Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I'm back! It's been just over a month since I've been home because I've been spending my time in Branson (aka Showtown) USA at the flagship Kanakuk Kamp - K-1.

As a middle schooler, I spent my most formative summers as a kamper at K-1. On the first of June, every summer, I'd get up in the wee hours of the morning to meet other kids in the mall parking lot to be shipped to Branson via bus for the following 25 days. After five years of Kamp life, and after my freshman year of high school, I 'grew out' of kamp and quit going. But those years I did spend at kamp were some of the best times of my life.

After being interviewed during the school year and a few phone calls, I was hired to come back to K-1 and serve as a photographer for the first term this summer. I was relieved (the summer job search was over), ecstatic (I was returning to the place that I knew and loved), and anxious - I didn't feel quite worthy to be among so many other college kids who were clearly seeking out the Lord more than I was.

As soon as I pulled in the gates of K-1, I was welcomed with open arms. I immediately recognized faces - ones of those who had worked at kamp when I was a kamper, and ones of those who had been kampers alongside me during those years, and who, like me, had decided to come back to the place they had loved so much.

After checking in, my 'Aunt' (veteran counselor who helps lead new staff during work week), Rebecca, hopped in my car to show me where to park and help reacquaint me with kamp life. I then ran into none other than Laura Gabriel, a previous cabinmate for four of my five years spent as a kamper at Kanakuk. Yep, I was going to get to work with someone I had been in cabin 2 with as a 10 year old. If there's one character trait that describes the Kanakuk family, it's loyalty. Others I met at work week had been kampers for several years or this summer was one of many spent on staff.

My time at Kamp looked a bit different than most staff because instead of serving as a counselor I played the role of photographer. In one sense, this meant I wasn't responsible for any kids. I lived in a cabin with the girls who worked in the office and I came up with my own daily schedule. In another sense, this meant I was responsible for every kid. My job was to capture a smile on every kamper's face every day so any mom or dad could get on the Kanakuk website and make sure their kid was enjoying kamp when they hadn't written home in awhile. For some kids, this was a simple task, as they would ask me for photos multiple times a day (I later found out that some of these kids had parents that were paying them a dollar for every photo they were in). Others were camera shy and the only way for me to get a photo was to catch them in the act of participating in one of many fun activities.

Because of my role, I got to know everyone at some level. As a Komo (Kanakuk language for girl), I spent more time on the girls side of kamp, getting to know kitchis (girls who served in the dining hall), office girls (who I lived with), counselors, osages (komo counselors in training), and last, but not least, kampers. It was important for me to have just as much fun and be just as involved as everyone else was at kamp - I didn't intend to just lurk in the background and get pictures of everyone else having a good time. When the night was coming to a close and I already had 300 photos of kids just from the dance party, I knew when to set the camera down and have a good time myself.

And while kamp was a place of extreme fun all the time, it was more so a place of growth. Every staff member was in a group bible that met a few times a week and a small group that met every day. After several evening events, there was late night counselor worship. One of favorite times of the day was nighttime devos in the cabin. In the latter half of the term I semi "adopted" a cabin that I specifically wanted to get to know. This cabin of 11 and 12 year olds consisted of the most energetic yet sweet girls with the most innocent and pure hearts. At one point, when one of the counselors was on time off, I had the opportunity to help with 'tuck ins' - which is when you get to go around from bunk to bunk, asking the girls about their days and if they have any prayer requests, and getting to pray for them. These girls blessed me in more ways than you could ever imagine, and I can only hope I made a fraction of the difference in their lives that they made in my life.

This was really only a snapshot of kamp life. I've never felt so loved and encouraged in my life - and I think I loved kamp this year even more than I did as a kamper. Saying goodbye to all the people I had begun to develop relationships with, staff and kampers alike, was difficult. I appreciate Kanakuk even more so now that I see it from a fresh perspective. I can only hope that I get to go back next year, and for a longer period of time for that matter. While it feels good to be back home, I miss the place - the crunch of the pea gravel, constant cheering, even the breath-taking (literally) stairs. Thank you everyone (not to mention the amazing leadership team) for making it one of the best summers.


p.s. I kinda got a bit of a tan while I was there... you can tell from the camera strap line on my neck in some of the following photos.

I didn't take many scenic photos at kamp, but here's one. This
is the from the top of the hill probably around 11 at night or so... I
love the sky here, and the lights in the trees.

End result after the staff color party during work week.
That red stuff is paint, I assure you.

As you may have guessed, everything traditionally spelled
with a "c" at Kanakuk is spelled with a "K." This is at the K-Extravaganza party (hence Krispy Kreme) with the two funniest kampers at K-1.

One of my favorite photos I took... at the color catastrophe party.
Rachel Welch with her kampers.

Another favorite photo of mine... one way to get kids to jump in
the lake is if you promise to take their picture. The lake is the coldest I've ever been in... probably around 60 degrees.

Cabin 9 pre-honor cabin trip to see Toy Story 3.
Kanakuk rented out a screen at the local movie theater for
the kids who kept the cleanest cabin all month/two weeks.
I got to go too (thanks, Reno)!

The end result after slip 'n side/watermelon activity.

Kelsey and Lindsey... two of my favs. This was when new
two weekers came in the middle of the term.

I think I would've loved to work in the kitchen just as much as I loved
being photographer... right here with the one and only Megan Gelmers.

Part of superdeal... aka the oldest month kampers around.

The majority of the Komo side on the last day...

Laura Gabriel, Jacqi, Rebecca Cooper.

Oh, and let's not forget the kamp playlist. Here's what I was listening to the majority of the term at K-1...
1) Ben Rector - all his songs. He was once a counselor at kamp, and came back to play a show for all us staffers during work week.
2) Fly Golden Eagle - Orangitango. I had never heard this song before camp. During the chorus, you just wave your arms up in the air like an orangutan. Yep.
3) Justin Beiber - One Time. The whole girls side of kamp learned a dance to this song, and it was probably heard at least 10 times a day.
4) Taylor Swift - You Belong With Me. Duh.
5) Jordin Sparks - Battlefield. Why does love always feel like one?


  1. love this post. you really captured your whole experience! so glad you had such an impacting time, but i missed youuuu!! :)

  2. heyaaaaaa, guess who's finally on the computer again!??! me and you!!!

    this was so much fun to read doll... BUT i wanna hear about it in person...let's.

    so happy it was so wonderful!!
    my week at camp the past 7 days was wonderfullllllllllll.... so impactful!

    love you!
    miss you!