"Barakel"– Blessed by 'El'-God.
Continually living up to it's name, Camp Barakel remains a blessed place. No words can describe why. There is nothing fantastic about it, nothing that sets it apart from another summer camp, other than it's more traditional than most. It keeps it costs low so all kids can participate by not paying any of it's staff members. What? They don't get paid? Nope. No one gets paid. It's all volunteers. Every week of every year, the camp continues to run on volunteers who have a heart to work at Barakel.
In college, I was blessed to work with Young Life for a couple of years. It was incredible and I love the ministry. The camps are beyond amazing. Everything is new, fresh, all done up to attract high schoolers who have a desire to give up a week of their summer to have fun and learn about God. I do wish I could have experienced a Young Life camp as a kid, I mean, what teen can turn down resort-style dorms, first class food, pools, hot tubs, rock climbing, ropes courses, horseback riding, dune buggies, rappelling, a full gym, parasailing, tubing, wake-boarding, brand new technology, etc. All great things and all ways to attract great kids. Nothing wrong with that. However, I saw first hand the high costs of the camp and how they hindered who could go and who couldn't go. Of course there were fundraisers and others means of scholarships, but realistically, lower-to-middle class families could not send their kids to a Young Life camp. I know my parents would never have been able to send me or my sister to one, no shame in it, just facts.
So what is so special about Camp Barakel that they have to continually turn down volunteers each summer because too many people want to work there? Too many people want to take time off and devote a week, a month, a summer, a lifetime to volunteering at a camp that can brag of a conservative dress code, algae in the lake, archery, kickball, biking through a swamp, overnight camping under the stars where it's a guarantee it will rain, and staff-imagined group games in a softball field. Yes, God truly has blessed Camp Barakel and there is no reason 'why' other than the staff have remained faithful throughout the years, always keeping their vision of showing kids who Jesus is. It's where I was shown. (It's also where I met my husband years ago. Working together towards the same goal as staff allowed us to fall in love with Christ as the center of our relationship, who could ask for more than that?) There is no fancy technology or modern equipment. It simply is a summer camp in all sense of the word. It takes kids back to the basics, not allowing phones, ipods or computers. Bridging relationships with kids who otherwise would never even speak to each other. Not associated with any specific denomination, Camp Barakel welcomes all. It allows kids to be kids. Lets them get dirty, go camping, find bugs, and simply play. Kids on one side are as young as 9 and sometimes come off the bus with wonder in their eyes as if they're seeing the world for the first time. No parents fighting, no one telling them to grow up faster, no one expecting them to be anything other than the kid they're supposed to be. High-schoolers come too. Yep, those who have been exposed to too much of the world already, those who already know everything, those from broken homes, those who just need a break from life. They too, show up to play, even if just for a week. If this sounds too simple to you, take a look closer. The camp turns away campers every year because it gets overbooked. The camp turns away volunteers every year because too many people want to donate their time. The campers, the volunteers, the staff members...everyone learns how to play again and enjoy life simply for what God intended it to be, a gift called life. Maybe you've forgotten how to play?