We are off to a great start for our first day of camp at Big Bear California! After check-in was completed in Long Beach, campers hopped on board two charter buses and made their way up to the Big Bear Lake. The bus trip was marked by lots of chanting and the scenic views that Big Bear has to offer.
After arriving at camp, students settled into their cabins and had some time to get to know each other as a cabin and create a name for their Republic, along with a flag and a cheer. We all had a great time during our first all-camp meeting as we sat in the amphitheater and watched each Republic reveal their cabin name and show off their cheers. From break dancing to clapping and clever word plays, the cheers left campers and staff alike smiling and filled with excitement and laughter. After the all camp-meeting, everyone headed to the cafeteria for a delicious lasagna dinner, followed by a brief introduction to the different specialties that campers will take part in this week. These specialty introductions left students excited for the skills they will be able to learn this week, ranging from art and photography to stomp and water sports. Next, a wild time of messy games was had by all as cabins competed against each other in various relay races that involved faces full of oatmeal and milk, mouths full of jello, and hands covered in shaving cream. The evening ended back at the amphitheater with a lively time of worship and an awesome speech about what it means to “be light.” Before heading to bed, campers had the opportunity to debrief this speech with their cabins. So with it being lights out at Barefoot now, we’ll tune out for the night and keep you posted on more camp news as the week unravels. So stay tuned!
The second day of Barefoot was a success! It was the first day that campers got to practice their specialties. Drum beats resounded through the camp as the stomp specialty banged on upside down garbage cans, cameras clicked as the photography specialty photographed the waterfront, and boat engines roared as the watersports specialty skimmed across the lake. After a day full of fun, campers and staff alike were ready for a tasty home cooked dinner of fried chicken and mashed potatoes.
The best part of the day came during the evening session when Adrian Greer, founder and executive director of the nonprofit MYTHIRDPLACE, gave a powerful speech centered around being a child of God. At the end of his talk, counselors stood at the front of theamphitheater and campers were invited to come to the front if they decided theywanted to be a part of God’s family and give their life to the Lord. As the worship band Circle Sight played, countless campers stepped forward to talk and pray with their counselors. It was such a sweet sight to see as campers gathered with their counselors in huddles, hugs, and prayer. At the end of the evening session, campers were encouraged to continue on in conversations with their counselors throughout the week regarding decisions they had made to follow Christ. Following the evening session, campers entered into an intense night game called Commando, where students ran throughout camp in the dark trying to get glow sticks for their Republic without getting caught by counselors. To top off the night, campers had a wild dance party in the cafeteria as they grooved with glow sticks and danced to songs like the Cupid Shuffle and Cha Cha Slide. And that’s a wrap for Day 2!
What brought you back to Barefoot this year?
“Just the friends that I had here and the experience and just having a lot of fun with people that I didn’t really know but still bonded with.”
What has been the best part of camp so far?
“Probably getting to know more friends everywhere and getting to learn new ways to make new friends and experience new things.”
What are some of those new things that you’ve experienced?
“New people, different things that I’ve seen around camp; how people act differently than they used to last year and just a lot of things different. Like, we’re meetin’ up and we’re having more fun, and we’re doing team things together.”
Are there any challenges or obstacles that you’ve overcome while you’ve been here at Barefoot?
“We did an activity, actually a little bit before dinner before our PM specialty. During free time we did a little rope obstacle course. There [were] different obstacle courses that you had to climb a ladder and then some staples on a tree and then you get to something at the top that you have to do. And its in a harness which is attached to a rope and you have to get through this little obstacle course in the air—which is very terrifying for me because I’ve always been very afraid of heights. And so I actually did one of the scarier ones that everybody said was very scary.
