Camp-wide Updates in light of Covid-19
May 1, 2020
Summer 2020 Announcement
Dear Camp Family,
On behalf of our staff, we would like to update you on the plans we have for the summer. After lots of thought, prayer, and study of current circumstances, we have decided that we must re-imagine our summer activities in order to prioritize the safety of our campers, their home communities, and the hundreds of volunteers and staff who make camp possible every summer. We do not take this action lightly, and would like to explain some of our reasoning for the change before diving into the exciting opportunities we have in store for this summer.
Like health care workers, one of our guiding principles in ministry is to do no harm. We cannot, in good conscience, open camp’s doors to hundreds of youth when the threat of COVID-19 is still so high. Many of the families we serve are vulnerable to the virus due to lack of adequate health care or ability to take time off due to illness. It seems unwise and irresponsible for us to carry on with a normal camp schedule that would bring dozens of kids from multiple cities together, many of whom would have to ride in a bus or van for hours both coming to and leaving from camp. Our first priority in making this decision is to protect our campers, as well as their families and communities.
With that in mind, we are concerned about having to send campers back home if exposure was to happen while at the camp. Our nursing staff is already stretched to capacity every summer as they administer medications and tend to incidental wounds, and even with the best practices in place, we cannot meet the sanitation needs the CDC recommends with our current staffing. Even with rigorous screening and our best efforts to sanitize our facilities, the chances of COVID-19 being spread during close-quarters activities like worship, swimming, or cabin sleeping arrangements, makes it necessary to find new and creative ways to fulfill our mission this summer.
We trust that God is good in all times and circumstances, and we refuse to stop pointing to Jesus’ example as the best way to live. That’s why we have modified our summer programming to do the best we can with the opportunities in front of us.
One exciting part of the summer will be improving camp so that when campers return in 2021, they’ll be wowed by how much progress we’ve made. Who knows what kinds of new activities and SICs we will be able to plan for with hundreds more hours of thought and preparation to dedicate to the process! Our staff is actively planning to use this summer to invest the time and effort needed to make CotH an even greater place for campers in the future!
Alternative Camp Opportunities
One of the activities we are most excited for is what other camps are calling “Virtual Camps.” We will be contacting our former campers in several ways to encourage and pray for them. Our team is preparing creative ways to connect, including working to build an app that can be downloaded by campers, their families, counselors, volunteers, donors, and other folks interested in Camp of the Hills. We will host online worship times and devotionals that campers can watch with us live or revisit later. We will also be gathering footage of a wide variety of camp activities to share with campers and to use in future training/fund-raising. I’m personally thrilled to be airing talent show acts submitted by counselors and campers, including former campers/counselors. (I’m sure there are some old school folks who have a favorite talent show act they could remix and submit!) We are also going to get good run-throughs of the Crucifixion/Resurrection reenactment recorded, complete with our newly updated script for 2020!
Even though we won’t be hosting our week-long overnight camps, we are still hoping to bring on 10-12 volunteer counselors to live on property and help with our plans and projects. If the CDC/Texas restrictions allow, these volunteers will have housing and meals provided as they work to connect to campers and improve our facilities.
During June, we are excited to invite some of the young applicants that we had hired or considered for summer counselor positions to join our volunteer counselors for two weeks. They’ll be jumping in on all the projects with our returning counselors who are volunteering. It’ll be an important way to make sure we keep passing the heart of Camp of the Hills down from counselor to counselor, along with camp culture and traditions that we don’t want to lose. When these young potential counselors leave, we know they will spread the word about camp and help get even more great folks to join in our mission.
Though much of our summer programming has been completely reworked, one of our newer programs may still be viable, pending information from the CDC/state of Texas. In fact, it could be better than ever! Our Poiema Discipleship camps are aimed at teens from age 14-18, and offer a chance to bridge the gap between camper and counselor. This two-week camp typically does work around camp to help our regular weekly camp run smoothly, and the campers are mentored by some of our counselors with a little more life experience. Since these groups are capped at around a dozen campers, we feel confident that this program can continue this summer with some minor tweaks.
If health restrictions allow us to move forward with the Poiema Discipleship camps, these older campers will be a crucial part of our outreach through videos and care packages as well as our work projects improving camp for years to come. How cool would it be for a former camper to later become a full-time staff member and get to tell stories to future counselors and campers about putting in work during the wild summer of 2020!
Our staff will be closely following news and guidelines about changes and restrictions, in case we need to shift plans further. Even so, we’re excited for all the possibilities that God has in store for this summer, though it looks much different than we expected. Camp has lost a significant amount of income this spring due to cancelled retreats and other programs. We need your continued financial support now more than ever. If you are in a position to make a gift to camp, it will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for coming alongside God’s work here through your prayers and support!
As a staff, we love being a part of what God has done, is doing, and will do here at Camp of the Hills. And though we’re all sad to see the summer we’d imagined change so drastically, we’re honestly thrilled for all the good and beautiful ways God will do great things, both this summer and in the years to come. Our camp family has shown a lot of resilience over the years, especially when our Dining Hall burned down ten years and one month ago. We found a way to love campers well then, and we’re confident that God will help us love campers well now.
Camp of the Hills Staff
COTH Programs & Ministries Overview