August 3, 2013

KIVU ~ Man Camp 2013

I was practically giddy on the drive to Durango last month.
I’d been telling Branson all summer that he had no idea what an incredible week lay ahead of him at KIVU.

Mom, Corbin and I drove the gorgeous route from Angel Fire to Durango, and the four hours each way kept us fully engrossed in the scenery. Kind of like driving highway 1 along the west coast - hard to keep your eyes on the road because the view just explodes with every turn.

We stopped in Pagosa Springs and enjoyed yummy tacos and nachos. While Bran kept warning us not to choose Mexican food, we forged ahead, knowing that it would be his cabin mates, not us, who would later suffer. After we’d ordered, I snapped a photo of Bran and Corbin, and Corbin put his arms around Bran in a bear hug, grinned at me, and said, “Ooohhh, I love this kid!”

Made my heart soar. It took a week and a half of vacation to relax my husband: but this moment found his expression fresh, his eyes clear, and his arms fully wrapped around Bran. After their four-day fishing trip with Papa in northern Minnesota, and then another week in Eagle Nest, both father and son relaxed into each other during lunch.

The KIVU gates opened at 2:00 on Sunday, and we arrived on the property a little after 1:00. I’d asked one of the directors if we could sneak in early, as we were coordinating schedules to get Corbin to the Durango airport by 3:00. She obliged, and we ended up with a private tour and a few extra minutes with my friend, Jamie Jo, whom I hadn’t seen in years.

I met Jamie Jo in 1992, my first summer working at K2, and her last summer as a camper. With her bold personality, combined with the fact that she was Joe White’s daughter, she intimidated half of the camp staff as a 17-year-old. But like her mom, once you got to know her, and once her boldness impacted your heart a little, she’s someone you want to know and be known by. It was a real treat getting to spend just a little face time with her, and of course brought those old Kamp memories to the surface of my heart.

What a fun surprise to see my Fort Worth friend Morgan working in the office!
KIVU’s property is just amazing, stunning. Not only the log cabin-style buildings and cabins, but the actual land and river rushing through the camp. Spotting an enormous trout in the river, Branson salivated from the dock, just dying that I didn’t let him bring his fly rod; doubly-so when his counselor later told him he could have packed it along.

Watching that trout who got away
We got to meet Bran's counselors, got to see his cabin, got to peek in the dining hall (white cubbies for each cabin’s food - JUST like the Missouri camps). Felt like home. While KIVU maintains it’s own personality, those little Kanakuk influences did something to my heart.

I’m telling you, those Kanakuk memories for me are deep and strong and good.  Those memories are somehow just seared in my being.

Just last month, when the Hills came for a visit, Eric and Kristin and I about fell out of our chairs at dinner laughing over camp stories. I see former campers and fellow staff on Facebook, of course, or connect through an occasional email, and I wish I had the capacity to live life with all those precious folks. My consolation  - seriously - is that we have all of Heaven.

I am a different person from Debbie Jo and Diane and Trish and Sharon’s influence during those college years; from watching Joe and Kyle and Bryce and Todd run camp; from putting on a good front that I could indeed co-coach the triathalon speciality; from learning how to love kids well from watching Wendy; from the amazing staff and kids we lived with summer after summer.

I hadn’t ever intended to go to Kanakuk. Had never even heard of it until I arrived at Baylor. That Spring of my freshman year, I went through Young Life training and anticipated spending my summers at Frontier Ranch and Crooked Creek. But the Lord provided a different path, and I applied to work at K-1. When my contract arrived announcing “K-2”, the high school camp, I was disappointed not to be working with my good friend, Jude. I had no idea what a blessing that curve in the road would bring.

But for the next four summers, I made a bee-line from Waco (with a short stop by Fort Worth to hug my family) to Lampe, MO. That little Honda Accord somehow zipped along the right highways (most of the time, anyway) and delivered me into the secure little K-world that imprinted my heart with safe, endearing, enthusiastic, and authentic friendships. By nature of the staff structure, we were all mentored and mentoring - a constant shaping of minds and attitudes and work ethics and even our physical bodies.

So this whole experience with sending Branson to KIVU is coming a little full circle for me. It's a different experience, of course, in a very different setting. But no matter how high I set my expectations for him, they were (naturally) far superceded.

Because of the low turnout of girls registering for the last term, Bran's week was dubbed "Man Camp." That's right. All boys. And only a couple of dozen, at that. It was a very different week than the typical term, but the Lord knew exactly what would feed Bran's heart and mind. I could not be more grateful for his experience. I'll let the photos (mostly courtesy of KIVU photographers) do the talking:

I love this picture, not just because of what it represents, but because of that boyish, pure expression in his eyes. He snapped this photo for Aunt Julie and Uncle Luke, who know exactly what Honor Camper means. 
Branson has shown his camp video to every person who walks into our home. He has about six friends ready to sign up for 2014 Man Camp. Will it happen? Who knows. But both of our boys have their sights set on KIVU for next summer.