And I had to climb up the ladder, up the tree with the little spikes. And after I got through that I went on a platform in which we had to jump onto a little [net]. So because of my fear… they said I could just pull it closer to me and I said okay. And when I got up there I was shaking uncontrollably and I was just so scared. And so when I pulled it closer to me I had my hands on it. I was just sweating. And it took a little bit but I eventually did it. And I was still…terrified hanging there. And then they said you can let go. And then I let go and I was holding onto myself. I eventually cried because I was so scared. But everyone congratulated me. And that’s one of my worst fears is heights, so I actually did it. It did take some time but I think I can accomplish things now when it comes to heights because of that. The only thing that made me go for it and jump—cause I was so close to just saying I wanna get down—was one of my favorite quotes from my favorite band Twenty One Pilots. Tyler Joseph the lead singer, he said one time, “You can close your eyes, sometimes it makes things less scary.” I said that in my head right before I jumped and it was just, I don’t know—I feel like I can use that throughout life now.”
Is there anything that you’ve learned about God this week at camp?
“Oh yeah! I’m not a very particularly religious person actually. I’ve been staying with my best friend Fiona…and her her grandma actually signed me up for this camp and she took us here. Me and Fiona met when we were about five at church (the church that I go to Calvary Chapel). And we didn’t know it at the time but we were best friends. And we grew apart eventually and then came back together during school years later. And then did the same thing and then now we’ve been best friends ever since we found each other a few years ago again.
And so I’m very close to her family and stuff and then once she took me here… I… I have faith in God. I’ve always believed there was a God but lately I’ve been through things… But I’ve been kinda just like “Oh he doesn’t answer my prayers, oh this oh that.” And then coming here, after hearing so many speeches and so many songs about it, I’m believing to think that it takes a lot of time and that I need to start praying a lot more and I need to just put my faith in God more and just believe that he will help me one day overcome what I’ve been going through or what I’m going to go through.”
The third day of Barefoot went swimmingly well as campers well—swam—paddle boarded, boated, tubed, and so much more! The cabin competition of the day was fierce as each Republic had an allotted amount of time to build boats out of cardboard and send one representative to jump in the boat and see how well it could float. The boat that stayed floating the longest was the winner. It was an extremely close tie between boy’s Republic 6, the Lean Team, and girl’s Republic 3, Sugar and Spice. While all the other boats sank shortly after entering the water, Lean Team and Sugar and Spice seemed to have boats that were unsinkable. But alas, Republic 6 prevailed as Republic 3’s boat eventually capsized. So the Lean Team was rendered the boat regatta champion! Following the boat competition was the evening program where Coba Canaels, campus pastor of Azusa Pacific, gave a message on the parable of the sowers. Through his message he encouraged campers to stay rooted in the faith once they returned home from camp. The evening program was also marked by the sweet melodies of the songs “Good Good Father” and “How He Loves” ringing from camper’s voices beneath the light of the moon. Finally, the evening closed with wisdom talks for boy and girl campers. Boys filed into the game room and girls filled the cafeteria, wearing pajamas, sitting on blankets, and eating snacks. During this time, anonymous camper questions were asked aloud. Campers had the opportunity to listen as counselors provided insight into the questions, which were deep and thought provoking. Many answers were centered around rooting our identity in Christ rather than the world. This time was heavy yet necessary for addressing hard things that campers might not feel comfortable asking in other settings. The wisdom talks definitely set the stage for an atmosphere of greater vulnerability here at Barefoot.
Amidst all the fun and activities that took place on the fourth day at Barefoot, one activity in particular called Left Foot Right Foot was powerful in drawing campers closer together. The activity began with campers standing in a straight line. Then various statements were read telling campers to move to the left or right based on whether or not the statement applied to them. For instance, one statement might say, “If you grew up in a family with divorced parents take one step to the left.” Another statement might be, “If your family has more than one car take one step to the right.” By the end of the activity you could
see campers fell all along the spectrum from the left to the right. Afterwards, campers gathered with their counselors and debriefed the activity. Then everyone came back together and instead of forming a line this time, they formed a circle. It was so beautiful to see people from all different backgrounds, families, life circumstances, and races joined together in one circle of unity. Another highlight of the day was the fourth cabin competition, Iron Man. During this game campers participated in a camp-wide relay, running from the volleyball court all the way down to the lake and back. One camper from each cabin started with a flag, completed a challenge and then ran to pass their flag off to the next camper who completed the next challenge and so on. Challenges ranged from shooting an archery target to kayaking around a buoy to eating a rather unappetizing concoction of food. The final step of the Iron Man came when each cabin gathered back at the volleyball court and ran together through a banner that had their Republic name on it. After the game we sang the national anthem and awarded medals to the winning cabins. Overall, the fourth day at Barefoot was filled with fun but also depth. Greater steps toward unity amidst diversity were taken. Such steps align with this week’s theme verse, Ephesians 4:4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Camper & Staff Interviews
Dezmone | 11 | Buena Park, CA | 1st year camper
What’s been your favorite part of being at Barefoot this week?
