Anticipation was high in the early morning hours of 3am. Rolling out of bed with only a few hours of sleep, we had our bags packed, car loaded, and began making our way to the airport to catch our first flight to Asheville from Boise. Having come to the US from Austria to visit family for two weeks, we were now excited to bring our boys to their first experience of the unique American culture that is summer camp. Living abroad our boys had no framework for imagining camp life other than the pictures and the promotional video on the Rockmont camp website. We also had the unique opportunity to live on camp and help the Rockmont staff during the session.
To say that they were eager to go to camp is an understatement.
As we made our way across the country and the reality of the situation became more tangible, the questions that I assume most first-time campers have began to surface: “Will I be OK?”; “Will I fit in?”; “Will I make friends?”
Other parents can probably relate to how our reaffirmations and encouragement were met with trepidation and a sense of cautionary acceptance.
The first big validation of our reassurances was given by the outgoing Camp Dad who met us at the Asheville airport and whose first enthusiastic words to the boys were: “You are going to have such a great time! You are going to grow so much!”
As we drove into the Rockmont property we could hear all of the energy and excitement coming from the Closing Council of the main and previous two-week camps. “This is what it is all about,” the camp dad had said.
“Boys coming from all different places and all walks of life, being together and forming community.”
The meaning and depth of these words spoken by that Camp Dad we have come to fully appreciate after personally experiencing what Rockmont affords its campers.
Rockmont’s leadership team and counselors, its incredible nursing and support staff, the trip guides, cooks, etc. – everyone here at Rockmont is fully dedicated to providing an experience for these boys and teenagers anchored on the founding principles of (1) Strength and Gentleness, (2) Force and Refinement, (3) Mastery of Body, and (4) Servitude to God. It is a place where boys are stripped of their comforts, their habits, their usual support network, and the many distractions of their normal lifestyle. The intensity of camp life, the hard work and play, the challenge to learn new skills and overcome their fears, and the many adventures it offers, lead to a kind of de-masking and allow the boys to learn to be just ‘themselves’. It teaches them that simply being who they are is enough. The Rockmont experience builds them up to be good, strong, confident, responsible men.
Camp provides a safe place where campers learn to live with one another, respect one another, and support one another.
This leads to the development of friendships despite the short period of time that they are thrown together. The support when they come up short and the praise when they succeed at a task help boost their confidence and allows them to spread their wings.
Campers who demonstrate the core meaning of each of the founding principles are recognized at Council among their peers by the support staff in ways that are raw and empowering. All of this serves to reinforce what it means to be good, to be strong, to be caring, and to strive for excellence while recognizing that everything we do is best if it is done in the service of our Creator.
Of course, camp also gives rise to struggles, e.g., sickness, injuries and homesickness. It was inspiring to watch the patient, joyful and affirmative way in which the Rockmont staff dealt with these things.
These were precious and important moments and opportunities to reaffirm the feelings of love for their families whilst encouraging them to persevere.
Rockmont focuses on forming community and brotherhood. This was the energy and excitement that we felt on our first day here. The success of Rockmont was evident that first day that we worked alongside staff and witnessed the joy of campers reconnecting with their parents coupled with a sadness when they recognized that it was time to leave a place that offers a bond that can only be fully appreciated by living through it.
We conclude with two Austrian expressions that seem very appropriate as we get ready to leave: ‘Vergelt’s Gott’, Rockmont (‘may God repay you what we cannot’) and … ‘Auf-wieder-sehen’ (‘good bye’ – literally translated as ‘until we see again’)!
Tom & Maria Wolter – Gaming, Austria