A week on the mountain

Well, my week at Mountain T.O.P. Adults In Ministry was incredible. I didn’t really want to leave, and I really wish I’d been able to work in two separate AIM weeks this summer as I did last year and as I did frequently in the mid- 1990s and up to about 2003 or so.

It was a small camp community – and different from what I’m used to in one way. It’s the first AIM week in which I’ve participated where the participants in the youth program (Kaleidoscope or, in this case, Summer Plus) actually outnumbered the home repair volunteers. Most of the summer AIM weeks I’ve attended in the past have been 2/3 to 3/4 home repair. Sadly, this isn’t because of a huge influx of Summer Plus volunteers; it’s because the overall population of summer AIM weeks has declined since the days when I first got involved in AIM. But I think that may be about to change. Last year’s participants, and this year’s, have talked a lot more about recruiting friends to come back with them the following year.

I should mention that the AIM fall weekends, which are exclusively home repair, have picked up where the summer weeks have left off. They’ve been doing extremely well. It’s hard to get people to commit to a week during the summer, but (as much fun as the weekend events can be), I think there’s a level of community and friendship that happens in the week-long camps that you just can’t get in a long weekend.

This week was exactly the kind of experience that keeps me coming back. My Summer Plus workshops and my interaction with the teens went well, making me feel as if there was a reason for me to be there. It was a great, warm camp community, even more so than normal (which is saying something). The staff was outstanding.

I had three girls and three boys in my creative writing workshop. We spent more time this year than last working on the group story – and we still kind of had to rush the ending. But the kids had fun. One young woman, a really bright teen who I think touched several of us in various workshops and parts of the day, wanted to work on her own story, separately, and there was no way I was going to discourage that. I also think the teens appreciated the blank journals that I always give out at the end of the week.

In the mornings, I got to help out in the irrepressible Jean Nulle’s arts and crafts workshop, which was fun. I got to feel useful, but I also got to make each and every one of the crafts, from an inlaid concrete stepping stone to an illuminated snowman jar.

In the old days, before I had to take a break from AIM because of the scheduling of a series of foreign mission trips, I used to always do a Letterman-style “Top Ten” list in camp on Friday night poking fun at various bits of shared experience. Last year, it just didn’t work out during either of my camp weeks; there just wasn’t enough material, and the camper sharing each night was so directed and focused that there wasn’t much room for funny stories.

This year, however, I knew early on that I wanted to bring back the Top Ten list. I had it all written by Friday morning but wasn’t satisfied with a couple of entries. Then, Friday afternoon, two things happened – one on the Summer Plus side, the other on one of the Major Home Repair sites – that were perfect for the list and allowed me to dump the two items with which I wasn’t satisfied.

Last year, during one of my AIM weeks, I dunked my telephone in the toilet, and even though it’s often possible to rescue a dunked phone by storing it in rice this time it was the last straw for the phone in question.

That incident was clearly my fault. This year, however, my phone started behaving strangely  towards the end of the week. The speaker worked for phone calls, but it wouldn’t ring or make any of the noises associated with apps or other functions. And, no, I didn’t have the phone on silent mode by mistake. Also, I discovered to my horror today that the video I took on Friday is lacking audio. There’s obviously some sort of problem with the phone’s sound circuitry. I spent an hour in online chat today with Samsung tech support, and now I’m shipping off the phone to be repaired. Maybe God is telling me not to take a phone to the mountain.

Anyway, it was a phenomenal experience and I’m already homesick to be back in camp.