“I would say the speed boat.”
What have you learned about God this week?
“Well, there was a story… So, a man was walking on the sidewalk and these robbers robbed him. They stole everything. And then a priest came by, saw the man on the ground, turned the other way went straight across. Another, a teacher went by, saw the man laying down and crossed the road and went across and went on its way. And then a [Samaritan] man with a donkey, he came and then he saw the guy that was half dead. (Oh yeah they beat him until they were half dead). He saw that he was half dead and so helped him… and then [bandaged his] wounded his scars… and then he gave the [innkeeper] all the money that he had and that if it wasn’t enough he’ll come back later tomorrow with more if it isn’t enough. And that’s the story that God told. “
What has been your favorite part of being at Barefoot this week?
“I would have to say hands down probably the dance party.”
What have you been learning in your specialties?
“I’ve done volleyball and dance.”
And what’s been fun about those two specialities?
“For dance I’d say freestyling and stuff like that. And then the idea that you’re gonna perform in front of people that’s cool. And then for volleyball its probably playing.”
What has been something that you’ve learned about God this week at camp?
“It doesn’t matter where you come from. God’s gonna treat you the same. You just need to treat others with respect…. Don’t treat others differently from their social background…. Just unity.”
Have you learned anything about yourself this week at Barefoot?
“My patience and tolerance for people and my environment has grown.”
What’s been your favorite part of being on support staff this year?
“My favorite part of being here at camp was yesterday when I was getting ready for bed and I was just chilling with Republic 4 and we all did a group hug. You know even though I’m not their counselor or Republic Leader they still included me and I like how they just accepted me into their Republic even though I’m still support staff. So, shout out to Republic 4!”
What have you learned about diversity being on staff here at Barefoot?
“I learned that everyone is going through something and everyone is different and even though everyone is different they can still come together and be a family.”
Many campers found Day 5 of Barefoot to be bittersweet. They still had one last day full of fun together with the new friends and relationships they had built, yet they knew that it was indeed the last day and that it would soon be time to leave the mountain. Nevertheless, joy filled the camp as campers danced and sang during worship in the morning and evening, overcame fears on the high ropes course, practiced the skills they had developed over the course of the week in their specialties, ate meals alongside counselors and new friends they had come to love and value, and… something that cannot go without mention… played an epic game of Braveheart! For this cabin competition campers armed themselves with trash bags and shower caps to prepare for the explosion of paint and flour that was going to be thrown from one cabin to another in one giant, messy cloud that left nobody unscathed. By the end of the game everyone was covered from head to toe in paint and some much needed showers were in order. Yet aside from the laughter and competition, the sweetest part of the night came after the final evening program during the commissioning ceremony. After worshiping and listening to a final speaker, campers headed into the cafeteria where the lights were dimmed and the floor was lined with twinkle lights, towels, and bins of water. During commissioning, soft worship music played as counselors followed in the footsteps of Jesus by washing the feet of their campers. Every camper had their feet washed and were prayed over. The Holy Spirit was moving powerfully as tears ran down the faces of many campers as they prayed with and embraced their counselors and friends. The unity of Christ’s body was evident as campers and staff alike leaned on each other in the midst of all their brokenness and pain. Yet there was not only brokenness, but also joy. This joy was evident in the testimony time that took place after the foot washing, where campers and counselors were given the opportunity to share how God had worked in their lives this week at camp. The best word I can think of to describe this time of testimony is wow! God moved powerfully in the hearts of campers and staff alike this week. Chains of fear, insecurity, anxiety, depression, loneliness, hatred, and anger were broken as campers learned to come to Jesus in the midst of their pain and fear and lean on their brothers and sisters by opening up and sharing each other’s burdens. I wish you all could have heard these testimonies because they were incredible and showed that Jesus deeply loves and cares about every single person regardless of who they are, what they look like, and where they have come from. I can say with confidence that during this week at Barefoot, God has truly changed lives, drawn people to him, and formed bonds that will last well beyond this week at camp. Praise the Lord! Oh how he loves each and every one of us.
