Summer Camps seek to find their way through pandemic
Lutherhaven is developing alternatives for summer
For the first time in 75 years, the Lutherhaven Ministries board of directors and senior management staff announced May 13 they would suspend its children's and youth camps until the summer of 2021, with the promise of safe, fun, alternative options in 2020 for families and day camps for local congregations.
"This was not an easy decision. We believe that summer camp is more important than ever, but after months of consulting with our team of healthcare experts around the nation, it became clear that suspending typical activities is the right thing to do for the safety of our communities," said Bob Baker, executive director of Lutherhaven Ministries
Lutherhaven Ministries operates Camp Lutherhaven on Lake Coeur d'Alene and Shoshone Mountain Retreat and Ranch, and McPherson Meadows up the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River, plus Lutherhaven Community Day Camps and Idaho Servant Adventures.
Bob spoke of the discernment, prayer, patience and wisdom that went into choices about planning summer camps during a global pandemic.
Hebrews 11:1, which speaks of being "sure of what we hope for, certain of what we cannot see," became the guiding verse for Bob and his team in making the decision.
"We are not alone in this season of quandary. We struggle with 7,000 other camps around the nation—and businesses," he said. "We consulted with health and camp experts around the nation. We came to this decision because we care about the wellbeing of children and families."
"Lutherhaven Ministries welcomes campers from across the region, nation and world," Bob said. "This summer, we had campers coming from 18 states with different coronavirus restrictions, timelines and re-opening schedules. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other healthcare guidelines for youth camps recommend programs for 'locals' only.
In a recent survey of 350 camps, only 33 percent were opening as usual and 51 percent were opening with adjustments, he said.
The Lutherhaven Ministries Health Care Alliance was unanimous in their support of no traditional youth camps at Lutherahaven sites, he said.
"The very nature of camp is closeness, the opposite of social distancing," said Bob. "Camp at Lutherhaven is close friendships, face-to-face conversations, high fives, fist bumps, hugs, singing, s'mores around the campfire, bunk beds, tag on the ball field—physical contact. This season of COVID-19 complicates all that, beyond how we feel we can reasonably keep kids and their families back home healthy and safe.
"Camp has so many moving parts. How do we disinfect lifejackets between each use, and canoe paddles, golf putters, bows and dozens of arrows launched into trees—not to mention bathroom sinks, door knobs and s'more sticks," he said.
Realizing traditional camps could not occur, Lutherhaven leaders began to plan for new, creative ways to use the camps.
The Lutherhaven board and staff are creating alternative ways for families to enjoy camp. Plans are underway to open July 1 for families to rent individual campsites and cabins, and to enjoy water sports, campfire meals and the outdoors. The facilities are also available to small groups from local congregations and agencies with measures to ensure participants can practice safe social distancing.
"Hebrews 12 says, 'Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.' That is exactly what we are trying to do in this new season," said Bob. "While this summer's changed plans are not the race many intended, it's a race marked out for us by God, a race that we run with campers, staff, parents, pastors and grandparents."
Families can choose from experiences at the three locations. Camp Lutherhaven on the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene is a traditional summer camp setting. Shoshone Mountain Retreat—on the edge of the Bitterroot Mountains—provides opportunities for hiking, fly-fishing, huckleberry picking and river floating.
Options include camping and cabin rentals, family camps and retreats, congregational and agency camps, a women's retreat, online high school leadership experiences, volunteer and college-age opportunities, and a weekend for families with a special needs child.
Those who registered for camps may donate their deposit, transfer it to 2021, leave the payment on their account for a future event or receive a full refund.
The staff team is working with its health care team to develop health and safety protocols in line with guidance from the CDC and regional health district. Those protocols will be announced by June 30. Individuals and groups from areas with high rates of COVID-19 may not be able to come until their county has a health department "all clear."
There are plans for a high school Servant Leadership Experience for ninth to 12th graders seeking a faith-building experience while serving neighbors. There will be two three-week sessions that combine video and live online meetings with staff and peers, including Bible studies and discussion on what it means to be a servant leader. Teens will be mentored to develop meaningful service projects in their own communities.
"Lutherhaven is fortunate to be able to craft alternative plans, because many camps around the region and country are closing altogether," Bob said. "The ministry still strives to safely make camp a possibility for as many campers as possible, of every age and ability."
For information on options, refunds and news, visit lutherhaven.com.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2020