Each year, Ciudad Nueva offers the kids from our youth programs the opportunity to go to summer camp. Our goal is twofold: We want to give campers an opportunity to have experiences they might not otherwise have, and we want to encourage them to take the next steps in their faith journeys.
If you’ve ever been to camp, you know that these two things are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s often easier to be challenged to grow in our faith when we are in a setting that exposes us to new realities and possibilities.
We recently sat down with our Youth Programs Assistant, Gustavo De Los Rios, and one of our middle school campers, Isaiah, to get a better sense of what a day in the life of a camper is like. Isaiah is currently in the eighth grade and has attended summer camp each year since fifth grade. Gustavo grew up in our youth programs and attended camp every year since he was in elementary school. He has been serving as a camp counselor for the incoming sixth-grade students for the past several years. He shares his insights here both as a former camper and as a current youth leader.
Getting to camp
In talking with Gustavo and Isaiah, it quickly became clear that before we could talk about what a typical day at camp looks like, we would first have to talk about getting to camp — an event in and of itself. “The ride up there is a highlight,” says Gustavo. “You get to ride up with your friends and leaders outside of program and outside of school.”
Isaiah, however, is of a different opinion. “The ride up there was the only downside to my experience,” says Isaiah. “It took 12 hours on a bus.” As an introvert, he confesses that being around people for that long was difficult for him, but he concedes that he did enjoy watching the changing scenery during the long drive.
While they may have different opinions about the pros and cons of getting to camp, Isaiah and Gustavo agree that once you get there, it’s amazing from the start.
“When we arrived, we were greeted by the property staff at the camp,” says Gustavo. “The environment is very welcoming. The people from programming were there and introduced the theme of the week, then we went to find our cabins and claim our bunks.”
Isaiah agrees that the long journey is worth it. “Once you get there,” says Isaiah, “you realize there’s more to life than being on a couch and doing nothing. You can just step outside of your cabin and nature is your backyard.”
Building new relationships
All of the summer camps our youth attend are located out of state. For many of our campers, the trip to summer camp is the first time they travel to another state; for some of them, it’s the first time they travel outside the El Paso area.
Since other groups also travel to the camps from other states, campers have the opportunity to meet lots of different people from many different places.
“That’s cool — meeting people who are not from your area and making friends with them,” Gustavo says. “There’s also free time so you can hang out with the new friends you made there or friends from the group you came with.”
Even though he’s an introvert, Isaiah enjoyed getting to know the kids in his cabin who came to camp from other parts of the country. “Introverted people need to realize that you’re going to be in a cabin with people you don’t know for a week,” says Isaiah. “I realized that if I didn’t get to know them, they would remain strangers. I’m really glad I got to know them and I hope those friendships will last.”
What summer camp is best known for, of course, are the unique opportunities it offers for having fun. “When we get there we have high hopes for everything,” says Isaiah. “It’s all super, super fun.”
“Camp is a great way for the kids to explore different things and have different experiences that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise,” says Gustavo. “A lot of the camps have amazing activities like zip-lining, belaying, a high-ropes course — things you wouldn’t typically do on a weekend in El Paso. There are also games throughout the week like a pool of slime or a shaving cream fight — it’s crazy!”
Isaiah recounts a few of the different activities he participated in: “I did canoeing, zip-lining, and a lot of sports and games I didn’t know existed until I went to camp, like octoball.” Isaiah describes octoball as something of a cross between dodgeball, foursquare, and volleyball. “Zip-lining was my favorite,” says Isaiah.
Growing in faith
While all the activities at summer camp are designed with fun in mind, some lend themselves more easily to lessons about life and faith. One such activity is called “Leap of Faith.” To complete this challenging activity, kids climb a retired telephone pole while on belay. Once they get to the top, they stand on a small platform affixed to the top of the pole, then they jump to try to catch a bar suspended several feet above and in front of them.
Gustavo loves encouraging the campers as they take on these kinds of activities. “I think it’s important that I can relate to the kids since I went to the camp,” says Gustavo.
One thing Gustavo wants to be sure every camper experiences is club, a time for all campers to come together and listen to a speaker who is there throughout the week. “They give us lessons about things we should know about and then we go into small groups to discuss,” says Isaiah.
“We hope the kids will take the next step in their faith,” says Gustavo. “That might be accepting Christ as their personal savior. We’re there to help them through that, to allow them to ask questions, and to be there to listen when they ask questions.”
You might not be able to make the 12-hour bus ride to camp with us, but we hope you’ll join us in helping more kids like Isaiah to go to camp this summer. Click here to find out how to contribute to our fundraising campaign. You can also call us at 915-521-2951 or contact us online.