Tulsa Summer Camps : Great Place for Kids

Michael: Hi, my name is Michael Stairs and I’m the Summer Camp director at Camp Loughridge. I am here today to talk about Tulsa Summer Camps, specifically Camp Loughridge, which is just five minutes West of Tulsa hills. It’s a great place for kids to go to camp. Camp Loughridge offers classic week-long summer day camps for kids. I want to tell you an interesting story today about Jameil. This is a story that may be common to a lot of Tulsa Summer Day Camps, but I’m not sure.

I think that Camp Loughridge is unique in Tulsa Summer Camps in that, we are intentional about pointing the way to the Lord with everything we do. We do have chapel services, but we believe that chapel is an attitude. We believe that there are not sacred moments and secular moments, but it’s all sacred that Jesus infuses everything we do all day, every day. Whether a kid is in Chapel, in worship or whether a camper is in the pool or on the ropes course or doing arts and crafts, we believe that God shows up in those moments and presents Himself to all of us in different ways to accept.

That’s what I want to talk to you about. Jameil, as a young man, he’s 12 years old, he came to camp last year and he came from one of the few organizations that Camp Loughridge partners with. We are unique in Tulsa Summer Camps in that we partner with several organizations that deal, specifically, with kids at risk, with some of the different apartment complexes, housing units that are at risk that there’s a lot of trouble with crime and delinquency and things like that.

We partner with them. We understand that we are not equipped to go in to be a part of that directly, so we partner with organizations who are. They sent Jameil to camp. Jameil is 12 years, old and he comes from a pretty rough background. His dad and a couple of his uncles are all in prison, and he’s raised by his mom and his grandmother. There’s also three sisters in the home, three younger sisters.

He has no male role model to really look to in, and you guessed it that the only real males to look up to in the place where Jameil lives, are gang members. His mother and his grandmother are both very concerned that he’ll be influenced by the wrong people. Jameil was sent to camp by this organization along with several other kids. Like I said, Jameil is 12 years old. He gets off the bus, and he comes into the K dome where we’re having our morning rendezvous which is a morning time of songs, and a story, and a skit, and a lot of chants, and things like that. Let’s say, he meets Daniel for the first time. Jameil meets his counselor Daniel.

Daniel is a sophomore at Oklahoma State University, very involved on campus in Christian Ministry, comes from a strong Christian home. He’s a leader and he’s all counselor. It’s a wacky day and so he’s got a crazy outfit on and Jameil doesn’t quite know what to think of Daniel. But Daniel reaches out in his way and in small ways, begins to make a connection with Jameil. Now Jameil has been to church. He goes to church with his mom and his grandmother, but he’s 12 years old and he’s trying to feel his way as a man.

You can feel the tension in Jameil. He’s still a boy, but he needs to grow up quickly in the environment that he’s in. You hear about kids who live a sheltered lifestyle. Jameil lives anything bad and sometimes, sure, his mom and his grandmother come on a little too strong, but only because they’re concerned for him. Sometimes, their intensity almost overplays and repels Jameil instead of endearing. You know how it is, you know how kids respond sometimes to that kind of thing. Jameil comes to camp, he meets Daniel and they begin to slowly build this relationship.

Maybe for one of the first times in Jameil’s life, he sees an older male role model that he believes that he can maybe pattern his own life after, and they begin to build this relationship. Daniel is aware of what’s going on partly because he’s been told, but partly, because he has great instincts when he’s with people. He begins to take Jameil under his arm and in an unofficial way, begins to treat Jameil like a counselor in training which Jameil really responds to well.

Jameil is suspicious at first, but then gradually warms up toward Daniel and his friendship over time. They had a moment where the 12-year-olds at Camp Loughridge, which is one of Tulsa Summer Camps in Tulsa. The 12-year-olds get to do a zip-line activity, where they climb up a pole, probably 25 or 30 feet high, they’re harnessed in, they clip onto a cable, and then they get to jump off that platform, and ride the cable down to another pole that’s, probably, 200 feet away, maybe more. This is an activity that we reserve for just the 12-year-olds, and Jameil has never done anything like this before.

He’s nervous, but he doesn’t want to show how nervous he is. The outwardly, he’s brave, but he is scared. He has never done anything like this and doesn’t want to be in a position where he appears to be weak, so he mans-up. Of course, he has Daniel right there, the whole time, talking into his ear, “You’re going to be fine. You’re going to be okay. Everything’s cool. This is going to be just fine. I’m right here with you.” There are several ropes course techs who are also very sensitive to Jameil‘s situation.

They get him all clipped in and after a few minutes of hesitation, Jameil takes that giant step off the platform and sails through the air on the zip-line. He comes down from the zip-line. Daniel is there to greet him, and he has the biggest grin, ear to ear. This was something very, very scary to him, but he was able to accomplish it. There was something, and I call it magic. I don’t know how many Tulsa Summer Camps can talk about this. I know we talk about it a lot at Camp Loughridge, which I believe is one of the more unique Tulsa Summer Camps. But something happens at camp.

We never know whether it’s going to be during a worship song or whether it’s going to be in the pool or at the zip-line, but God shows up and touched Jameil deeply in his heart. He couldn’t explain it, but part of it was just this emotional release and as he was taken off his harness, he just broke down in tears and Daniel gave him a big hug and Jameil says, “Thank you so much.” In that moment, they established this brotherly connection between the two of them. Since camp, Daniel and Jameil have found each other online. They stay in contact.

Jameil is now looking forward to coming back to camp this summer and being in our crew program which is a leadership training program for 13, 14 and 15-year-olds where they learn about– Not only is it a discipleship training program, but it’s a service program and it’s a Leadership Training Program. Jameil is fully in that. He wants to be a counselor when he gets old enough. That is what the power of a camp experience can bring to a kid. This is not daycare. We’re not babysitters. We have a mission, and our mission is to introduce kids to the power and the love of Jesus Christ. That’s what happens at Camp Loughridge. Thank you very much.

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