Parsha Post: Matot

This week’s parsha is taken from Numbers 30:2-32:42 and is called Matot, giving. It takes place while the Jewish people are still wandering in the wilderness, but are getting closer to the end of those 40 years. They’ve defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king if Bashan, on the east side of the Jordan River. The tribe of Reuben, Gad and half-tribe of Manasseh make a request of Moses, which grieves Moses. They ask for that land. Moses thought their motive was sinful, wanting to separate themselves from the rest of God’s people, and so Moses asks them. When things come around, those three tribes make an agreement that they will still go and fight alongside their brothers when they cross the Jordan River. Moses seems at peace.

Fast forward to the opening of Joshua. The book opens by marking the death of Moses, and Joshua being the new leader of the people. God reminds Joshua how he has raised him up for this time and job – to lead the people into the Promised Land. God reminds him to keep the commands, keep God’s words close to him. God says to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” This is our Camp Gilgal theme verse. This promise given to Joshua, extends to us.

Chapter 1 of Joshua closes with Joshua addressing these three tribes, asking them to make good on the promise they made with Moses. They affirm their commitment to fight alongside their brothers. It’s one of the first steps that God has Joshua do as the leader of the people. This commitment was important.

The Haftarah portion is taken from Jeremiah 1:1-2:3. It’s the call of the prophet. Jeremiah’s first response to God’s call was to identify his age as a barrier to being able to serve God. Our excuses to God always sound ridiculous when anyone else gets to hear them. Of course God knows our age, our flaws, our physical inabilities, our short-comings. And yet he still calls us, and asks us to be involved in the work that he is doing.

Each of these three passages show us how God is closely involved in our lives. What we do matters. It mattered that the three tribes fought alongside their brothers. It matters whether we stay close to God, or not. (Joshua’s reminder to not let the book of the Law depart from him). God knows us and loves us. Even though Jeremiah thought he was ill-equipped to be a prophet, God knew he was able.

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Shabbat in Camp

I love arriving to Shabbat in camp. For one, it’s a time when I know that all of the campers (and staff!) will have showered. Everyone dresses up a bit, or at least puts on a clean shirt. We head down to dinner, light the candles, say kiddush for the juice and the challah. And Chef always prepares a nice meal for us to enjoy. It’s a bit of a calmer, quieter time in the dining hall. It’s different from the chaos of the rest of the week.

From there, we walk back to the Mishkan for a Shabbat service. Going through the liturgy, it’s easy to see the campers that know it from the ones that don’t. I love giving the campers that don’t really know much more than the Shema, exposure to these prayers, and the opportunity to learn and participate.

Our pace slows down for a bit.

There’s very little time or space in our regular lives to slow down. We are all moving at such a fast pace. I live in New York City, and I feel I know that acutely, but I know how full these campers’ schedules are and they live in cities, suburbs and rural places. We are all so busy.

And yet God gave us Shabbat, and told us to rest.

Being the person who writes the schedule for camp, it would be very easy to blow past Shabbat and keep our schedule just as full as the rest of the week. Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t do anything on Shabbat, but have a full day of FOB, but we’re intentional about what’s in the schedule and what’s out.

Shabbat Shalom, Camp Gilgal Community!
– Twister

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Teen Camp Moves Fast

Wow! Second last full day of camp, just like that… But it happens this way every year.

We started the day on Wednesday with Men’s & Ladies’ day – a time for the campers to ask questions about life, faith, Jewish identity, etc. It’s one of the things I would classify as “important” for the teens – it may be one of the few places where they can ask their questions, with anonymity, and hear biblical answers from role models.

Wednesday after lunch we left for our camp out. We drive up into the Adirondacks for a night of camping before we go white water rafting.

The camping was fantastic – no rain and few mosquitos. Last year the mosquitos were so bad we had to surrender, and retreat to our tents early. This year, we finished dinner, made s’mores, had a campfire discussion (the topic of which was parents and how to communicate with them), and then watched the stars for a bit before retiring to our tents. Perfect!

The white water rafting was amazing, as always! It’s so much fun! I was in a raft with campers that were all at their first session of teen camp. I love the looks on their faces riding through the rapids.

We drove back to camp, unpacked, showered and settled in for a movie. Great way to finish a great day.

– Twister

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Second Full Day

We’re up to the line just before dinner, bringing about the final set of activities for the day. Each day of camp is such a full day. At this point, Teen Camp feels like it’s been going on for a life time, but in a good way, I promise!

Whether camp is described as “a day at camp is like 2 weeks in the real world,” or “stepping into camp is like walking through the wardrobe and into Narnia,” – time passes differently at camp. So many activities, events, interactions. It’s hard to remember if something took place earlier in the day or a couple days ago.

Today, the campers walked to and from breakfast, did a Bible study on Mark with their tribes, had their 2 activities in the morning, choosing from soccer, basketball, Nukem (a version of volleyball that’s all catches and throws), Gaga Ball, ASL, sharing your faith, what is my testimony and mad science. We went to lunch, a meal of quesadillas, tomato soup and salad. A few more of the staff shared with the campers about what God has been doing in their life. We heard our cabin inspection report. From there, to the pool and game room, then some chill time, followed by an all-camp game of Capture the Degel, and some other field games. And on to Tabernacle.

