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Camp gives Jonathan a needed new perspective

Updated: Jul 12

Jonathan: The chaos was part of living in a household with four younger siblings and one on the way. There were days when 13-year-old Jonathan felt as if the walls were closing in around him. Frustrated, he butt heads with his dad. He was mean to his mom, treating her badly in front of the other children. His grades began to suffer. Days were spent in his room: “I never did anything and I complained all the time.” Jonathan needed to step away.

A Cameron Boys Camp presentation at East Sanford Baptist Church was inspiring, but Jonathan’s parents never thought they would be calling for help. Their oldest child had changed. He had become manipulative. He would not listen and wasn’t motivated to do better. His school work was suffering and they felt he was giving up on himself. They tried counseling and switched schools. Their concern was turning to fear. Their family needed help to overcome the challenges that threatened to tear them apart.

Cameron Boys Camp is one of two Baptist Children’s Homes’ residential wilderness camps. The camp, nestled on 902 acres of woodland near Cameron, is dedicated to changing lives. Boys experience the freedom of being outdoors while living in a small group at a campsite with three counselors or “Chiefs.” With the help of his peers and Chiefs, a camper learns discipline, positive behavior patterns, and self-worth. The year-round program helps campers and their families overcome personal and family struggles.

Jonathan came to Camp last year on January 6, midway through seventh grade. He had been to summer camps and on family campouts. But living in the woods—hot, cold, rain or shine—was different. “When it is cold, there are warm sleeping bags and fires. It’s the heat that is hard. There is nothing you can do but deal with it.”

At first, he didn’t try. He settled into the daily routine and did only what was expected. He was there in body, but disconnected mentally. Deep down, he knew things needed to change.

“I had to take everything more serious,” Jonathan remembers. “I started to try—taking part. I began learning how to control my anger, take a few minutes and not just react.”

Jonathan started helping the other boys, working side by side with

them. He learned to trust the other campers, being there when they needed him and doing his part. “We take care of things as a group, when they happen. It is an important part of what we do at Camp.”

Having the right attitude was a turning point—not just for Jonathan’s Camp experience but with his family. On home visits, Jonathan acted remarkably different. Instead of arguing and sequestering himself, there were talks with his parents, time spent with his younger siblings, and a willingness to lend a helping hand.

“Before, when someone annoyed me at home, I got angry,” Jonathan says. “I regret it and wish I could have been a help to my family.”

Even the people at church have noticed a transformation. He is helping with the smaller children. He greets fellow members, no longer skulking by without a word. A friend of his grandmother’s noted how he has matured.

“First you have to want to,” Jonathan asserts. “I started to really work and I saw something. I was getting better.”

Campers set goals. Some goals address tough challenges. Jonathan’s first goal was more simple. He wanted to catch a fish and clean it by himself. He cherished memories of fishing with his dad. When he was younger, his dad was the one who put the minnow on his hook the first time and taught him how to cast.

Fishing at Lake Karl helped him to meet the goal and master the task. At a recent Family Day, Jonathan’s dad and two brothers and sister joined Jonathan fishing at the lake. His dad helped the younger children cast while watching his oldest show off all he had learned.

“Some of my best memories are times spent fishing with my dad,” Jonathan says. “I’m hoping we make more time to fish together.”

Being in the outdoors gives the boys the opportunity to think. They ponder what is important—about themselves, their families, and their relationships with God.

“God is so present at Camp,” Jonathan says. “Watching the Chiefs and Bible study helped me realize I needed to commit myself to God. The more I study and spend time in prayer, the more I grow in my belief in Him.”

Jonathan has a good heart and loves his mom and dad. He cares about others and is committed to helping his family. Camp is what he needed.

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Written by Jim Edminson, Charity & Children Editor

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