Camper & Staff Interviews
Interpreted by support staff member Bri.
What has been your favorite part of being at Barefoot this week?
“It’s fun. The interactions are fun. Meeting different people and praying and learning more about God. Being able to get closer to God here.“
And how do you feel that you have gotten closer to God here?
“Before [I] would feel alone and separated. But learning about how God shines and how God can use [me] as a light to shine through other people. Through prayer and through reading His word I’ve been able to feel Him.”
What has been your favorite activity being here at Barefoot?
“Basketball and boating and being able to explore and have fun in the water for the water activities.”
What is the heart of Barefoot?
“I’d say the heart of Barefoot is like a cake. You have all these different ingredients and…Jesus is like the oven. And you mix it all together and you put it in the oven and it comes out something delicious…To break it down again it’s bringing pretty much the body of Christ literally together as one cohesive machine where we’re focusing on not just redemption but reconciliation and not just loving someone but understanding them and understanding how to love them. So that’s what Barefoot is.”
Why do you keep coming back to Barefoot?
“Well definitely it coincides with what I believe my mission is here on earth which is reconciliation in the body of Christ. It’s growing and to me I want to be a part of something big. Also at the same time, I love doing this…Yes it’s work, it’s a lot of work—but also at the same time it’s fun and it’s help changing lives. And if this avenue is one of the ways that the Lord is able to use me, if I’m able to be him to speak through me and to me, yeah, you now, I want to keep doing that… If I can do this as long and as much as possible I will.”
Madison: “We met at the pool when I went to go swim with a friend of mine…”
What do you like about Madison?
Savannah: “She’s my friend. She really likes to play with me, be with me. We talk.”
And what do you like about Savannah?
Madison: “I just like her vibe. She’s very different then anyone else that I’ve met. She’s willing to hang out with me even if she doesn’t want to do the activity and will go do it anyway no matter what.”
Danny | 2nd year camper
This week was Lamar and Danny’s second year together at camp.
How did you guys meet?
Lamar: “We came to camp and everybody was just talking about him and then I stepped up and I was the bigger man and I was telling everybody, ‘Stop talking about him. Stop talking about him.’ And then I asked him if I could pull him to the side to talk to him and then I just talked to him and told him that I’m cool with him and everything.”
So you guys have been at camp for two years then together?
Lamar and Danny: “Yeah.”
Do you guys still hang out at home?
Danny: “Well what happened is that I got his Instagram and then after camp I just started talking to him then later on… we just stopped talking for a bit then I saw he was in my messages so I texted him back and then we started hanging out a lot and all that and we became really good friends and we still hang out sometimes.”
How has your friendship grown since you first met up until this point here at camp?
Lamar: “A lot. It’s been way bigger.”
In what ways?
Lamar: “We know each other a lot better. Before we just used to play the game with each other. And then we started to meet each other and then we started to meet each other even more. And then we started to just chill with each other.”
And what do you guys like about each other as friends?
Lamar: “This is an awesome dude right here.”
Danny: “Yeah he’s cool too. “
Yeah? What’s awesome about Lamar?
Danny: Well for him, he likes to do a lot of sports and then he likes to go out a lot and do stuff. And then it’s fun hanging out with him and he’s funny too.
And what about him? What’s awesome about Danny?
Lamar: “He’s funny and he’s inspiring sometimes. And even though sometimes I want to make the wrong choices he guides me to the right way. He says like ‘No you shouldn’t make that choice. We should do this instead.’ And I’ll be like ‘Alright yeah, we should.’”