Coming tonight, our annual Teen Camp Decathalon – a series of 10 events wackier and more outlandish than the last. The day will close with a campfire that’s discussion oriented. Last night, we talked about community. What makes up a community? Why is it important to be in a community? What is different between our believing and unbelieving communities? etc. It was a good discussion and I’m looking forward to ours tonight.

That is all for now.
– Twister

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Teen Camp: What What!!

We made it! We’ve arrived! Teen Camp is on! The differences between Teen Camp and Junior Camp couldn’t be more obvious. We don’t need to occupy or entertain the teens, they will do that themselves. We don’t need to stop them from rough housing or running wild. For my staff, we stop giving orders, and begin conversing again.

Teen Camp is such a fun week of the year. For the staff, we can play a bit harder than we could at Junior Camp. We can engage the teens in conversations that are a bit more interesting to us. We can engage the teens in spiritual conversations with less of a lead in than with the younger campers, too. Not only that, but we can also see the oldest campers, who are connected to their faith, serving as role models for the younger, new teen campers. We can create an environment where being connected to your faith is the thing to do. It’s our hope and prayer that this will be something that’s real for the campers, a place for real spiritual growth and encountering God.

Pray with us. Pray for us.
– Twister

Boatin’ (and Camp Culture)

Boatin’! For whatever reason, this is the name of our canoeing activity at camp. One person will say it, and those nearby will repeat it, loudly, and with a bad British accent. It’s just what we do. It’s part of our culture.

Earlier this year, I heard someone compare cultures to fishtanks, and then explain it in context of the scenes in Finding Nemo, when Nemo is first dropped into the fishtank in the dentist’s office. After his initial shock, he’s cleaned and introduced to everyone. That first night, he’s initiated, given a new name, Sharkbait, and from that point on, he’s one of the tribe.

This is very much like camp, especially for a new camper. They may feel like they’ve been dropped into a foreign land, but that only lasts for a short time. Soon they are introduced to everyone, they begin to learn the culture and are then part of the tribe.

Some pieces of camp culture are unique to just one year – an inside joke, shared among the whole camp. Other pieces last from year to year to year. Boatin’ is one of those.

– Twister (written from the dock)

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Deep Impact – Junior Camp 2014

Even though I’ve been doing camp for most of my life, I still forget what kind of impact it has in the lives of the people involved – both campers and staff alike. I talk about it throughout the year, but I forget what it actually looks and feels like. This year, was a year of big impact.

There were many unexpected things that took place. Two of those were the fact that all the campers learned their memory verse passage, Psalms 139:1-10, 23-24, and that all the tribes made it to the end of camp party. It didn’t look likely. But on the last day of camp, the remaining 2-3 campers plugged away hard to finish the passage. It’s so exciting to hear that many children reciting a long-ish section of God’s Word all together.

On our last night of camp, we hold a “testimony campfire,” where the campers are given the opportunity to tell each other the things God has done, or what they learned, or something they overcame. It’s the favorite part of camp for most of the staff – because we see just a glimpse of the fruit of our 2 weeks of investment, of what God has done. This year, I was surprised to hear one camper tell us something that I take completely for granted in camp. This camper reported that she was surprised that she was accepted for who she is, that the other girls in her tribe didn’t want her to be taller or shorter or funnier or more athletic or _______. Of course, people can be exclusive and mean in their peer groups, what surprised me was how meaningful it was to a young child and for her awareness to be able to identify it.

The impact of camp lasts for a long time, even if the “effects” of camp fade after a couple days or a couple weeks. The impact remains in the Kingdom of God, as campers make commitments in their relationship with God. Their lives are changed by the work God does in them.

End of Junior Camp – 1st Reflection

What a blessing! What a joy! I’m writing from the bus on the way back to NYC/NJ/DC. It’s hard to believe how full these last two weeks have been, and how quickly they went by. My deep apologies to you parents that we did not post more. It’s hard to keep up with the pace of camp.

What can I say about this session of camp? It was a small camp, only 19 campers. But I’ve learned over the years, that small camps can be some of the best. You have a flexibility with a smaller group than you do with a larger group. For example, on Canada Day (July 1st for you, my American friends), some of our neighbors set off fireworks right as the campers were getting ready for bed. They were so huge! I ran through the camp and gathered everyone to the picnic tables in the field to watch, disturbing the “getting ready for bed” routine. Everyone laid on the tables waiting…. and waiting and waiting. No more fireworks. Instead we had about 10 minutes of quiet time watching the stars altogether. It was a memorable night. I caught myself thinking, “Huh. I don’t think I would have done that with a larger camp.”

Even though we were a small group, God worked in big ways in the lives of everyone involved. I will be praying for the campers going home to keep growing in their faith, that it will become more and more their own, and that they will have the love and boldness to share their faith in the Messiah with family and friends alike.

– Twister